This topic is adapted from the Bible Project YouTube channel.
The Gospel of Luke begins in chapters 1-2 by telling readers about the births of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. The book then leaps forward in time.
- Luke 3 begins with John leading a Jewish renewal movement at the Jordan River. Many Israelites of all stripes come to be baptized by John. These people were coming to dedicate themselves to a new way of life – to start over and to be the people God had called Israel to be in the first place. By going back into the same river Israel had first crossed over when they originally entered their promised land, it was in essence going back to a lost spiritual beginning and starting again with a clean slate.
- Jesus goes to John to be baptized and God gives his stamp of approval to Jesus and to the baptism. God said, “You are my son whom I love. With you I am well pleased.” This echoes the Old Testament (OT) in Psalm 2, where God promised that a king would come to rule the nations. It also echoes Isaiah 42, which describes the Messiah – Jesus – as a “suffering servant” who would die on Israel’s behalf.
- After this Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil for forty days with no food. Here, Jesus replays Israel’s forty-year journey through the wilderness, and instead of failing to trust God like Israel did, Jesus succeeds by trusting God and overcoming temptation. This marks Jesus as the one who is going to carry Israel’s story forward.
- Next, Jesus returns to Nazareth, his hometown, and reads from the Book of Isaiah in his home synagogue. He reads a part about bring “good news to the poor.” In Hebrew culture, poverty wasn’t just about the money in your bank account, but your social status. Anyone “on the margins” could have been considered poor. The idea is about being a social outcast or outsider. By turning to this passage, Jesus was saying he was here for those people.
- Jesus read about proclaiming freedom and the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus freed people from their diseases and sicknesses, their shame, their pasts, and their sin. He freed them so they could be in God’s new kingdom Jesus said he was bringing into reality.
- After this, Jesus appointed twelve men to be his closest disciples, or “Apostles.” These men came from vastly different backgrounds. Two in particular would have had a lot of trouble with each other – Matthew (Levi), a tax collector for the Romans, and Simon the Zealot, who had been part of an anti-Roman group (the Zealots). But Jesus brought them together anyway. In God’s new kingdom, everyone, regardless of their age, race, sex, background, social standing, or anything else, is called to live in unity as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
- Jesus taught his followers to be generous and forgiving (even to people they didn’t like!) and to seek mercy and reconciliation with all. This was a radical way of life then and it is today.
- Jesus promised not merely to tell us what to do, but to lead the way in these radical teachings by being generous, forgiving, and reconciliatory himself. The ultimate proof of this was his sacrifice on the cross.
- The last story in Luke 3-9 is called the Transfiguration. Here, Jesus takes his inner circle – Peter, James, and John – to the top of a mountain. Jesus is “transfigured” into a heavenly, or glorious, version of himself, and the Old Testament (OT) prophets Moses and Elijah appear with him. These prophets were said to have witnessed God’s glory in the OT, so they knew what it looked like. God then speaks from the cloud: “This is my son – listen to him!” Jesus is the ultimate prophet. He is not merely the proclaimer of God’s word to Israel; he is God’s word to Israel.
- What would Jesus do in Jerusalem? He would be coronated as Israel’s true king…but not the way everyone thought he would.
After Luke 9, Jesus’s Galilean ministry in Luke ends, and he begins his long journey south to Jerusalem.
Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Why do you think people in Jesus’s time felt they needed to “start over” with God? In what ways do people try to start over with God today?
- What is the significance of Jesus “replaying” or “redoing” some of the events the nation of Israel went through?
- Why does it matter that Jesus specifically came for the poor, the outcast, and downtrodden? What does this teach us about God? What does it teach us about how we are to treat such people?
- What does it mean that Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the captive? What does it mean to be a part of his “new kingdom?”
- What are some of Jesus’s hard teachings that are not always easy for you to follow or agree with? Why are they hard for you?
- Why is it important that Jesus not merely taught us, but demonstrated for us, how to live as citizens of God’s new kingdom?
- Think about the two times God spoke about Jesus to give his stamp of approval. What is significant about these two events?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.