Luke Chapter Twenty


v.1And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,”


            Jesus is in the final week of his life before his crucifixion.  He spent his time in the temple teaching the people and his enemies took advantage of the opportunity to try to find a way to accuse and remove him.  The words that Luke uses here would lead us to surmise that they came out in force, in a group, surrounding and questioning him; perhaps even trying to intimidate him.


v.2And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”


            These men had held back somewhat up until now because of Jesus’ popularity with the people, but now they become bolder and openly challenge him.  They don’t want truth, they don’t want instruction in the ways of God, they want something that they can use against him.  Jesus had demonstrated by his miracles for three years the source of his authority but yet they demand that he tell him just by whose authority he is teaching and preaching.  They and the Romans were the only people who were supposed to have any authority in this city so they have this problem with authorization.  It would be like one if us preaching the gospel in its purity in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.  They asked Peter and John the same question in a later confrontation:


Acts 4:7And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?


v.3-4And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”


            Jesus knows their hearts, he knows their purpose, they are trying to trap him, he’s not intimidated so he asks them a question in return.  He asks them a question that would be very difficult, in fact impossible for them to answer, why?  If they correctly identify the authority under which John the Baptizer taught and preached they would also answer the question they asked Jesus.


v.5-6And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.”

            The chief priests and scribes have put themselves into a dilemma and they are reasoning correctly.  If they say that the baptism of John was from God then they will admit that they have rejected God’s prophet.  If they say that the baptism of John was from men, the people in this city know that isn’t true and they will discredit themselves with the people.  They are in a spot that no politician ever wants to put himself into.  They must keep their reputation among the people but still find a way to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people and they have picked the wrong question.  Consequently they back down.


v.7-8And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.  And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”


            At this point any answer they give is going to create problems for them with somebody; so they chose not to answer.  They knew that John was a prophet come from God and the people that were gathered in this city knew that as well.  John endorsed Jesus as the one “WHOSE SHOES I AM NOT WORTHY TO STOOP DOWN AND UNLOOSE” (Mark 1:7).  Brother Boles calls them “morally dishonest”; they wouldn’t accept the authority of Jesus that was demonstrated by his miracles, his teaching, his cleansing of the temple, etc. so they choose not to answer at all.  Jesus, in turn, also refuses to give them an answer to the question that they asked. 


v.9  Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.”


            After this interruption, Jesus continued his teaching in the form of a parable, a parable with a moral aimed directly that these men.  We have parallel accounts in Matthew 21:23-46 and Mark 12:1-12.  A certain man, a specific man planted a vineyard, fenced it in the manner of that region, leased it to other men to care for and went into a far country; took a long trip.  The prophetic parallel to this parable may be found in Isaiah 5:1-7.  The vineyard is Israel, the servants God’s prophets and the son sent and murdered is Jesus.


v.10And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.”


            At the time of harvest, the landlord sends his servants to the husbandmen that leased his vineyard to collect his share of the harvest, the rent for the vineyard.  When we were sharecropping Granddad’s farm we treated him better than that, we hauled his share to the hayloft or granary at his farmstead and unloaded it there, he didn’t have to send anyone after it.  The servant sent by this landlord is poorly treated, beaten and sent away empty-handed, just as many of the prophets were in physical Israel.


v.11-12And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.”


            Again we find that the landlord’s servants are abused, beaten, wounded and the rent for the vineyard not paid.  Again we find a parallel with the treatment of God’s prophets in Israel, the one that we are most familiar with and the one that probably comes to mind is Elijah for we remember the number of times that he feared for his life because of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, king of the northern tribes.


v.13Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.”


            The owner of the vineyard sees that sending servants, only to have them return beaten and wounded isn’t the answer to his problem.  So he sends his only son, hoping that the husbandmen would show some respect to him because he is his son.


v.14But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.”


            But when the husbandmen saw their landlord’s only son they reacted entirely opposite to what the landlord hoped.  They determined that if they would remove the heir to the vineyard then it would be theirs to keep.  This is, of course, very much a parallel with the chief priests and scribes of first century Judah and their treatment of the Son of God.  They had taken over the application of the law of God in God’s vineyard, reworked it in many places to suit themselves with the traditions of the elders and made it their own, not God’s.  And they didn’t want to give that authority up to some upstart Galilean whom they expected to try to set up an earthly kingdom to replace that of David and Solomon.


v.15-1615So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.”


            So they killed the son, the heir of the vineyard.  Jesus asks his audience then what the landlord will do.  Matthew records their answer:


Matthew 21:4141They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.”


Jesus confirms the one who answered but the majority of his audience doesn’t believe it.  Do we have a parallel for this lack of belief today?  Of course, we do.  People just don’t believe that God will punish those who do not obey him.  They have been taught the mercy, grace and love of God but have not been taught the terrible wrath of the Almighty for those who refuse to respect and obey his Word or his Son.


v.1717And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?”


            So then he asks, what does this prophesy mean?  This application of Jesus being as a stone rejected of human builders was born in prophecy, is used as an example here and continues in the preaching of the apostles.  Jesus here quotes directly from:




This stone, this corner stone, this foundation stone was to be laid by God himself:


Isaiah 28:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”


And referred to by Paul in his writing to the Ephesian brethren:


Ephesians 2:20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”


And Peter with the explanation of why he should be so precious to us:


I Peter 2:4-74To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,”


v.1818Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”


            But Jesus would also be a stone of stumbling, a stone of offense to many who will reject him.  To them he becomes a stone upon which they will be broken or destroyed.  Peter emphasized this aspect of Jesus in his writing as well.


I Peter 2:88And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”


v.1919And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.”


            The chief priests and scribes understood not only the content of Jesus parable, but his intent as well.  He was chastising them.  They didn’t like that at all.  They sought to take him even at that same hour but feared the people.  They needed something to turn the people against him.  They didn’t have it yet and were politically astute enough and patient enough not to act prematurely.  So what do they do?  They do the same thing that any government official would do to determine what an enemy’s weakness might be.


v.2020And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.”


            They sent spies.  They sent men who would act as just men, act like men eager to learn of his teaching but actually looking for something that could be used to discredit him, to destroy him, to rid them of his presence.  They had to find something that would allow them to bring him before the Roman government because they were restricted from assessing the death penalty themselves.


v.21-2221And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?”


            They start out with flattering words, call him Master and complement his teaching as being right and the true way of God.  Then they try to spring their trap.  Is it lawful to pay tribute to the Roman ruler?


v.2323But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?”


            But this tactic didn’t work either.  Jesus understood their purpose.  He challenges them, why do you tempt me?  Then he answers their question.


v.2424Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s.”


            Show me a penny, other translations call it a denarius, a Roman coin worth about sixteen cents and considered to be about a day’s wages at that time.  Whose image and inscription does it carry?  The image would be that of the current Roman Caesar, the superscription would be much the same as our coins have today which identify them as being issued by the United States of America.  The superscription on their coin would identify it as issued by the Roman government.


v.2525And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”


            Jesus gives them an answer to their question that applies to today as well as to the day it was given.  If it should be rendered to the government authorities, then render it to them; if it should rendered to God then render it to Him.  Citizens of God’s kingdom pay their dues or taxes properly and honestly to the civil government under which they live.  Paul addresses this subject further in Romans 13:1-7.


v.26And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.”


            Jesus’ answer was so straightforward, honest and simple that they could not pervert or make anything else out of it.  They were caught in the trap that they were trying to set for him.  Consequently they had nothing further to say, they held their peace.


v.2727Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,”


            The Pharisees, who were members of the council or Jewish rulers had failed had tried to trap Jesus and failed, the people that they sent to appear as his followers had failed so the Sadducees take their turn.  Luke here notes their belief or doctrine, that they denied the fact that there would ever be a resurrection of the dead.  When Paul was on trial in Jerusalem he used this disagreement between the Pharisees and the Sadducees to his advantage;


Acts 23:88For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”


v.2828Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.”


            They ask him a question pertaining to the law given through Moses.  Under that law if a man died childless, his brother had the obligation to take the dead brother’s wife as his own and through her raise legal heirs to his brother’s inheritance:


Deuteronomy 25:55If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.”


v.29-3129There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. 30And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. 31And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.”


            In their hypothetic example, there are seven brothers.  The oldest marries a woman and dies childless, the second, third, etc. marries her in turn according to the Mosaic Law and ultimately they all die but this woman was apparently barren as none of them had any children.  So now comes their question:


v.32-3332Last of all the woman died also. 33Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she?  for seven had her to wife.”


            Ultimately the woman dies as well.  So their question is “IN THE RESURRECTION WHOSE WIFE OF THEM IS SHE?”  Why is this such a strange question for a Sadducee to ask?  They were asking a question about something that they didn’t believe in; in the first place.  Jesus answers them this way.


v.34-3534And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:”


            The institution of marriage was given to this world, so therefore the children of this world marry and are given in marriage but in the future world it will not be so.  Those that are fortunate enough, Jesus says, to achieve life eternal in “THAT WORLD” will neither marry or be given in marriage.  In Matthew’s record Jesus answer is recorded as follows:


Matthew 22:29-3029Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”


Then Jesus adds some more information that confounds the Sadducees because they do not believe in angels, spirits or apparently that man has a soul.


v.3636Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”


            After the resurrection there will be no more death, no further need for the ability to bear children, not further need for the institution of marriage.  Our souls are immortal.  They cannot die as our physical body does; but will be equal to the angels and continue throughout eternity in the new body that we will be given at the resurrection.  Paul records for us that:


I Corinthians 15:5252In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”


v.37-3837Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”


            Since those questioning him do not believe in the resurrection, Jesus gives them a lesson in the scriptures to help them understand that their doctrine is false.


Exodus 3:66Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”


God is not the God of the dead but of the living.  When he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush the very plainly declared that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Moses ancestors.  These men are gone from this world, physically dead,  but their spirits or souls are not dead and await the judgment just as all others do; they are living in that place called paradise (Luke 16:19-31).


v.39-4039Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. 40And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.”


            Some of the scribes, mostly Pharisees who did not agree with the doctrine of the Sadducees, that were present on this occasion commend Jesus for his answer.  They have now learned their lesson, they will not be able to trip or trap Jesus with something that he says or teaches.  They quit asking him questions but Jesus is not through with them.


v.4141And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son?”


            Jesus has not only answered their questions, but now turns the tables on them.  Luke records this occurrence a little differently than Matthew:


Matthew 22:4242Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.”


v.42-4442And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 43Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. 44David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?”


            The fact that Jesus was both human and divine was an enigma to these people and also to many people today.  If Jesus was David’s son or physical descendant, which he was, then how is it that David called him Lord?  This isn’t the norm, the younger honors the elder not the other way around.




            Jesus makes three points in what he presents to these Jews because apparently they didn’t answer his question.


First:  The promised Messiah is to be of the linage of David.  The promise to David is recorded by Samuel:


II Samuel 7:1212And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.”


Second: David himself calls the Messiah to come Lord, as noted in Psalms 110:1.


Third: Lord was a title of honor, dignity, and superiority that the younger used to an elder or servant to a ruler, someone who was considered to be of a higher status.  Therefore the Messiah was indeed Lord over the great king that Israel revered and almost worshipped.  Then Jesus turns and gives his disciples some instruction


v.45-4645Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, 46Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;”


Luke says this instruction was given in the audience, or in front of all these people.  Beware of the scribes, Matthew adds Pharisees as well.  Why?  They were hypocrites; they were an abomination in God’s sight.  They wore long flowing robes, and I’m reminded of the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI a few days ago.  They love the greetings in the marketplace, the God they serve is their own vanity, their own power and prestige.  They love the highest seats, the seats in the synagogues that are reserved for the elite, the rulers and people of prominence.  They wanted to sit in the chief rooms at feasts, those places reserved for the guests of honor.


v.47Which devour widows’ houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.”


            Jesus continues his condemnation of the scribes charging them with devouring widows houses, living off those people who could least afford to support them.  They also made a show of long prayers.  Remember the Pharisee and the Publican that we studied in chapter 18, and prayed to be seen of men and thought to be pious?  Jesus says that these men would receive greater damnation.