Luke uniquely said that the Pharisees (οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι) and the lawyers (καὶ οἱ νομικοὶ) refused to be baptized by John the Baptist (μὴ βαπτισθέντες ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ). Thus, only they had rejected God’s purpose for themselves (τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἠθέτησαν εἰς ἑαυτούς). In other words, the Pharisees and the other followers of the law had rejected John and his baptism. Thus, they had rejected God’s plan for themselves. None of the other gospel writers mentioned this. Clearly, this was an anti-Pharisee statement. What group of people are you against?
Luke said that John the Baptist summoned two of his disciples (καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος δύο τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὁ Ἰωάνης). He sent them to the Lord (ἔπεμψεν πρὸς τὸν Κύριον) to ask him if he was the one who was to come (λέγων Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος)? Or should they wait for another (ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν)? Matthew, chapter 11:3 has something similar. John the Baptist sent a few of his disciples, rather than two as indicated by Luke. Notice that this is the first time that Matthew called Jesus the Christ (τοῦ Χριστοῦ), while Luke called him the Lord (Κύριον). Neither called him Jesus. The question in both Luke and Matthew is exactly the same, indicating a possible Q source. These disciples of John came to Jesus. They had one big important question to ask him. Was Jesus the expected Messiah or should they wait for someone else? The disciples of John were true messianic Jews, waiting for the Messiah. Did they not realize that Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist? In fact, John had already met Jesus, had a conversation with him, and witnessed his baptism. What more did he need? In one sense this is strange since Luke already established that John and Jesus were cousins of some sort, so that they would have known each other, to say nothing about John’s baptism of Jesus. Is Jesus the one that you have been waiting for?
The four gospel stories show what happened to Jesus after he had been baptized. Matthew, chapter 3:16, and Mark, chapter 1:10, are almost the same as here. John, chapter 1:32, had John the Baptist explaining what was happening, but there was no mention of heaven opening or Jesus at prayer. Luke said that when Jesus had been baptized (καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος), just as he was coming up out of the water, he was praying (καὶ προσευχομένου). Heaven was opened (ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν). There is no mention of Jesus seeing the heavens open as Mark indicated. The idea of heaven opening up or breaking open was also found among the major Israelite prophets Isaiah, chapter 63:19, and Ezekiel, chapter 1:1. All this happened as Jesus came up from the water, not during the baptism itself. The idea of Jesus praying was unique to Luke and one of his favorite themes. However, Luke did not have a description of John the Baptist, nor any discussion of whether John should baptize Jesus, as in Mark and Matthew.
Mark, chapter 1:5, and Matthew, chapter 3:5-6, spoke about all the people coming out to be baptized by John the Baptist. Matthew, like Mark, mentioned that all the people from Jerusalem and the Judean area were going out to see John the Baptist. However, Matthew also added that the people from along the Jordan River, a little further north, were also coming out to see him. Mark said that all the people from the whole Judea countryside or region as well as all the people of Jerusalem were going out to see John Perhaps not all the people of Judea and Jerusalem went out to be baptized by John. Luke here, on the other hand, gave no geographical indications. He simply generically stated that all the people were baptized (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν). Once again, “all” might be an exaggeration. John baptized these people in the Jordan River, while they were confessing their sins. The Jordan River is north of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Jewish baptisms were not that uncommon. Washing was a physical and spiritual cleansing for sins, as people were unclean or dirty. Thus, in the process of this spiritual cleansing, they would confess their sins. John’s baptism had a few unique qualities, since it was a moral statement with an expectation of a coming Messiah or savior. Clearly, John held a central role in the gospels of Mark and Luke, since they started their stories about Jesus with John.
This is another one of the unique sayings of Luke about John and his preaching that is not found elsewhere in the biblical writings. Luke said that even tax collectors came to be baptized (ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι). They asked John (καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν), as their teacher (Διδάσκαλε), what they should do (τί ποιήσωμεν). Tax collectors had a special role in the biblical writings as they were considered like traitors to the Jewish people, since these were Jewish people who collected the Roman tax from the local people. However, they seemed capable of repentance, as here they were seeking baptism from John.
Now there are a series of unique sayings of Luke about John and his preaching that are not found elsewhere in the biblical writings. Apparently, there were a number of questions that people were asking John. Luke said that the crowds asked him (Καὶ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι λέγοντες) what should they do (Τί οὖν ποιήσωμεν)? John was considered to be a moral teacher. Thus, the crowds of people who came to repent with baptism wanted to know what were they to do now that they were baptized. What did repentance look like?
Here is the first of the sayings from the so-called Q source. Both Matthew, chapter 3:9-10, and Luke here have the exact same wording in their presentations of John’s preaching to the people. Instead of just the Pharisees and Sadducees, Luke has John address this to all the people coming to be baptized. This saying emphasized deeds, rather than relying on ancestry. They were to produce fruit that was worthy of repentance (ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας). They had to perform good deeds. They should not presume that because they have had Abraham as their father, as the privileged chosen ones (καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ), that all would go well for them. Then John pointedly said to them (λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν) that God had the power (ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς) to change stones and rocks into the children of Abraham (ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ), a Hebrew play on words that was translated into Greek. The axe was already lying at the foot of the trees, ready to go to work (ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται). Every tree that was not bearing or producing good fruit would be cut down (πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται). Then they would be thrown into the fire (καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται).
Luke then presented the teachings of John that can be found in all 4 gospel stories. Notice how this teaching lines up with what Jesus would say. Matthew, chapter 3:8, has something similar but it was directed at the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were coming to be baptized by John. Mark and John do not have anything about this “brood of vipers.” Luke indicated that John spoke to all the crowds who were coming out to be baptized by him (Ἔλεγεν οὖν τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ὄχλοις βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ), not just a select few people. John told them that they were like a group of vipers (Γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν) who would kill young people. Vipers were poisonous snakes or reptiles. Who warned them to flee from the wrath to come (τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς)? This might be a saying from the so-called Q source, since both Matthew and Luke have the exact same wording. It might also be an allusion to the prophet Amos, chapter 5:18-20. Amos saw the day of Yahweh as an angry day of judgment.
This longer addition of Mark, is like the addition in Matthew, chapter 28:19-20. Once again, there was an emphasis on baptism that was not mentioned prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus. This Mark addition said that the one who believed (ὁ πιστεύσας) and was baptized (καὶ βαπτισθεὶς) would be saved (σωθήσεται). However, anyone who did not believe (ὁ δὲ ἀπιστήσας) would be condemned (κατακριθήσεται). Thus, this recommendation also brought a condemnation. Belief and baptism were important.
There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 20:23, but slightly different. Mark indicated that Jesus said to the two sons of Zebedee (ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς), James and John, that they would indeed drink of the suffering cup of Jesus (Τὸ ποτήριόν ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε). They would also undergo the baptism that he was going to suffer (καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε). Jesus warned these two important apostles that they would drink of the suffering cup and the undergo the baptism of suffering also.