Is Jesus The One?

We began the evening by listening to Luke 3:21 - 4:13, hearing of Jesus' baptism, the temptations and his genealogy. According to Boch, this "…entire unit demonstrates one thing: Jesus is qualified to represent both humanity and the nation of Israel as her Messiah." Eldon led us in a discussion on these sections and also introduced us to some of Luke's methods in crafting the story.

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).

Jesus' Baptism

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.

Jesus' Genealogy

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:

  • Parody: copying, exposing folly, shifting the meaning so that it breaks apart and becomes different.
  • Context: setting the scene without layers of interpretation (e.g. In Luke, Jerusalem is still the center (pre-fall) even though the text was probably written after the fall).
  • Co-text: adding another layer/message over an existing story (e.g. submission to God's purposes as shown by Mary, Zaccharia, Jesus).
  • Intertextuality: Using a story/scripture from the past, and weaving it into the new story (e.g. same scripture used in Israelites' and Jesus' temptations).

Luke uses continuity with the known story but roots Jesus in it.

Jesus' Temptations

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."

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