John the Baptist prepared the way by saying that only those with a repentant heart were able to receive the message. It wasn't merely for the religious/Pharisees or even just the Israelites: "God can raise children from these stones." Rather, the question was whether you had submitted to God's purposes and were living a life that showed the fruits of repentance. Tax collectors and soldiers were among those who came to the river for baptism. We noticed how the meaning of repentance had changed from the Old Testament: now there seemed to be a shift from purification (baptism) to empowerment (changed nature).
As the story unfolds, at Jesus' baptism, a dove descended and God expressed his pleasure. "You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you." This relationship with God reflects the central identity of Jesus and his relationship with God (Abba). It is at the heart and source of his ministry.
We questioned whether the affirmation during baptism (dove and God's voice) would have been a shared public experience or more of a private/internal experience. It seemed more likely that this marked an internal recognition in Jesus of his identity and vocation.
Did Jesus require the cleansing of baptism? It seems to make sense that Jesus was a man, like us, before he became Christ. That he suffered temptations like us seems to deepen the significance of the text as well.
Luke unravels a long line of ancestors in the genealogy of Jesus. Eldon recalled how genealogies had never held much significance for him while growing up. Yet interestingly, something more than a family tree seemed to be captured here. In Luke, Jesus' history goes back through the fallen figures of Adam and Eve and then even further back to being the son of God. Luke is showing us that Jesus is both man (like us) and also the son of God.
Luke's Storytelling Tool Kit
Once again it seemed apparent that Luke is not presenting a chronology
(history) but rather an interpretation of events (theology). Eldon indicated
how Luke weaves in stories from the Old Testament, but carries them forward
to something new. Some methods used in Luke are:
Luke uses continuity with the known story but roots Jesus in it.
While filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led into the wilderness and tested. With intertexuality, Luke shows how Israel faced the same temptations in the wilderness and failed. Jesus is shown to suffer the temptations but to remain true to God.
Eldon illustrated the temptation of Jesus as an inner battle rather than a battle with an external Satan Again, it seemed plausible that Jesus faced certain things in himself before he fully submitted to God's will for his life.
One of the interesting things Eldon pointed out was how the temptations began with "If you are the son of God …" challenging Jesus' identity. Jesus didn't fall for it but responded with God's word (scripture), remaining rooted in God.
How do we work with temptation?
One of the main questions that underlies the temptations is the question of where our primary identity lies. If it is not firmly rooted in God (he is the vine, we are the branches), we will fall. In the words of Boch, "Independence from God is the essence of Spiritual defection and desertion."