Preparing the Way


This section of Luke begins more than a decade after chapter two ends, so Luke opens it with a list of details regarding those in power in order to land the story in time and place. He concludes the list with an introduction of John the Baptist, whose calling it was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” This preparation was about getting the spiritual ground ready for the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Messiah, the savior of the world. John was an eccentric. He wore camel hair and ate locusts, and he wasn’t exactly a sweet talker. But he made hundreds of converts. Why? Because he spoke the truth and he lived with purpose.

  • What are you purposefully doing each day to get the spiritual ground ready for Jesus in the lives of your unsaved friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family?


3:1 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.’”

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. In verse 7, John the Baptist gave a strong warning to those in the crowd who had simply come to be a part of the spectacle. What did he command them to do in verse 8 to show whether or not they were truly committed?
  2. What did John the Baptist say the people needed to stop relying on to gauge their connection to God (verse 8)?
  3. In verses 10-14, John the Baptist told the crowds what they should have been doing to measure their relationship with God. What qualities do verses 11, 13, and 14 imply true Christ followers will exhibit in their everyday lives?
  4. Which of these qualities do you struggle with the most? Generosity (vs. 11)? Honesty and integrity (vss. 13-14)? Contentment (vs. 14)? How do you think this impacts your ability to “prepare the way of the Lord” in your everyday life?


It’s interesting that, in order to prepare the way for Jesus’ earthly ministry, John told the crowds that the entrance of the Messiah was going to mark a new way to relate to God. It was going to be about loving people, not just following legal rituals. And at the end of the passage, God himself prepared the way for Jesus’ mission on earth by opening up the heavens after Jesus’ baptism. God put his stamp of approval on Jesus, declaring him divine—his own beloved Son, whose lineage could not be denied.

  • Take an inventory of the reasons you are currently involved in church activity. Is it because you understand that a relationship with God is to be fruitful? Or are you just checking religious boxes?
  • Ask God to give you a passion for pursuing a fruitful life so that your tree is not simply “cut down and thrown into the fire.”