Jesus Prayed and the Sky Opened
You can sharpen your inductive Bible study skills (accurate Bible study occurs when you carefully follow three essential steps: 1. Observe the text 2. Interpret the text 3. Apply the text, in that precise order), by asking a pivotal question: Who is doing the action in the verse? Is it the main actor in the story or is it someone else?
Take for example Luke 3:21-22: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized. And while he was praying, the sky was opened.” Observe the phrase “was opened” άνεωχθήναι. It is a verb in the passive (not active or middle) voice. Who did the opening up? Who opened up the sky?
In Greek, the “voice” of the verb reveals who is doing the action. In this case, the verb, “opened up” is in the passive voice, not the active voice. If it was in the active, it would read, “and Jesus, while he prayed, opened up the sky.” But “opened” is in the passive voice. Two letters in the verb are a signal of the passive voice: θή. That means we must translate the verb as “the sky was opened up” (by someone else’s hand). Jesus didn’t open up the sky when He prayed. He prayed, but His hand was not on the sky’s door knob. It was someone else. The passive “voice” requires the translation, “was opened.”
Who, then, is that someone else? Luke used the passive voice of the verb “open” to teach us that it was God who opened up the door of the sky. God was doing the action. God was doing the opening up of the door. God was the door-opener. Jesus prayed and God His Father opened up the door of the sky.
Practice your observational skill. Observe the word “baptized” in the same verse. Is “was also baptized” in the active or passive voice? Did Jesus baptize Himself? Or, did someone else do the action?
Jesus was doing the praying (active voice). And God His Father was doing the opening. Jesus prayed. And God opened up the sky in response. Read Luke-Acts and observe the repeated pattern of how prayer is always linked to the word “open.” Jesus prayed and the sky was opened. Other people prayed and other types of “doors” were opened. It’s a pattern in Luke-Acts. Have fun exercising your inductive Bible study skills.