3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar [followed Augustus as Roman emperor; ruled from AD 14–37; he was 54 when he ascended to the throne and died at the age of 79 (in AD 37)]—when Pontius Pilate [came to power about AD 26] was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch [political position in Roman Empire; term designated size of territory ruled (literally the “fourth part”)] of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea [located northeast of Galilee] and Traconitis [political and geographic district located in northern Palestine on the east side of the Jordan River], and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene [located about eighteen miles northwest of Damascus]—
3:2 during the high priesthood of Annas [removed as high priest by the Romans about 15 years earlier, but still wielded considerable influence] and Caiaphas [current high priest; son-in-law of Annas], the word [Gr. rhema] of God came to John son of Zechariah [cf. Lk. 1:13-17] in [place] the desert [uninhabitable land; cf. Lk. 1:80; Isa. 40:3].
3:3 He went into all the country around [both sides of] the Jordan [water available for baptism], preaching [to herald] a baptism [outward sign of inward change; symbolized that repentance had already taken place] of repentance [change of mind; to turn around; our response to God’s offer of salvation] for [Gr. eis; “with reference to” or “as the result of”] the forgiveness [release, pardon] of sins [barrier between God and man].
3:4 As is written [“it stands written”] in the book of the words [Luke saw Isaiah passage as a clear prophecy of the ministry of John the Baptist] of Isaiah [cf. Isa. 40:3-5] the prophet: “A voice of one calling [to shout, to call aloud] in the desert, ‘Prepare [do so by repenting and being forgiven] the way for the Lord, make straight [right or upright; moral life] paths [stresses the moral dimension of life] for him.
3:5 Every valley shall be filled in [figuratively: exalting of the humble], every mountain and hill made low [figuratively: the humbling of the proud]. The crooked roads [metaphor for moral corruption] shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
3:6 And [purpose of the coming King] all [not just Jews; salvation is a spiritual issue, not an ethnic one; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9] mankind will see God’s salvation.’”
3:7 John said to the crowds [an assorted group of people, including religious leaders (cf. Matt. 3:7)] coming out to be baptized by him, “[John recognized insincerity of some who presented themselves for baptism] You brood of vipers [poisonous snakes; cf. Matt. 23:33]! Who warned [to point out, to give a tip or private hint] you to flee [snakes often seen slithering from a fire] from the coming wrath [wanting to be baptized was proper thing to do, but their motives were in question]?
3:8 Produce fruit [evidence of repentance] in keeping with [demonstrate the reality of] repentance. And do not begin to say [presumptuously] to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father [many trusted their physical heritage as descendants of Abraham to ensure their salvation; we become children of God by faith, not by ancestry; God has no grandchildren].’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham [God can create his own children out of stones].
3:9 The ax [image of judgment] is already [suggests urgency] at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire [images of judgment].”
3:10  “What should we do then?” the crowd asked [indicates they were sincerely concerned about their spiritual condition; wanted to know what was involved in truly repenting; cf. Lk. 18:18; Acts 2:37; 16:30; 22:10].
3:11 John answered [practical examples of how repentant people should behave], “The man with two tunics [inner garment worn beneath outer cloak] should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. [unselfishness / concern for poor / needy should characterize those who have repented]”
3:12  Tax collectors [generally despised; worked for the Romans; would have been considered most in need of repentance] also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
3:13 “Don’t collect any more [to extort] than you are required to, [honesty is a characteristic of repentance; needs of others set against personal greed]” he told them.
3:14  Then some soldiers [may have been Roman soldiers; more likely Jewish soldiers who assisted tax collectors] asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort [to extort money by violence; literally to shake violently or to shake someone down; to intimidate] money and don’t accuse people falsely [to extort money by blackmail] — be content [antidote to sins of violence and extortion] with your pay [ration; a denarius, worth about 18 cents, was the normal day’s wages for a soldier; food, clothing, and arms deducted from soldiers wages].”
3:15 The people were waiting expectantly [for the Messiah] and were all wondering [to discuss, to reason, to debate] in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ [anointed one or messiah].
3:16 John answered them all,  “I baptize you with water [as a symbol of repentance]. But one more powerful [strong, mighty] than I will come, the thongs [leather straps] of whose sandals I am not worthy [sufficient] to untie [a task done by lowliest slave; emphasizes true humility of John; cf. Jn. 3:30].  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire [possibly tongues of fire as on day of Pentecost; possibly fire of judgment; fire symbolizes purification, spiritual cleansing].
3:17  [Jesus as Judge] His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
3:18 And with many other words John exhorted [to urge; warning] the people [Gr. laos; term indicates not just a crowd, but a potentially responsive group] and preached the good news to them.
3:19 But when John rebuked Herod [Herod Antipas] the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s [Philip] wife, and all the other evil things he had done,
3:20 Herod added this [this evil or sin] to them all: He locked John up in prison.
3:21 [cf. parallel accounts in Matt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Jn. 1:32-34] When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too [not because he was a sinner, but as a way of identifying himself with those he came to save]. And as he was praying [only Luke notes that Jesus was praying at the time of His baptism; Luke contains more on Jesus’ prayer life than the other Gospels], heaven [equivalent to our expression “the skies”] was opened
3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form [the expression “in bodily form” only used by Luke] like a dove. And a voice [perhaps was what rabbis referred to as Bath Qol, a Heb. term meaning “daughter of the voice” (concept similar to the word “echo”)] came from heaven: “You [Jesus is the unique and only Son of God] are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
3:23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
3:24 the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
3:25the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
3:26the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
3:27the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
3:28the son of Neri, the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
3:29the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
3:30the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
3:31the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
3:32the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
3:33the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
3:34the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
3:35the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
3:36the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
3:37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
3:38the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.