Daily Bible Reading Devotional [Luke 3:1-6]-September 12, 2017

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Observations & Reflections

Justin-Holmes1.jpgLuke continues in chapter 3 with a thorough account of the start of John’s ministry. Luke provides us with a few points of reference, some of which need to be defined. Luke starts by giving us the date of

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

The problem with this date is that Tiberius took over for his father (Augustus Caesar), after he died in 14 CE. That means that the current year would be 29 CE. The problem is that most scholars place Jesus’ death at about 30 CE, after 3 years or so of ministry. This dating is also backed up by Tertullian, who stated:

“… the Lord has been revealed since the twelfth year of Tiberius Caesar.” (Against Marcion, Book 1, ch. 15)

So, how did Jesus accomplish 3 years of ministry in just a single year? The truth is that Luke was not referring to the date by which Tiberius Caesar took over for his father as Emporer.  He was referring to the year that Tiberius became co-regent.

Tiberius, was actually a co-regent under his father’s rule before he ended up taking over for his father. who had a higher seat of power, Roman Emporer. His co-regency would have started around 11/12 CE, once his father fell ill. Tiberius and Augustus even had joint coins minted with his face on them during his co-regency period. Augustus on one side and Tiberius on the other. Augustus reigned from 27 BCE – 14 CE. 

Tiberius Caesar coins minted during co-regency
Coins minted during the co-regency of Tiberius and Augustus, 27 BC-AD 14,
According to the Roman historian, Suetonius, the ascension of Tiberius to “co-princeps” took place in the year 12 CE, which means that the “15th year” by Luke’s counting would make the current year 27 CE. This seems to be in disagreement with Tertullian’s date of 26 CE (14 + 12).
This discrepancy can, perhaps, be cleared up by understanding the Roman system of counting which uses the emperor’s first year as the year of ascension and counts the second year as year #1. Assuming that Luke is not using the Roman system, but that Tertullian is, the date of 26 CE is reconciled. It is, of course, not all that critical to the gospel that the exact date is correct, but it certainly does help with contextual understanding.

Luke also records that Annas and Caiaphas were both the high priests at the time. This would seem odd seeing as the Jews typically only had one high priest. However, Annas was removed from his role shortly after Tiberius started his reign, by the procurator Gratus. He was selected for his role as high priest initially by Quirinius which we spoke about recently because he was the one who placed over Judea who called for the census that lead Mary and Joseph to Nazareth. Gratus was the procurator over Judea which was a province of Syria, which was ruled by Quirinius until just before his death in 21 CE. 

However, after Annas was removed by Gratus, he was replaced by Caiaphas who had a great deal less admiration from the Jewish people. In fact, Annas was so well respected by the Jews that even after he was removed as high priest, the Jews still regarded him as such; so much so that Jesus was brought to Annas before going to Caiaphas (John 18:24).

With dating and names aside, we must also note that Luke, again, refers to the gospel as being for all peoples.

all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6)

As we continue through Luke, we will see more and more the gospel to the gentiles and agreement between Luke’s gospel and Paul’s message.

Lydia.jpgAs previously discussed, John was born to be used as God’s tool to pave the way for Jesus Christ. During this time, there was a lot of political powerful people at play and the time had come for John to introduce the true leader and king of this world. It is imperative we understand that this was all planned from long before. God had set this plan in motion before John came into this world and now it was in full effect.

When we are able to trace the hand of God throughout history, it reminds us that God always keep His promises and that He never goes back on His word. He implemented the course of John and Jesus’ road to salvation well ahead by using different prophets in the old testament to predict this truth.

We are about to see just how John paves the way for Jesus Christ. John was a remarkable and useful tool that was handpicked by God to do His work. There were many prophets in the old testament that spoke of a coming messiah. Now, John was speaking similar words as a reality that was literally happening. Those who had heard the words of the prophets were about to see it come to light. There was no more waiting, hoping and longing.

Let us thank God that He planned out the course of salvation to save us from our sins. Eternal punishment was once a real fate for the world and because of God’s love for us, He implemented His plan of redemption to change our eternal damnation to an eternal salvation. The gift of salvation is still readily available to those who hear it and accept it. Let us daily pursue a life that is marked by God’s saving grace and spread that news to the rest of the world.

[Featured image is of the 1878 status of “St. John the Baptist Preaching”, in Bronze. by Auguste Rodin French, 1840-1917. Statue housed at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in NY.  Photo taken my flickr user wallyg.]

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