Luke 20. Jesus Stops the Mouths of Lions.

Key Notes: Whose authority? Fate of the tenants. Taxes to Caesar? Life in the Age to Come. Whose Son is He? Skillful communication.

20:1–8 After Jesus had cleansed the Temple of commerce in animals, the chief priests, elders and scribes came upon Him with a challenge to His authority. Jesus countered by asking whether the baptism of John (that is, John’s authority) was from Heaven or from men. They thought, if we say “from Heaven”, we should have believed in John--Jesus' forerunner--and therefore in Jesus. If we say “from men”, we will be unpopular with the people who see John as a prophet who referred people to Jesus. They refused to incriminate themselves. Since they could not deal with the authority of Jesus' forerunner, He said there was no point in discussing the problem of His own authority. It appears to be a curt dismissal, but understanding the context makes it a powerful statement.

20:9–18 Then Jesus told the parable of the tenants. A landowner (God) lent his vineyard (the Kingdom) out to tenants (Israelites), and sent his servants (prophets) periodically to claim his profits (their personal allegiance and devotion). They abused the servants and sent them away empty-handed. Finally the owner sent his own son (Jesus) who was greeted with malice, cast out of the vineyard and killed. The tenants would therefore be destroyed (Jerusalem sacked and Jews dispersed) and the vineyard given out to others (Gentiles). The leaders were shocked ("God forbid!") because they understood the parable at once.

Jesus pressed home the Old Testament teaching about the stone, a figure or type of His person and work.
•He is the cornerstone (or capstone) rejected by the builders, Israel’s leaders, but nevertheless made the center piece. Psa.118:22
•He is also a rock of offense that people will trip over or be crushed by. Isa.8:14,15

So He is the unifying factor in the Kingdom of God, and at the same time, a stumbling block that hinders people from entering the Kingdom. The Jews stumbled over Him. They were offended by His words and envious of His power. (Matt.27:18). Also, the people believed that they could please God by their own efforts. (Rom.9:33). He is also the basis on which people will be judged and likely crushed.

20:19–26 Jesus was now presented with a trap question: is it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not. If He said it is lawful, He would be disloyal to Israel; if He said it is not, He would be a traitor to Rome. Jesus asked to look to see the face on a small coin. It was most likely the image of "Tiberius Caesar, son of divine Augustus.". On the reverse side would likely be the inscription "Pontifex Maximus"--The Caesar as the Roman supreme High Priest. We suppose that He looked at Tiberius' face and said "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar", looked at the reverse and said "Give to God what belongs to God." In other words, pay your taxes, but reject Caesar's claim to deity and give to God what is rightfully His. It was as they said, a marvelous answer.

20:27–40 Now the Sadducees had their opportunity. They cited a law from Deut 25:5 that provided a husband for a widow, the brother of the deceased. This kept the inheritance together, protecting the widow and the family name. The Sadducees made a joke of this law because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They proposed that the widow's second, third, and fourth husbands also died, and that she might eventually be married to seven brothers and they wanted to know who would be married to her in the resurrection.

Jesus' answer was gentle, as if talking to children. He was tough with the Pharisees who knew the truth but denied it, but not so with the Sadducees who were ignorant. The beliefs of the Sadducees and Pharisees were quite different.

Accept OT plus oral tradition Accept only OT, esp. Pentateuch
Believe in resurrection, angels, spirits Deny resurrection, angels, spirits
Emphasize God's sovereignty Prefer free will
Hope for Messiah No idea of Messiah

Jesus gave them two answers.
•Those who are accounted worthy of Heaven and the Age to Come are biologically changed--no longer sexually active, not aging or dying, but are equal to angels, sons of God, sons of the resurrection.
•God identified Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--the God of the living. All the dead saints live in Him.

20:41–44 Now Jesus asked a counter question: how should we interpret Psalm 110:1? David is speaking: "The LORD (JHWH) said to my Lord (Adonai, another name for God)
'Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your foot-stool', a role for the Messiah.
If David calls Messiah "My Lord", how can Messiah also be David’s Son? " (see Lk.18:38).

Jesus was inviting His listeners to consider the possibility that Jesus-Messiah, David's Son, a human being, is also the Lord (Adonai, a name for God). Is Jesus both man and God? We know from Isa.9:6–7 that the Child who is to be born, a human being who inherits the throne of David, is called "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." But the concept--the Incarnation--was almost impossible to understand and even today is a major obstacle to accepting Christ.

20:45–47 He did not wait for an answer. He went on to denounce the scribes, lawyers who recorded verbal interpretations of Scripture by the rabbis, and made binding judgments based on these decisions. They wore dignified clothing, loved to be saluted in the market and get the best seats in the synagogue and banquets, made long pretentious prayers in public and robbed widows of their homes. They were under severe condemnation.

This chapter is filled with intellectual combat, pitting the mind of Christ against His adversaries--chief priests, elders, Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. We note that His arguments are short, Scriptural, prophetic and devastating. There is no further discussion, no wrangling, almost no response. They are no match for Him. We are watching genius at work.

Unlike Him, we have been taught to lose the argument in order to save the relationship. We also allow ourselves to be dragged into prolonged arguments, while He did not. What would Jesus do? He never lost the argument although there are times when He was disarmingly gentle. The objective is not to be overbearing, or weak, but to be effective. Is anyone won by argument? We should be prepared to give an answer to anyone who calls us to account. IPet.3:15

•Master the Scriptures. Learn from Jesus.
•Learn from Christian apologists' successes and failures in the past. There is a large literature on this subject.
•Pray for "words fitly spoken". Learn to relate to the person as a person rather than a problem.