Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
Thesis: When things could hardly be worse, God begins to bring His grace to light.
Introduction: Though there were some other things in the second chapter of Luke that I could have addressed, I have determined to move on. Therefore, our study this morning will come from the beginning of chapter three. In this chapter, Luke jumps about 16-17 years forward. In 3:23 Luke tells us that Jesus began His ministry when he was "about 30 years of age". Luke's last reference to Him was when He was twelve. Though we do not know exactly how long it was between this text's description of John's initial appearance in the wilderness and Jesus' coming into the beginning of His ministry, we do know that from 12 years to "about" 30 years is somewhere close to 18 years, and John had to have come on the scene prior to that. So, Luke has fast-forwarded to what he refers to as "the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar". He says that in that year the word of God came upon John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
November 6, 2005
- I. The Significance of This Event.
- A. Is first found in the "historical setting" to which Luke points us in 3:1-2a.
- 1. The first major issue is the record of the "political/religious" status of the nation.
- a. The first part of the record has to do with the political state of things.
- b. The second part of the record has to do with the religious state of things.
- 2. The second major issue is the actual meaning of Luke's statement of the "historical setting".
- a. An examination of the political statement.
- 1. The reference to the Roman dominion.
- a) It is a reference to a total pagan dominion of the territories of the Kingdom of God.
- 1) Rome is the major issue: the hegemony of Tiberius Caesar.
- i. The term "hegemony" is very broad and operates under the basic thesis of "calling the shots".
- ii. As such, the issue involves the enormous tension between the issue of "God" (the Executor of Power Whose authority is only challenged by the wicked) and the "hegemony" of Tiberius, the usurper of the divine authority.
- 2) Rome's establishment of its authority is the second issue.
- i. Under the hegemony of Tiberius is the hegemony of Pontius Pilate in Judea, the heart of God's Kingdom. The point here is that, on the ground in the heart of the Kingdom, there is a Roman supplanter of God who is "calling the shots".
- ii. Under the hegemony of Tiberius are the tetrarchies of Herod in Galilee, Philip in Ituraea and Trachonitus, and Lysanias in Abilene. The switch to "tetrarchies" is a switch to the real issue: the reason behind the struggle to "call the shots". The term "tetrarch" focuses upon the issue of "who is the most important". All struggles for power are rooted in this more basic issue.
- b) It is a reference to the bid for the ultimate prerogative.
- 1) The territories are named because of their significance to the Kingdom of God as it was to be manifest in Israel: the territories basically cover the extent of the Solomonic kingdom.
- 2) The territories are named in descending order from Judea, the heart, to Abilene, the foot.
- 2. The reference to the fifteenth year.
- a) There are those who think that Luke referred to the fifteenth year so that we might have a firm setting in history.
- 1) There is no doubt that a six-way historical reference sets the event into "history" in a way that makes disputation about historicity a vain effort. It is no accident that "five" of the refs. have to do with "politics" and "one" has to do with "religion", nor is it insignificant that "Tiberius" sat over a "four-way" competition for authority with two "brothers" and two "others".
- 2) But, there is a problem with this way of thinking...
- i. First, it dismisses the earlier and important reference to the "twelfth" year of Jesus as a non-date-oriented reference.
- ii. Second, it completely undoes its own intention because, though there may not have been any date-problems in Theophilus' mind, there is certainly no certainty for us at all as to the calendar date to which Luke may have referred...thus making the "Life" that is in this utterance of God completely unavailable to us.
- 3) Those who think this way have missed the point altogether.
- b) The significance of the fifteenth year is that is was a "peak" year for the foundations having been laid for "retribution" by God.
- 1) Fifteen is a combination of three and five.
- 2) Three is a presentation of the totally sufficient foundation.
- 3) Five is an argument for "retribution"...as Leah clearly revealed by naming her "fifth" son Issachar.
- c) Though there may have been many "peak" opportunities for the wrath of God to be expressed, the "fifteenth year" of Tiberius Caesar was clearly a central one as Rome had completely usurped God's place in His own Kingdom.
- b. An examination of the religious statement.
- 1) The high priesthood is "populated" by two completely unworthy men.
- 2) The issue is the total apostasy that existed at the "heart" of the "heart": these were the men who were to be able to enter God's presence once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. Not only were they not seriously interested in "atonement", they were in deep collusion with the Dragon behind Rome's power.
- B. Is next found in the declaration of the event itself.
- 1. The declaration is that the "God" Who deserved to have the first place of value in the heart of His own Kingdom, decided to address the situation.
- 2. The declaration is that the "God" Who had decided to address the situation was going to do so through "John", the miracle-birthed son of Zacharias.
- 3. The "shock" is that He Who could have spoken the words of "five" (retribution out of the Pentateuch), instead spoke the words of "grace": there is a Redeemer on the way.