Bible study on Luke 3.7-18
This study can be used by a small family/household group, or by an online group, or – sometimes with a little adaptation – by an individual.
See our Guidelines for a weekly Bible study
Begin with an opening prayer
O Lord our God,
God of the prophets and God of the now,
you are with us.
Your power gives us victory.
You take delight in us.
And in love, you give us new life.
Hear us as we come to you today.
Read the passage
Consider different ways to read the text. For example, hearing it in more than one version of the Bible.
In an online group, you could share parts between those present, or use/adapt this week’s Share the Word suggestion: Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to go to Share the Word and scroll down to find the Gospel reading.
Explore and respond to the text
Start by reading the Bible notes below. You may want to read them more than once, or pause after each paragraph to reflect on what you have read.
‘What then should we do?’ (v.10). It’s a recurring question in Luke’s writing: the lawyer (Luke 10.25); the rich ruler (Luke 18.18); the Jerusalem crowd (Acts 2.37); the jailer (Acts 16.30); and Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 22.10). In Acts, the ‘called for’ response is spiritual and relational – although in the case of the jailer, his responsiveness is also shown in his practical provision of food for Paul and Silas as well as in his baptism. In the Gospel, the called for response is profoundly down to earth and practical, centring on the generous sharing of resources. Underlying this is a called-for ethic and attitude of contentment – a call to be content with one good coat, enough food, the legitimate amount of tax revenue and sufficient wages.
It is notable that John – often presented as a fiery radical prophet – does not call people in what were controversial occupations to find new work. Instead he calls them to work out the substance of their repentance and live their newly baptized lives within their normal day-to-day duties. Commenting on this, Joel Green says, ‘John’s message contains within it a critique that not only points the finger of judgement at large-scale injustice but in fact reaches into the realities of day-to-day existence. Life at the local level and one’s own normal network of relationships are touched by this ethical vision, with the result that repentance must be understood within and related to even the most mundane.’ (Joel B Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1997 ISBN 978-0-8028-2315-1). Again, note Luke’s little phrase ‘Even tax collectors’ (v.10). When was the last time we gave thanks for and prayed for those working honourably at HMRC?
||A time for spreading hope
Andrew Roberts discusses fake news, good news and Christmas with two young Christians, Jeremiah Gash and Caitlyn Arran.
Spend a few moments thinking about what stands out for you from the Bible reading. This idea may help.
In Advent 2020, in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a post appeared on Facebook saying that Christmas that year was not about getting what you want but being content with what you have. At the heart of John the Baptist’s message is a call to contentment. What might this look like today, especially when the might of commercial advertising plays on a sense of discontent that will only be assuaged by purchasing the product or service being promoted? If the planet is to survive, those of us who have plenty will have to be content not just with what we have but with less. Might being seen to live in this way be an important way of being good news in our time?
Questions for reflection
You may wish to use these questions and the picture to help you think about or discuss issues of sharing.
Click on the image to view a larger version
or use the Jump menu to go to This week's images.
For artist's details, see this issue's illustrators.
- How might what these young people are doing be ‘good news’ for someone?
- What then should we do, to be a sign of the good news to others?
- How is your community a sign of the good news?
A simple worship activity
What then should we do?
- The phrase above suggests there are choices to be made in following Christ. Some are more obvious: for example, we choose whether or not to be a follower of Jesus, or to be baptized. But those ‘first’ choices have consequences and lead to other choices. Some of those who came to John for baptism don’t appear to have fully understood what they were choosing to do and some of its consequences for their everyday living.
- Invite people to recall and share, first in pairs and then in a larger group: first, choices they may have made without fully understanding either the nature of the choice or the consequences; second, choices or consequences they are faced with in their daily lives because they follow Jesus – e.g. workplace practices that seem contrary to Gospel values.
Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to go to more activities in Explore and respond.
Adapt to your local context.
A prayer of thanksgiving
Praise to you, Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We praise you for the gift of witnesses to your love.
We give thanks for the witness of John the Baptist and his message to the people and its relevance for us today.
In his story and his teaching, we see the heart of your being, fairness and justice and equality for your people.
We give you thanks for the ordinary everyday life that witnesses to your power and glory.
We give thanks that you are always surprising us and meeting us right where we are.
We give thanks for your light in our times of darkness, for your hand in times of aloneness, for your leading in times of uncertainty.
To you, our triune God, we offer our praise and thanksgiving.
Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to find more prayers, including up-to-date intercessions.
A prayer to end the Bible study
Lord, help us to go into the world in peace;
to be of good courage;
to hold fast to that which is good;
to strengthen the fainthearted;
to support the weak;
to honour everyone;
and to love and serve the Lord.
Be within us and among us,
and remain with us always.
Go with God 24/7
Encourage everyone to put their faith into action.
Take your daily devotional – prayer book, Bibles notes, Bible, or whatever you use – with you to your workplace/school/etc., and read it during your lunchbreak each day as a sign of the importance to you of the good news of Jesus. If that is not possible, could you read it when you are travelling on public transport? Or put a sign or a lit candle in a window while you are praying at home?
Encourage everyone to explore their faith this week with the ROOTS at home resource.