The Baptism and the Genealogy of Jesus Christ
- Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I assume that Jesus was praying for a manifestation of the Spirit to confirm to him his Messiahship, and that God's favor was on him as he set out on his public ministry. God answered his prayer. And that leads to a fourth question.
Why Does the Spirit Come in the Form of a Dove?
4) What is the significance of the Spirit's descending in the form of a dove and God's declaration of his love? God answers Jesus' prayer by sending his Spirit in a visible form and then declaring verbally his delight in his Son: "You are my beloved Son; in you I delight." This is a green light for Jesus. And not just a green light, but a powerful enablement and directive.
The way the Spirit comes gives a direction for how its power is to be used. The word "dove" occurs on Jesus' lips one time in the gospels, namely, Matthew 10:16: "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." The dove suggests to Jesus purity, meekness, innocence. It was not majestic like the eagle or fierce like the hawk or flamboyant like the cardinal. It was simple, common, innocent, the kind of bird poor people could offer for a sacrifice (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8). This was a directive to Jesus from the Father: the Spirit with which I anoint you is not for ostentation or for earthly battle. What is it for?
An answer comes from Isaiah 42:1–4. This text is relevant because this is where the words of God the Father come from which follow the giving of the Spirit: "Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law." The beauty of this picture is that he has the power to bring forth justice to the nations, but he will not use it to "break a bruised reed or quench a dimly burning wick." That is, he will be tender with the weak and failing. He will be dove-like not hawk-like. So when God anoints Jesus with the Spirit in the form of a dove, he directs him to use his power in meekness and tenderness and love. Which Jesus does: "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest . . . for I am meek and lowly"—I have the Spirit of a dove not a hawk. He says in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor"—the bruised reeds of the world and the smoldering wicks. To these he comes with his dove-like Spirit and heals and fans into flame.
So in summary, what Luke is doing in verses 21 and 22 is setting Jesus' ministry off from John's, demonstrating that he has God's fullest approval and blessing, and revealing the kind of ministry he will have—namely, a dove-like ministry.
Now comes the genealogy, and a whole bunch of questions leap off the page into our minds. In Matthew and Mark, the account of Jesus' temptations comes right after the account of his baptism, but Luke inserts the genealogy between these two accounts. Why? Luke's genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, while Matthew's goes back only to Abraham. Why? The names in the two genealogies from Jesus back to king David are almost all different. Why? And are we to imagine that man is only as old as the number of years that can be calculated for all these names back to Adam? Let's look at some answers to these four questions very briefly in reverse order.
Can the Age of Man Be Determined in This Text?
1) No, we need not think that the sum of each person's life in this genealogy equals the age of man. The main reason is that in Jewish lineage lists "son" was often used also in the sense of "grandson" or even "descendant." In fact in Luke 3:24–38 the word "son" does not even occur in Greek. It simply says Heli was "of Matthat, of Levi, of Melchi" and so on. What matters in a lineage is not that every member be included, but that the genuine line of descent be maintained.
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