21 While all the people were being immersed, Yeshua too was immersed. As he was praying, heaven was opened; 22 the Holy Spirit came down on him in physical form like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with you.”
23 Yeshua was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. It was supposed that he was a son of Yosef who was of Eli,
24 of Mattat, of Levi, of Malki, of Yannai, of Yosef,
25 of Mattityahu, of Amotz, of Nachum, of Hesli, of Naggai,
26 of Machat, of Mattityahu, of Shim‘i, of Yosef, of Yodah,
27 of Yochanan, of Reisha, of Z’rubavel, of Sh’altiel, of Neri,
28 of Malki, of Addi, of Kosam, of Elmadan, of Er,
29 of Yeshua, of Eli‘ezer, of Yoram, of Mattat, of Levi,
30 of Shim‘on, of Y’hudah, of Yosef, of Yonam, of Elyakim,
31 of Mal’ah, of Manah, of Mattatah, of Natan, of David,
32 of Yishai, of ‘Oved, of Bo‘az, of Salmon, of Nachshon,
33 of Amminadav, of Admin, of Arni, of Hetzron, of Peretz, of Y’hudah,
34 of Ya‘akov, of Yitz’chak, of Avraham, of Terach, of Nachor,
35 of S’rug, of Re‘u, of Peleg, of ‘Ever, of Shelah,
36 of Keinan, of Arpakhshad, of Shem, of Noach, of Lemekh,
37 of Metushelach, of Hanokh, of Yered, of Mahalal’el, of Keinan,
38 of Enosh, of Shet, of Adam, of God.
Every sentence Luke writes deserves consideration. Verse 21 here is a good example. Literally translated, it goes, “It happened in the immersing (of) all the people, and Jesus being immersed and praying, that the heaven was opened.” The detail of Jesus’s being baptised along with all the people is subordinated to the event which followed, the opening of heaven. Some Jews believed that since the time of Malachi the last prophet, heaven, the sphere of God, had been closed, depriving the people of the inspiration of the Spirit. Now, Luke says, as Jesus joined his people in turning towards God in immersion, God turned towards his people, opening heaven and sending the Spirit to settle upon Jesus. Just as the spirit of God had hovered over chaos in the first creation so now it marked him out as the agent of a new creation.
The voice of God speaks to Jesus, echoing Psalm 2 , claiming him as his son, the beloved, in whom he is delighted. As Jesus had identified himself with the sinful people, so God identifies himself with Jesus. This is a further development of Luke’s theology of Jesus’ divine sonship. He is God’s son in his identification with sinful people, who through him, have new access to heaven. His identity as God’s son unites him with, rather than separating him from, humanity.
We don’t know if Jesus saw himself as God’s son or whether this relationship was invented by his first followers as a way of summing up his character, ministry, death and resurrection. One of the pieces of evidence is the reported use by Jesus of the Aramaic word “Abba” (dear father) in prayer, as well as its use in the early churches as reported by Paul in Romans 8. It may be that the first believers saw themselves, through the Holy Spirit, as children of God along with Jesus their elder brother. If so, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that Jesus consciously took upon himself the role of Israel as God’s beloved child.
In any case, Luke then embarks on a startling exploration of the identity of God’s son with humanity by giving us his genealogy. It is different from Matthew’s similar exercise (Matthew 1) which goes forward from Abraham to Jesus, while Luke’s goes backwards from Jesus to Adam. There are many other differences of detail. Obviously we are being given interpretive pointers to Jesus’ nature rather than historical facts. Luke’s genealogy identifies Jesus a) with Israel and b) with humanity, especially through the representative figure of Adam, the son of God. The Christian hymn quoted by St Paul in Philippians 2, also has the figure of Adam as its model, but says that unlike Adam, Jesus did not “snatch at equality” with God, (a reference to the Eden story) but humbled himself to be as other human beings are. It’s not clear what Luke thought about Adam except that he stands for humanity as created by God. For Luke (although he says *supposed”), Jesus is part of the successive generations of human beings.
For me this means that Jesus is made of the “dust of the earth” from which Adam was created, that is, made of the material building blocks of the planet and its life forms, of the same atomic particles, sharing the DNA mechanism of earth’s living creatures and developed by the same processes of evolution. Very few theologians have given serious thought to this fact about Jesus, but it seems to me a) true and b) awkward for much traditional theology, though not for Luke.