Second Sunday of Advent, Year C

Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79 (as a canticle)
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6
My apologies for some of you diligent readers, because this is my most lengthy post in a decade. I tried to put together an exhaustive exegesis and commentary on all three (not counting the psalm) readings of the day, and it ballooned to an unimaginable size. The longest section is on the Lukan reading at the end. 
Comments are always welcome.

Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger

1 See, I am sending my messenger[1] to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.    2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord  as in the days of old and as in former years.

This text is traditionally taken out of its Hebrew context and identified with John the Baptist. For centuries has been read (along with Malachi 4:5) on this Sunday. However, it does have its own integrity, and to keep faith with that integrity, the passage should be read through to v.12.
About Malachi himself (or herself, though that’s unlikely) we know next to nothing. Even its name may not be a personal name, but a description of his function. The name, “Malachi,” comes from mal'ak, ie., ambassador, deputy, angel, or messenger. So, v. 1:1, “the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi (by mal’ak),” may be the same person referred to in 3:1, “See, I  sending my messenger (my mal’ak) to prepare the way before me....” We don’t know the precise situation of its writing, or precisely to whom he was writing, but we can judge (tentatively) the date to be somewhere shortly before Nehemiah’s first return in 445 b.c.e. during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-424).[2]
By the way, on the church’s historical identification of these verses (and Malachi 4:5-6, which call for a new Elijah to come at the end of time) with John the Baptist, it is interesting to note that on more than one occasion John himself is recorded as having denied the connection (cf. John 1:21, “and they asked him, ‘what then? Are you Elijah?’ he said, ‘I am not.’”).
Malachi’s short book has basically two messages:
1.      God is ticked off about the lack of piety in the temple community (the bringing of animals for sacrifice that were blemished, or “taken by violence,” v. 1:13).
2.      God is about to send a messenger (a mal’ak) who will reunite and purify Israel (3:1-4; 4:1-3), in a final righteous era.
The text begins by Yahweh announcing the coming of a messenger who will come to the corrupted temple. The messenger has been much anticipated and sought after. He is the “messenger of the covenant in whom you delight” (3:1b).
(Side note: the messenger who is coming is referred to as “the Lord” (‘Adōn). But it’s important not to confuse him/her with the “Lord” (Yahweh), who is speaking. The first is the messenger and the second is the God of Israel. “Whatever else this title (“messenger of the covenant”) may represent, it is surely a sign that the work of this messenger, this ‘Adōn, involves the life of the community of faith, for it is with none other than the faithful people that Yahweh holds covenant.”[3] )
But, while the messenger of the covenant brings good news (he/she is one “in whom you delight”), the messenger is also harsh: “who can endure the day of his coming?” The messenger may be the one sought after by the people, but the news is of judgment. He will be “like a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap,” burning and cleaning the descendants of Levi until they start presenting more righteous (or “right,” cf. nrsv note) offerings to Yahweh. By “descendants of Levi,” read, especially “priests, pastors, clergy, ministers, preachers, rabbis,” etc., but it’s also likely that all of Israel is included in the prophet’s condemnation. See, for example, “children of Jacob,” v. 6.
What is wrong with the offerings to Yahweh? In the verses which follow (which were left out by the Lectionary committee), God implies that by “turning aside from my statutes” and withholding their “tithes and offerings,” they, “the whole nation of you,” are in fact robbing God. They ask how that could be? And God responds, “bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an over flowing blessing....then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the lord of hosts (Malachi 3:10, 12). They are robbing God by retaining that which is rightfully God’s.

Philippians 1:3-11 

Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians

3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.[4] 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,[5] for all of you share in God’s grace[6] with me, both in my imprisonment[7] and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.[8] 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion[9] of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Paul’s letters almost always start off with a formal Greek-style introduction (“From _____, to ____, grace and peace,” etc.), followed with a section on thanksgiving. The thanksgiving section is found in every authentic Pauline letter except Galatians. This particular statement of thanksgiving is marked by a closeness to his readers in Philippi, probably because of their consistent support of Paul in his ministry (see 2:25-30; 4:15-19). One commentator noted an interesting piece of evidence for Paul’s closeness to the people in Philippi: his uncommonly frequent use of the word koinonia, in ways that imply bonding, partnership or sharing. He uses it twice in today’s reading: “I thank my God...because of your sharing (koinonia “partnership” rsv) in the gospel” (1:5), and “It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share (sygkoinonoús, “partaking jointly of”) in God’s grace with me (1:7 “are partakers with me” rsv).”[10] Cf. 2:1; 3:10; 4:15.
The thanksgiving section contains two themes that are important to the rest of the letter:
1.      That God is trustworthy and will complete the cosmic tasks begun in Christ Jesus (1:6), and 
2.      The importance of discernment of correct loving behaviors during this murky moral age (1:9-10).

Concerning the first theme, the prayer fits well for Advent in that it refers to two eschatological “days”: the “first day” (1:5), the initial reception of the good news of Jesus Christ, and the “day of Jesus” (1:6, 10), the final day, toward which all of life is directed. The great affirmation of this passage is in v. 6”...that the one (God) who began a good work among you (at the ‘first day’) will bring it to completion by (the last day) the day of Jesus Christ.” We, the church, occupy the space in between the two days. The manger is to be kept separate from the eschaton, no matter how much the popular culture would have us collapse the two or ignore the second. The first day carries within it the seeds, the vision, of the final culmination in the day of Jesus.
Note that this is an activity, a promise, that was started and finished by God and not by human beings. Though the days are far apart, Paul has the clear confidence that the one who began the enterprise would also be the one to conclude it. God may use humans to fashion the details of the work toward the final day, but each step will be guided by God’s hands and not ours.
The second theme begins with a petition that the love of the Philippians would overflow in knowledge and insight (aisthesis, rsv: discernment, also: perception, wisdom, judgment), and learn to “determine what is best” (1:9-10). In light of the delay of the coming of the “day of Christ,” what he probably means here is to sort out priorities, separate the wise from the unwise paths, in light of the day that is eventually coming.


Luke 3:1-6

The Proclamation of John the Baptist
(Mt 3.1—12; Mk 1.1—8; Jn 1.19—28)

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign[11] of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler[12] of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word[13] of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.[14] 
He[15] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance[16] for the forgiveness[17] of sins,[18] 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,[19]
“The voice of one crying[20] out in the wilderness:[21]
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
     make his paths straight.
5 Every valley[22] shall be filled,
     and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,[23]
     and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh[24] shall see the salvation of God.’”[25]

The second Sunday of Advent traditionally honors John the Baptist and this is the quintessential passage for John. Like the Malachi and Isaiah 40 passages which it quotes (incorrectly, actually), it has a life and integrity of its own, which is sometimes lost in the seasonal fru fru about it.
Vss. 1-4 are sometimes known as Luke’s “Second Prologue,” because the Gospel proper begins here. There are several reasons for calling it that. First, the “First Prologue” (Luke 1-2) is a complete stand-alone unit, a mini-musical complete with songs and pageantry, and characters that never show up again. It was probably added later after the Gospel was finished.[1] Second, note that here, in chapter 3, John is introduced to readers as Zechariah’s son (v.2b) as though they had never heard of him before, and had not just read of his birth, in chapter 2. Third, notice too that Luke elsewhere in his writings refers to this story, and not the earlier stories, as the arche, the “beginning” of his gospel. See Acts 1:22, “‘So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’” And Acts 10:37, “That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced....” (I added the italics in case no one could tell). Finally, the second prologue is probably the true beginning because it begins where Mark begins: with John the Baptist.
The purpose of the First Prologue, with all the birth stories, could be described as “Luke’s summation of the OT, waiting for the fulfillment of the messianic promises.[2] And the purpose of the second prologue is to “present John as the one called by God to prepare for the inauguration of the period of salvation.”[3]
There are three reasons (that I know of at least) for Luke beginning his [second] prologue the way he does. First, he does it to situate the Advent of Jesus in concrete historical time and place. He does so by listing historical political leaders in a formal classical style. (For other prologues that begin like this second prologue, see Jeremiah 1:1, Hosea 1:1 [“The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel.”], and Amos 1:1). Luke has a profound sense of history, and his heilsgeschichte, or “salvation history,” encompasses all people, not just Jews in Judea. Mark subsumed all of history, even the words and deeds of Jesus, under the Gospel kerygma. In Matthew, “Jesus was not presented as a figure in world history, but as its conclusion.”[4] But for Luke, this is a story of history itself breaking forth. All of history is taken up into the event of Jesus. He believes that a new age is breaking in in world history. In a sense, Matthew and Mark do also, but for Luke, it breaks in in stages (see the three stages below).
A second goal of Luke’s was to write in such a way as to smash the sacred and profane abruptly into each other almost for the shock value. Notice how the descriptions go from the most powerful (who in God’s world are weak) to the most weak (who in God’s world have the most power). “In the fifteenth year of...governor of...ruler of...ruler of...during the high priest of...and of...the word of God came (not to them, but) to John, son of nobody you’ve heard of, in the  wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2). (Take that you pompous despotic wind bags!) The word of God shows up (by design) in the most unlikely passages and places. Placing the lowly John here proclaiming the word of God also shows the reader just who exactly is in charge.
The rest of the world knew of none of this. Josephus’ references to John stress almost totally John’s political background. Herod was afraid that John’s followers would rise up “for it seemed that they might to go any length on his advice.”[5] On the other hand, the gospels seem almost totally interested in his moral teachings as the cause for his imprisonment.
Conzelmann,[6] and others following him, divide Luke’s theological/historical understanding into three epochs, or periods.
1.      Promise (the time of the Hebrew scriptures, up to chapter 3 of the gospel).
2.      Jesus (the time of the gospel itself).
3.      Church (Acts).
He further divides the Jesus period (#2) into three parts,
1.      The struggle with Satan (chs. 3:1-4:13 [up through the temptation and just before Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth]),
2.      The “satanless” time (4:14-22:2, “When Satan had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time” [Luke 4:13]).
3.      The final struggle with Satan (Luke 22:2-24:53, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot....” [Luke 22:3 ff.]).
Today’s reading is, of course, from the beginning of the “Jesus period” within the larger gospel, and the beginning of the “conflict with Satan” period within that.

There are three themes, important for the rest of the Gospel, found here.[7]
1.      The word of God (rëma tou theou). Here it is the initial presence of God with John, his prophetic call (prophetes, a “word speaker,” someone who speaks on behalf of another more powerful one). Later it will mean the content of the call (Acts 2:14, 5:20). And eventually more cosmically, the Gospel itself, the logos tou theou. There, it is the embodiment of the teaching of the church (Acts 6:2, 12:24).
2.      Repentance (metanoias). Part of the critical, keywords in the phrase, “Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” John’s work and words not only prepare the way for Jesus, but also for the future work of the church. “John’s action serves as the prototype of the church’s preaching of baptism and its declaration that in Jesus, God forgives human sins.”[8] He is portrayed here as doing what they would later be charged to do. The message is, “here, folks, is the model of how to proclaim Jesus. How ya doin’ on that yourself?”
3.      Salvation of God. (soterion). This is the central theme of the Gospel: Salvation for all creation. Note especially the lines of Zechariah in Luke 1:76-77, “And you, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.” And Lk 2:29-30 “‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation.’”
In the context of the Gospel, John is portrayed by Luke as the forerunner for Luke’s theology: forgiveness and salvation. In the context of Advent, John tells Christians of the need to be prepared for the re-presenting of the Christ: Prepare the highways, make them serviceable, repair the things that are broken or get in the way of his coming. Tear down the walls.

[1] So Joseph Fitzmyer (Gospel According to Luke: Anchor Bible Series, Vol. 28, [Doubleday], 1981, p. 450) though Craddock (Harper’s Bible Commentary [New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.], 1988, p. 1010) disagrees.
[2] Reginald Fuller, The Atonement (Doubleday, 1987),  p. 95).
[3] Fitzmyer, op. cit., p. 452.
[4] Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, Vol. 2, (Scribners and Sons, 1935), p. 126).
[5] Josephus, Antiquities,18.5,2.
[6] Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of Luke, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974).
[7] Following Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching (W/JKP, 1994), p. 18.
[8] Ibid., p. 18.

The Famous Isaiah Misquote Story

Luke has John quote loosely from Isaiah 40:3-5. Mark, his primary source, quotes both Isaiah and Malachi (our first reading), while calling both of them “Isaiah.” Luke untangles the quotation by removing Malachi, and then he goes on to use a larger portion of the Isaiah passage. A careful read, however shows that he not only quotes it, but misquotes it in an interesting way. All four Gospels cite the Isaiah passage and all make the same error in the citation. The reason is that they all are quoting from the lxx, translated the Hebrew into Greek incorrectly. The Isaiah passage reads:
     “A voice cries out:
     ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
           make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
Notice that Luke (and the others) have the voice crying in the wilderness, not crying out about the wilderness. It becomes not a sentence about the wilderness, but a sentence that takes place in the wilderness.
“The Isaiah quotation sets forth one of the key theological themes that runs throughout the Gospel of Luke, what some have called the theology of reversal. Isaiah is prophesying a messianic age which Luke sees as being fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. Isaiah describes the messianic age with images of reversal, valleys lifted up, mountains brought low, the crooked made straight and the rough made smooth. This symbolizes for Luke the leveling of society in the messianic age, the rich and powerful being brought low, while the poor are lifted up.[34]

Detailed exegetical commentary on the passage

3:1 “ In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius...”
Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus Caesar, and was disliked by all of Rome because he wasn’t really blood lineage. He only became leader because Augustus was unable to produce a male offspring, so the stepson had to do. There were numerous attempts to overthrow him during his reign.
“when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea...”
He rose to this position from a “middle manager” position in the Roman Government. He came up from the ranks by beating everyone else down. Ruthless. “Knowing that his hold on Judea was tenuous, he made up for his weakness by periodically unleashing a reign of terror through his soldiers on the citizenry.” The rule of Pontius Pilate is also found in the writings of Josephus, J. W. 2.9.2-4 (2.169-77) and Ant.18.3.1 (18.55-59).
“and Herod was ruler of Galilee...”
Not Herod the King, but his son. Equally unsavory character. He was later deposed and beheaded for his attempts to get himself appointed real king. He ruled from 4 B.C.-AD 39, sharing the rule of his father’s realm with his two brothers. One brother, Archelaus (Matt 2:22) was banished in AD 6 and died in AD 18; the other brother, Herod Philip (mentioned next) died in AD 34.
“Ruler,” tetrarch. Originally the title for ‘a ruler of a fourth of the territory’ or ‘one of four rulers.’ In Hellenistic and Roman times, however, it is applied somewhat loosely to petty rulers of dependent states; a tetrarch is lower in status than an ethnarch, who, in turn, is lower than a king. The term occurs seven times in the nt, with three of these occurrences in Luke 3:1. The other four occurrences refer to Herod Antipas (Matt. 14:1; Luke 3:19; 9:7; Acts 13:1). On the other hand, Herod Antipas is called ‘king’ in Mark 6:14, 26, suggesting that some equivalence may have existed between the two titles.[35]
“and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene...”
Not as much known about these two probable brothers of Herod. But we do know that they fought over property of Judea. Fought to keep Israel fractured and divided among themselves. Fought for the spoils of the country. Each had their own demands for power which prevented a united kingdom. A legacy we still experience in the middle east even today.
 “Phillip,” refers to Herod Philip, son of Herod the Great and brother of Herod Antipas. Philip ruled as tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis from 4 B.C.-AD 34. “Lysanias”: It may not be historically accurate to list Lysanias here because Josephus (Ant. XXVII. I) tells of a Lysanias who was King of Abila up to b.c.e. 36 as the one referred to by Luke, but with the wrong date. But recently an inscription has been found on the site of Abilene with mention of “Lysanias the tetrarch” and the stone is dated at about the time to which Luke refers, so it may be correct.[36] But then who knows? (And who cares?)
2 “during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas...”
Luke is noting in passing the division even within the house of God: Caiaphus was Annas’ son-in-law, and supposedly succeeded him in 18 c.e. but the older man never quite gave up the reigns. Like a preacher who retires but never leaves the congregation and still controls things from behind the scenes.
“the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness...”
Note the simplicity of John in contrast to the powerful kings and rulers with whom he is compared.
Zechariah: Note also that no other Gospel mentions Zechariah. If the so-called “first Prologue” had originally been a part of the Gospel, then Luke probably would not have seen the need to re-introduce John as the “son of Zechariah,” something that had just been discussed in great detail in the previous chapter.
Wilderness: “The desert is not only a geographical reference; it also recalls the place of Israel’s formation as God’s covenant people and hence implies a return to God. John’s ministry centered in the Jordan Valley where he preached a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins (cf. Mark 1:4). This baptism differs from proselyte baptism that was for non-Jews, and Qumran baptism that was a repeated act of cleansing. Repentance and forgiveness of sins constitute the gospel for Luke (24:47)”[37]

Definitions of these three key terms (from Strong’s and others, plus my comments)
      “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”
One model for a sermon on this text may be to just walk through these four important terms one by one and make a homiletical comment on each one. So, if you choose to go that route, here are brief definition s of each one to get you started. 
Proclaiming (kerusso), to preach, publish, herald (as a public crier), especially the gospel, preach (-er). Louw-Nida says it is "to publicly announce religious truths and principles while urging acceptance and compliance—‘to preach'....In a number of languages it is impossible to translate κηρύσσωc without indicating the content of what is preached. Accordingly, one may have such expressions as ‘to preach about the good news’ or ‘to preach about God.’ See: Romans 10:14 14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  
Baptism (baptisma),:
1)   immersion, submersion
1a)   of calamities and afflictions with which one is quite overwhelmed
1b)   of John’s baptism, that purification rite by which men on confessing their sins were bound to spiritual reformation, obtained the pardon of their past sins and became qualified for the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom soon to be set up. This was valid Christian baptism, as this was the only baptism the apostles received and it is not recorded anywhere that they were ever Rebaptized after Pentecost.
1c)   of Christian baptism; a rite of immersion in water as commanded by Christ, by which one after confessing his sins and professing his faith in Christ, having been born again by the Holy Spirit unto a new life, identifies publicly with the fellowship of Christ and the church.
In Rom. 6:3 Paul states we are “baptized unto death” meaning that we are not only dead to our former ways, but they are buried. To return to them is as unthinkable for a Christian as for one to dig up a dead corpse! In Moslem countries a new believer has little trouble with Moslems until he is publicly baptized. It is then, that the Moslems’ know he means business, and then the persecution starts.[38]
Repentance (metanoea) a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done.
According to Vine’s, to translate metanoea as “repentance” is “possibly the worst translation in the New Testament.”[39] Louw and Nida’s rough definition would be, “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness - ‘to repent, to change one’s way, repentance.’”[40] The trouble is that the English word “repent” means “to be sorry again (repeatedly).” It comes from the Latin (impersonal). John did not call on the people to be sorry, but to change their mental attitudes and conduct. It has been hopelessly mistranslated. “The tragedy of it is that we have no one English word that reproduces exactly the meaning and atmosphere of the Greek word. The Greek has a word meaning to be sorry (metamelomai) which is exactly our English word repent and it is used of Judas (Matthew 27:3). John was a new prophet with the call of the old prophets: “Repent ye!” (Joel 2:12; Isaiah 55:7; Ezekiel 33:11, 15).[41]
Forgiveness (aphesis)
1)     release from bondage or imprisonment
2)     forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty
of sins (hamartia)
1)   equivalent to 264
1a)   to be without a share in
1b)   to miss the mark
1c)   to err, be mistaken
1d)   to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong
1e)   to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin
2)   that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act
3)   collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many.

[1]mal'ak; from an unused root meaning to dispatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher), ambassador, angel, king, messenger.
[2] HarperCollins Study Bible (1993), p. 1328.
[3] James Newsome, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV, Year C (Louisville: WJK, 1994), p. 12.
[4] 1:10  Day of Christ. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.
[5] Or because I hold you in my heart
[6] Gk in grace. Charis, from chairo, to be “cheer”-ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off. Charis implies graciousness (as gratifying), the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; gratitude, favour, gift, joy, pleasure.
[7] “My imprisonment.” A reminder that Paul writes this letter while in prison (Leander Keck, Cambridge Study Bible.
[8] “Gospel,” euaggelion, from the same root as euaggelizo (to bring good news). A good message, i.e. the gospel.
[9] Compassion, splagchnon. The Greek word refers to the emotions, and is here a term of deep affection. Probably derives from a strengthened form of splen, (the “spleen”), which implies intestine, bowels; inward affection, mercy, moved to pity or sympathy.
[10] Keck, Cambridge Study Bible.
[11] “Reign,” hegemonia, from the word for “government,” i.e. (in time) official term, reign. It’s where we get the English word, “hegemony.”
[12] “Ruler,” tetrarch, a governor of the fourth part of a region. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos) 1995.
[13] “Word.” The term translated “word” here is not logos which is laden with heavy theological weight, but rhema, which means an utterance, a matter or topic, a saying. Because of its simplicity, some conservative commentators have seen the possibility in it of reference to the call of God to John to begin ministry. I don’t see that, but it may just be me.
[14] “wilderness,” or “desert,” eremos. The Synoptics differ widely as to details, but all three locate him “in the wilderness,” cf. Mark 1:4; Matthew 3:1 (adding “of Judea”). See more on note m.
[15] “And he.” “Here” (kai) is not translated because of differences between Greek and English style. Due to the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
[16] “Repent,” metanoeite. To think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider, repent, reversal (of a decision).
[17] Aphesis, freedom, pardon, deliverance, forgiveness, liberty, remission. The word (aphesis) “occurs in Luke more frequently than in all the other New Testament writers combined” (Vincent’s Word Studies). In medical writers it is used for the relaxing of disease.
[18] hamartia, sin, offense, sinful. Originally from hamartano, to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), i.e. to err (especially morally), to sin, for your faults, offend, sin, trespass.
A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins was a call for preparation for the arrival of salvation. To participate in this baptism was a recognition of the need for God’s forgiveness with a sense that one needed to live differently as a response to it (Luke 3:10-14).
[19] Luke has John quote loosely from Isaiah 40:3-5.
[20] “Crying,” boao. To call, shout (for help or in a tumultuous way), cry out.
[21] Wilderness or “desert.” The syntactic position of the phrase “in the wilderness” is unclear in both Luke and the LXX. The MT favors taking it with “Prepare a way,” while the LXX takes it with “a voice crying out.” If the former, the meaning would be that such preparation should be done “in the wilderness.” If the latter, the meaning would be that the place from where John’s ministry went forth was “in the wilderness.” There are Jewish materials that support both renderings: 1QS 8:14 and 9.19-20 support the MT while certain Rabbinic texts favor the LXX (see D. L. Bock, Luke [BECNT], 1:290-91(cited in Vincent, Word Studies). While it is not absolutely necessary that a call in the wilderness led to a response in the wilderness, it is not unlikely that such would be the case. Thus, in the final analysis, the net effect between the two choices may be minimal. In any case, a majority of commentators and translations take “in the wilderness” with “The voice of one crying” (D. L. Bock; R. H. Stein, Luke [NAC], 129; I. H. Marshall, Luke [NIGTC], 136 (cited in Vincent, Word Studies).
[22] Valley (pharagx). Here only in N.T., though in the LXX and ancient Greek. A ravine or valley hedged in by precipices.
[23]This call to “make paths straight” in this context is probably an allusion to preparation through repentance as the verb the verb ποιέω (poieō) reappears in vv. 8, 10, 11, 12, 14 (NET).
[24] All flesh (πᾶσα σὰρξ, pãsa sàrx). In the NT, this word is only used of the human race. However, in the LXX it also is occasionally used of animals. The figurative language speaks of the whole creation preparing for the arrival of a major figure, so all obstacles to his coming are removed. It is like creation’s rolling out the red carpet. 
[25]The salvation of God (σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ, to sotērion tou theou). The saving act of God. This phrase is a good description of a key element of Luke’s Gospel which has in mind the message of Christ for all humanity. It is the universal Gospel. Cf., Luke 1:76-77, Luke 2:29-30. It is a quotation from Isa 40:3-5. Though all the synoptic gospels use this citation from Isaiah, only Luke cites the material of vv. 5-6. His goal may well be to get to the declaration of v. 6, where all humanity (i.e., all nations) see God’s salvation (see also Luke 24:47).
[26] So Joseph Fitzmyer (Gospel According to Luke: Anchor Bible Series, Vol. 28, [Doubleday], 1981, p. 450) though Craddock (Harper’s Bible Commentary [New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.], 1988, p. 1010) disagrees.
[27] Reginald Fuller, The Atonement (Doubleday, 1987),  p. 95).
[28] Fitzmyer, op. cit., p. 452.
[29] Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, Vol. 2, (Scribners and Sons, 1935), p. 126).
[30] Josephus, Antiquities,18.5,2.
[31] Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of Luke, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974).
[32] Following Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching (W/JKP, 1994), p. 18.
[33] Ibid., p. 18.
[34] J. Christian Wilson, in Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. IX, Number 1, December, 1997, p.2.
[35]Achtemeier, Paul J., Th.D., Harper’s Bible Dictionary, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1985.
[36] William Blake MacCauley, Luke the Historian in the Light of Research (London: Dinsmore Press, 1937), pp. 167f.
[37]Mays, James Luther, Ph.D., Editor, Harper’s Bible Commentary, (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1988.
[38]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.
[39] Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. 2: Luke & John (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937, 1997).
[40]Louw, Johannes P. and Nida, Eugene A., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies) 1988, 1989.
[41] Robertson, Word Pictures.