Jesus has already entered Jerusalem. The authority of Jesus is challenged; he tells the Parable of the Wicked Tenants; he renders his verdict on paying taxes to Caesar; he replies to the challenge by the Sadducees on the resurrection; he says the son of David is the Lord of David; Jesus rebukes the teachers of the law. See the table of events during Passion Week.
As I write in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. It is not better than the published ones. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. It tends to be literal, but pure literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
Links are provided for further study.
The Authority of Jesus Is Questioned (Luke 20:1-8)
1 And it happened during one of the days when he was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the good news, the chief priests and teachers of the law with the elders came up, 2 speaking and saying, “Tell us by which authority you do these things. Or who gave you this authority?” 3 In reply, Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4 “Was the baptism of John from heaven or people?” 5 They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,” he will say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From people,’ all the people will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 Then in reply they said they did not know where it was from. 8 Then Jesus told them, “Neither do I tell you by which authority I do these things.”
Jesus is now in Jerusalem, and he taught in the temple precincts. He taught kingdom truths, no doubt the same ones that he had been teaching out in the provinces in the preceding chapters. He was speaking before a new audience, so some repetition was needed. He is also about to teach truths relevant to the Jerusalem audience.
“teaching”: It is the verb didaskō (pronounced dee-dahs-koh, and our word didactic is related to it). The verb means to instruct or tell or teach (BDAG), sometimes in a formal setting like a classroom or another confined setting, like the temple, and other times in a casual setting. Here he was in a formal setting, the temple. He spoke with authority, unlike the teachers of the law and Pharisees (Luke 4:32; Matt. 7:28-29). This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. He combined a teaching and healing ministry. His insight into Scripture was profound. This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. Some Renewalists of the fiery variety don’t teach, but evangelize and shriek and freak, after they read one verse or two, and put on a show. How much time do they put in to study the word? Jesus had a full ministry: teaching, healing, miracles, and deliverances.
He also preached the good news. As noted in previous verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!” He was “good-news-izing” the people. Teaching must include the good news. Let’s not forget it
“teachers of the law”: some translations say “scribes.”
See this post for the three groups, placed in alphabetical order:
All three groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV). Overdoing righteousness damages one’s relationship with God and others.
So here he is in the temple, and this high-level group of men were listening to him. Religious leaders seemed to follow him around (see Luke 5:17 for an example), just so they could challenge him, not humble themselves and believe what he taught, though Nicodemus, a Pharisee, seems to be an exception (John 3:1-15) because he eventually followed Jesus or at least defended and cared for him (John 9:51-52; 19:39).
They posed questions to Jesus. On which foundation does he stand? Where does he get his authority? He was not one of them. They thought he was a nonconformist, even a troublemaker.
Jesus answered their questions with a question. This is a good debating technique. His question was a parallel one. He asked them to tell him about John. Where did this prophet get his authority to baptize? Who backed up his baptism? He too was a nonconformist. He was not one of them. These religious leaders believed they got their authority from the law of Moses. What about Jesus? What about John? It is possible to get one’s authority from God and not the religious establishment, in this case, the Jerusalem establishment. However, it is important that nonconformist leaders must be a part of a fellowship somewhere. No independent operators, please.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
Their reasoning shows them to work out their options. If they were to say John’s baptism came from heaven or God backed it up, then he would naturally ask why they did not trust in it and God. If they were to say it came from people, then this belief would take away his calling of prophet, and the people would rise up in his defense and pick up stones to attack. This reaction shows how volatile the atmosphere was in Jerusalem. In a little while, a certain number of people–it does not take many–would turn against Jesus, probably the citizens of Jerusalem, as distinct from the Galileans.
These two verses wrap up this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-coh-pea) or section of Scripture. These high-level leaders fibbed. They truly believed John did not come from God, but they withheld their answer because they were cowards. Jesus exposed them for who they were. They did not stand up and proclaim what they believed regardless of the consequences. They too valued popularity.
And of course Jesus left them hanging and withheld his answer. In effect, he told them that their whole question and skepticism was built on the motive to trap him. Surely they were about to challenge him if he had told them he came from God. “Perform a sign for us! Do what Moses did before the Pharaoh! Make the sky dark!” He would have replied as he had done before. This evil generation gets only one sign: Jonah preached repentance and the Ninevites repented, unlike this evil generation (Luke 11:29-32). As Jonah came out of the big fish, Jesus is about to come out of the grave (Mark 12:39-40). He initiates and takes the lead. He is the heir of his Father’s kingdom (Luke 20:13). He is the true Lord and leader, not them. He doesn’t need to submit to their questions—he does have to submit to them. All of Israel belonged to him, whether they recognized it or not, and soon all Gentiles would belong to him, once they entered his kingdom. He was the Lord. He knew who he was.
The temple and Jerusalem authorities fight back.
As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the paralytic, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus!
Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions–an entire, shop-worn religion. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to these oppressive religious leaders.
Additionally, some people believe that Jesus was a weak milquetoast who let religious leaders and other stomp on him, as he shrank back and became a doormat, so they could wipe their feet on him. Not true. He always answered back. This was an honor and shame society. They intended to shame him and win honor before the people. He would not allow this. He shamed them into silence. His ministry was a battleground. He did not surrender his place on it.
Further, he was about to die for his convictions, unlike them. In effect his refusal to answer told them, “Don’t waste my time. I don’t recognize you as my authority, so I don’t have to fall for your trap and explain myself to you. I get my authority from God, not you!” Instead of answering their questions, he told them a parable that challenged their legitimacy. God did not endorse them. He endorsed his beloved Son.
To this parable we turn next.
GrowApp for Luke 20:1-8
A.. Has anyone in your family or circle of friends challenged your faith in Christ? What about your calling and ministry? How did you respond?
Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Luke 20:9-19)
9 Then he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and leased it to farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At the right time he sent a servant to the farmers, so that they would give him some fruit of the vineyard, but the farmers sent him away, after beating him. 11 Then he proceeded to send another servant, but they also beat him and to treat him shamefully him and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he proceeded to send a third one, but they also wounded that one and threw him out. 13 The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What will I do? I’ll send my beloved Son. Surely they will respect him.’ 14 But when the farmers saw him, they discussed it with one another saying, ‘This man is the heir. Let’s kill him, so that the inheritance will be ours!’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will go and destroy those farmers and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, ‘May it not be!” 17 But he looked at them and said, “What then is the meaning of the following? “The stone that the builders rejected—that one became the cornerstone.” [Ps. 118:22] 18 Everyone who trips on that stone will be broken to pieces; on whomever it falls, it will crush him. 19 Then the teachers of the law and chief priests tried to grab him with their hands at that very moment (yet they feared the people), for they knew that he was speaking that parable to them.
Landowner = God
Vineyard = Israel or more specifically = Jerusalem and temple
Tenant farmers = Leaders in the temple and Jerusalem
The situation is found in various documents about large, absentee landowners who lease their land to struggling tenant farmer in Israel and surrounding nations.
Servants (or slaves) = prophets and other messengers throughout Israel’s history
Son = Son of God or Jesus
Rejected stone = head of the corner = Jesus the Messiah
Others = converted Jews and converted Gentiles
Now let’s dig more deeply into the details.
This parable parallels Jesus’s clear pronouncement here:
The wisdom of God said, ‘I shall send them prophets and apostles and some of them they will kill and persecute, 50 with the result that the blood of all the prophets spilled from the foundation of the world will be charged to this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple!’ (Luke 11:49-51).
Jesus continues his dominance over the chief priests and teachers of the law and anyone else like them on the scene. Before, he didn’t submit to their investigation of his authority. That’s like a three-year-old asking his grandfather where he got his authority. Maybe the grandfather would also laugh it off. Now, however, Jesus takes off his gloves and “goes to town” or becomes verbally aggressive with these leaders who claimed Moses as their authority. But he was speaking to the people within earshot of his teaching, and he glanced at the leaders as he began. For all we know, he may have done more than glance. He glowered at them, but calmly and self-contained.
A vineyard sometimes refers to Israel in the Old Testament (Ps. 80:8-13; Is. 5:1-2; 27:2-3; Jer. 2:21; Hos. 10:1).
The owner (God) going away for a long time means that after the revelation on Mt. Sinai, where God appeared and spoke to Moses face to face throughout their sojourn across the desert, God did not give such clear and authoritative revelations—Moses was unique. Rather, he sent prophet after prophet to the people of Israel. Those are the series of servants in the parable.
“farmers”: this is the standard word for this occupation, but in context it could be translated more narrowly as “vine-growers.” The farmers represent the religious leaders whom Jesus just ignored, after asking them a penetrating question that exposed their hearts.
And here comes the first servant. The word servant here is doulos (pronounced doo-loss) and could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
It is a sure thing, however, that Luke’s Greek audience would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
The owner reasonably requested a share in the crop of the vineyard. It is not likely that he asked for a container filled with grapes, but their fair-market value in coins, particularly when he was gone. But the farmers beat him and sent him away. Criminal behavior, but the owner (God) is willing to be merciful to them hoping they would repent.
“right time”: it could be translated as “harvest,” but it takes a while for grapes to grow from a newly planted vineyard. In any case, the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another. In v. 9, Luke uses chronos plus the modifier “long.” This speaks of delay in the Lord’s return. Matt. 24:43-25:30, Jesus, using different parables, elaborates on the Son of Man’s long delay.
Then God sent another servant-prophet, but they also beat and shamed him. “Shamed” in Greek is literally “dishonored.” They were part of an honor-and shame society. If one man wins honor, another man walks away in shame or dishonor. In this case the farmers (seemingly) got the better of the owner’s (God’s) servant.
Then God in his mercy sent still a third servant-prophet to collect what rightly belonged to him. Israel belonged to God, and the farmers or tenants who got the lease had no right—legal or moral—to mistreat his lawfully commissioned servants. For centuries God sent prophets to Israel, and they were largely ignored and scorned and sometimes killed. In the third servant’s case, the injured him and threw him out of the vineyard.
14 Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the Lord, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. (2 Chr. 36:14-16, NIV)
Then the owner was so merciful that he sent the most authoritative man in his household—his Son, but not just a son, but the Son whom the owner loved. It is the adjective agapētos (pronounced ah-gah-pay-toss), and it is related to the common noun in the Christian community, even today: agapē (pronounced ah-gah-ay). So what is God’s love like for us? Let’s explore.
So what is God’s love? It has a wide range of meanings. Let’s explore them.
The standard Greek lexicon (BDAG) is not very helpful. It simply says of the noun, “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, esteem, regard, love.” That does not go far enough. It also says the noun is the agape-feast (not covered here), in which the first Christians shared a common meal together in connection with their gathering to worship, for the “purpose of fostering and expressing mutual affection and concern, fellowship meal, a love feast.”
The DNTT says that the LXX, (third-to-second century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and pronounced sep-too-ah-gent, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”) translated the Greek verb agapaō in a variety of ways and can stand in even for eraō “strong desire.” Jonathan and David expressed friendship love that went deeper than a man’s love for a woman (2 Sam. 1:26; 18:1, 3, 20; 20:17).
The noun agapē is divine. It starts with God, flows from him, and is offered back to him with our lives. We cannot ginger it up with our own efforts.
The noun agapē is sacrificial. Out of his agapē, God sacrificed his Son for us, and now we sacrifice our lives to him.
It means a total commitment. God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to a dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?
Agapē is demonstrative. It is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.
It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.
God loves his Son and calls him beloved. God through Paul calls us beloved, too (Rom. 1:7).
Then the farmers conspired and hatched a plan. If they kill the lead figure, then they will be able to ignore God and take the vineyard for themselves. The inheritance will be theirs, by default. And that is what they did. Of course their wickedness clouded their minds and made them stupid. The inheritance did not come to them. Just the opposite.
“The parable pictures total rejection. Nonetheless, the detail might be startling for those plotting against Jesus. They would know what is happening and catch the implication (Luke 20:19). They may secretly seek to arrest him, but Jesus knows that he is their target. The exchange heightens the drama, for clearly there are no surprises in what is taking place” (Bock, p. 1600).
This verse speaks of God’s judgment on the Jerusalem religious establishment. How did God exact judgment on them? Recall that Jesus already had predicted Jerusalem’s destruction (Luke 19:41-44). In addition, Luke 21:5-9 and 20-24 say that armies will surround Jerusalem and destroy it. And sure enough Roman armies began their sack of the city in A.D. 66 and finally conquered it in A.D. 70. Judaism as it was then practiced was over, finished. No more animal sacrifices in the temple. The Jerusalem establishment was also done away with.
Who are the others to whom the vineyard owner would give the vineyard? These are the Gentiles. The gospel was about to go to them, and the vineyard would expand around the world (Luke 24:47). Judaism, expressed in the temple worship, sits under judgment (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems.
These two posts have more thorough exegesis:
This new nation encompasses the Gentiles (non-Jews) and Jews who converted. This verse in Ephesians explains:
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace (Eph. 2:15, NIV)
Now when the people heard about the death of the Son, they said, “May it never be!” They were not referring to the destruction of the murderous criminals who rejected the commissioned servants.
Jesus looked at them. This verb can also be translated as “fix gaze upon.” Jesus fixed his gaze on them, as if he was sizing them up and challenging them to figure out his next statement.
He quoted from Ps. 118:22. Here is the rise and fall of many. Recall that Luke introduces this theme in 2:34, where Jesus was appointed for the rise and fall of many, and the Great Reversal is repeated by Mary (Luke 1:51-53). Jesus was rejected by the builders, but it became the cornerstone. What humankind rejects, God accepts. When people throw something away, God picks it up and turns it into the necessary item. This is redemption.
But this cornerstone is active. It not only can trip people and break them into pieces, but it can fall on them and crush them. This is serious business.
The same chief priests and teachers of the law—and no doubt the elders were there too—who had challenged him in the previous pericope (section), knew exactly what he meant. The tenant farmers, who had custody of the vineyard (Israel), acted unjustly and criminally against the servant-prophets. After judging the Jerusalem establishment, God was about to expand the vineyard so far outwardly that it would go around the globe, and the Gentiles and converted Jews would take custody of it.
But expanding the vineyard is not really the main point. Rather, the main point is that the leaders would be replaced with “others” and the church will become the new temple (1 Cor. 3:17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:5). Peter got the vision that Gentile would be and could be saved, and Cornelius and his household were the first Gentile converts to the new Jesus Movement (Acts 10). They and millions like them are the others.
GrowApp for Luke 20:9-19
A.. God showed the unrighteous leaders mercy by sending them a series of prophets. Describe God’s mercy in your life.
B.. In the parable, what do you think about God’s final judgment after the ultimate betrayal of killing the son?
Paying Taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:20-26)
20 Lying in wait, they sent spies pretending to be fair-minded, so that they could catch him by his statement and thus hand him over to the rule and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 They inquired of him, saying, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly and show no favoritism, but you truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful to give tribute tax to Caesar or not?” 23 He detected their craftiness and said to them. 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 26 Then they were unable to catch him in his word in front of the people, and marveling at his answer, they fell silent.
“lying in wait”: It can mean, depending on the context: “watch closely, observe carefully … watch (maliciously), lie in wait, watch one’s opportunity; watch, guard.” Clearly watching maliciously and lying in wait is intended here.
“pretending”: it’s where we get our word hypocrisy.
“Fair-minded”: it could be translated as “just” or righteous.”
“statement”: it could be translated as “word,” but statement works too.
The governor is Pilate, and the historian Josephus says he was brutal.
All of these words were flattery and hypocritical, but they were true in an objective sense. It’s a bad idea to accept flattering words, even if true. Just stand there and smile, as you wait for the hypocrisy to come out.
“Show favoritism” could be translated literally as “take their faces” as in welcoming their appearance. Remember God’s word to Samuel, as he was called to anoint Israel’s second king?
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7, NIV)
When you teach, don’t show favoritism. Recall the words in James’s epistle:
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (Jas. 2:1-9, NIV)
That passage is about seating someone in church, but it can extend to our showing favoritism to rich donors or teaching that is geared to keep things extra-friendly and not offending anyone. Jesus was not afraid to offend people, when called on, but not flippantly or frivolously. Recall Jesus’s pronouncements of woes on the religious leaders (Luke 11:37-54). He is about to denounce the teachers of the law in vv. 45-47. His strategy was to tell the truth to oppressors. Be careful not to denounce your brothers and sisters with whom you happen to disagree, when you have extra-restrictive theology and they have a larger theology.
And here’s the question about paying the tribute or tax to Caesar. If he said something like, “I oppose Caesar with all my heart! I tell everyone listening, ‘Thus saith the Lord! Don’t pay your taxes! Let’s start a revolt right now!’” then his enemies would have reported this defiant reply to the governor, who would have come out and arrested him at the wrong time, before the connection to Passover. He was going to be the Passover lamb who would die for the sin of the whole world (1 Cor. 5:6; John 1:29). The flow of events would have been out of line. He had a higher and different mission, from God. If he had said that they should pay the tax to Caesar, then they could have accused him of being a Roman sympathizer and lose his credibility with the populace.
Instead, his answer is going to be brilliant and revealing.
He used discernment to detect their craftiness. When your opponents try to trap you, pray. Don’t give in to it.
“craftiness”: it is the noun panourgia (pronounced pan-oor-gee-ah, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). It could be translated literally as “all work,” as in doing anything to win or trap you. Your opponent has no moral center and will bend or break the rules to win or trap you.
Recall that Jesus lived in an honor-and-shame society. When someone wins, the other guy loses or is shamed. People wrongly believe that Jesus was meek and mild out in public, as if he would just stand there and say nothing, but let his opponents steamroll right over him, as he sneaked off in defeat. These interpreters must be getting their bad ideas from a misreading of his trial, which is about to happen. Even in that case he replied. In his public ministry, he also answered back their questions and devious strategies. He shamed them in public. No, don’t do this to shy people who mean you no harm, but stand up to the bullies. There is nothing wrong if you win the debate, and they slink away and not bother you again.
Caesar’s image and inscription are on the coin, which, representing the entire worldly economy, belongs to him or his administration as represented by him. Jesus’s kingdom does not belong to or is tied down by this kingdom. His kingdom rises above it. Instead, his answer is going to be brilliant and revealing. Even his opponents were amazed.
Caesar’s image and inscription are on the coin, which, representing the entire worldly economy, belongs to him or his administration as represented by him. Jesus’s kingdom does not belong to or is tied down by this kingdom. His kingdom rises above it. However, let’s not overlook the truth that ultimately all kingdoms are overseen by God. In his sovereignty, he is the Lord of the world, not Caesar, though all government officials nowadays may believe that they are.
Key online and TV Bible teachers have said that the unstated implication is the humans have God image embedded in them (Gen. 1:26-27). People have the image of God restored to them by entering the kingdom of God and following him. They find their true identity in him, not in seeking their own way and their own image. It is best to let God make his image in them.
One prominent NT scholar said on youtube that this passage does not separate off Caesar’s kingdom from God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom overarches and influences Caesar’s kingdom. That’s partly true, for God’s kingdom should influence kingdoms of the world. However, God’s kingdom is eternal, while the earth-bound kingdoms are all doomed to pass away. So this passage does separate off God’s kingdom from Caesar’s. But see my comments just above, for a slightly contrary view. God in his sovereignty does rule over everything–but at the same time he offers people free will to go their own way.
Jesus’s answer was brilliant. This was a word of wisdom, delivered by the Spirit of God from the Father (see 1 Cor. 12:10).
Some say all of Jesus’s miracles and wisdom were brought out by the Spirit; others say most or all were done by his divine nature, which he took with him when he left heaven. The dominant picture of Jesus is that he worked by the Spirit; the Spirit worked through him by the Father’s will (Acts 10:38). He was the “Anointed One.”
He does only what he sees his Father doing (John 5:19). He lives because of the Father (John 6:57). He stands with the Father (John 8:16). The Father knows him, and he knows the Father who sent him (John 8:16). He speaks only what the Father taught him (John 8:28). The Father knows him, and he knows the Father (John 10:15). The Father loves him because he lays down his life (John 10:17). He and his Father are one. He does what he sees the Father does (John 10:37). “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). What Jesus says is just what the Father told him to say (John 12:49-50, John 12:57).
Perhaps the most important verse about miracles and surrender: “I have shown you many miracles from the Father” (John 10:32).
Jesus never lost his divine attributes, nor did he set or lay them aside. Rather, he kept them, but surrendered and submitted them to the Father. So the Spirit anointed him to do miracles, but even the Spirit surrendered and obeyed the Father. Jesus surrendered to and obeyed the Father, who hid his Son’s divine attributed behind Jesus’s humanity. So through the Son Jesus, the Triunity worked the miracle.
Now let’s move on from systematic theology.
Jesus preached neither revolution or revolt against Rome, nor did he preach accommodation. He rose above it. “He stated a principle, not an accommodation or a compromise. This principle appears in the classic passage on Christian social ethics (Ro 13:1-7). Not only is giving what the government requires not antithetical to religious duty—such giving is a part of religious duty” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on vv. 24-25).
“They were unable”: this means it was not possible or they did not have the ability or capacity to catch him. They tripped on their own “extra-clever” foolishness.
“word”: The Greek noun here is rhēma (pronounced ray-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context). In this context, it means the spoken reply he just delivered.
“in front of the people”: As noted, in public Jesus would not allow people, particularly opponents, to shame him. Just the opposite. He shamed them in the sense of their going through dishonor. They fell silent. They lost. He won. The crowds witnessed their shame and his victory. That is the honor and shame society.
For many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he is about to reply to the test and pass it. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them.
Further, during his ministry, he did not cower or surrender. He fought back. His growing movement and lives were at stake. If he let his opponents get away with their criticism, his silence could have been misinterpreted as weakness, so he would not have been worthy to be followed. The listeners would have gone home, and rightly. “He’s not sure of his own message? He lets the religious leaders walk all over him? He’s not the Messiah!” Often silence can be misinterpreted as agreement. And if the sparring match is over eternal truths (as distinct from nonessential issues), don’t give in to your erroneous and broken opponents.
No, don’t be rude or contemptuous or defiant or stubborn, especially when you don’t know very much of Scripture or basic doctrine or particularly to your pastor who has a good heart and knows the Word. But if the Scripture is really, really clear, be firm and resolute about your interpretation of such issues as healing is for today or Christ is the Lord, or sin should not be accepted in the church, despite the culture’s pressure to compromise (e.g. about same-sex marriages).
In any case, Jesus brilliantly separated off the Roman empire from the kingdom of God.
However, his accusers at his trial or arraignment before Pilate accuse him of these crimes: 1 “Then the whole group of them got up and led him to Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man to be misleading our nation and forbidding them from giving tribute to Caesar and saying of himself that Christ is king’” (Luke 23:1-2).
So the accusations were false.
GrowApp for Luke 20:20-26
A.. Read Gen. 1:26-27. You have God’s image in you. With this image, how do you belong to God, like a coin with Caesar’s image and inscription belongs to Caesar?
Question about the Resurrection (Luke 20:27-40)
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, approached and asked him, 28 saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother died’ having a wife, ‘and he was childless, his brother is to marry his wife and produce offspring for his brother’ [Deut. 25:5-6; Gen. 38:8] 29 And so there were seven brothers. And the first one married her and died childless. 30 Also the second one; 31 and the third one married her and likewise the seven left no children and died. 32 Finally the wife died. 33 And so at the resurrection, whose wife does the woman become? For all seven took her as a wife!”
34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those found worthy to gain that age and the resurrection of the dead neither marry or are given in marriage, 36 nor are they able to die again, because they are like angels, for they are children of God, since they are children of the resurrection.
37 That the dead are raised even Moses made known at the burning bush [Exod. 3:2], as he called the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob [Exod. 3:6, 15, 16]. 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for everyone is alive to him.”
39 In reply, some of the teachers of the law said, “Teacher, you spoke well.” 40 And they did not dare to ask him anything anymore.
Some religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, believe in reincarnation. However, this passage contradicts it. We, the redeemed, will be like angels.
See my post
Please see this link and scroll down in alphabetical order:
Deut. 25:5-6 reads:
5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (Deut. 25:5-6, NIV)
This requirement is known as the Levirate marriage (from the word “brother”). It was a legal provision for a brother to marry his brother’s wife, in order to keep his brother’s name alive. The problem is that this could incur heavy financial responsibility, so some brothers broke the family law (see Gen. 38:8-10).
The number seven speaks of completion, as if this was the ultimate unsolvable case. It was their attempt to show how ridiculous the idea of the resurrection was.
It is odd that these Sadducees speak of the resurrection when they don’t believe in it. But they were simply testing Jesus on his own grounds. Implied: “Since you believe in the resurrection of the dead (and we don’t), let’s assume for the sake of argument that such a thing does happen. People really are raised from the dead. Whose wife will the woman be when it happens? All seven took her as wife!” The clearest resurrection text is Dan. 12:2, but Jesus is about to teach it by using the Torah, which is their home turf.
The Greek verb here is lambanō, which basically means “to take.” Instead, following other translations, I just wrote “married her.” This idea of taking survives in our old wedding vows: “Do you, John, take Sally to be your lawfully wedded wife?” “I, John, take thee Sally ….” “And I, Sally, do take thee John ….” I didn’t get the wording exactly right, but you get the idea.
The Sadducees are using the reduction ad absurdum argument, which means taking a thought to its logical conclusion will lead to absurdity. “All these husbands—whose wife is she? Can’t answer? Of course not! The whole thing is absurd! No hope in the resurrection!” The Sadducees failed, however, to recognize that there is no marriage in heaven, so the premise of their objection is unfounded. Their argument stops before it begins!
Then Jesus gives some very interesting revelations of what the afterlife is like.
First, he contrasts this age with that age. This age is right now. That age is in the future, at the Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead.
It works out like this:
This Age ⸻> Second Coming ⸻That Age ⸻>
For a more thorough look at Jesus’s teaching on the two ages, please go to Luke 9:26:
The Greek noun for age is aiōn (pronounced eye-own, and we get our word aeon from it; it is used 122 or 123 times in the NT).
So, at that link we learn that the noun and adjective have versatile meanings, but it is clear that “eternal” is attached to God; apart from that modification it mostly means “a long time” or “an age.”
Many teachers over-complicate this streamlined teaching by dividing things up in various ages because they believe in a separate rapture from the Second Coming (nowhere clearly and directly taught in Scripture). They must eliminate the complications and agree with the clear teaching of Scripture in the didactic portions, as here. Instead, these teachers impose on the plain teachings of Scripture certain verses in the Revelation, the most symbolic book of the Bible. Keep the plain things the main things. Let the plain teaching of Scripture guide the “unplain” or symbolic sections of Scripture. Let clarity be your hermeneutic (Bible interpretation).
However, if someone insists on believing on a literal thousand-year reign of God, then he is certainly free to do that.
Second, the children (literally sons, but in certain contexts these gender specific nouns mean generic humankind) of the age to come do not marry or are not married off. Why not? It is implied and supported elsewhere in Scripture (1 Cor 15:35-58) that children of that age do not have their earth bodies or earth suits. Instead, they have a glorified and transformed and resurrection body. The sex hormones that drive us to breed will be gone, because there will be no more need for children. All the people who were born from the beginning of time to now will fill up the rolls in heaven.
Third, all of us worthy to experience that age cannot die anymore. I was so surprised when I read the word “unable” or “cannot” die. I missed that word before. They no longer have the ability or capacity to die. They are like the angels, who are immortal or deathless. Please note, however, that only the ones worthy to experience the age to come are immortal. Those who are unworthy to experience the age to come can in fact die or suffer destruction. This is the belief of the annihilationists, who teach conditional immortality. That is, immortality is conditioned on God’s sustaining power. It is not automatic. Those who are unredeemed and rebellious won’t live forever in hell. They will eventually be annihilated (so say the annihilationists). However, those found worthy of the age to come and the resurrection will live forever, because God sustains them. Our immortality depends on God.
Please read a three-part series, each of which has plenty of Scriptural support:
Each theory teaches punishment in the afterlife, but the debate is over the duration of punishment. It may be surprising to many traditional Christians, but the latter two theories have plenty of Scriptural support. But whichever theory you decide on, please don’t call the other theories heretical or unorthodox, particularly if you believe in eternal, conscious torment. The theory of eternal, conscious torment did not gain momentum until Augustine’s time in the fifth century. Until then, church leaders easily believed in the other theories of annihilation or restoration.
Charismatic theologian and Presbyterian minister J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:
These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.
One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).
For the record, Williams did not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).
However, if you insist on taking the darkness and the fire literally, then you may certainly do so.
Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
Give people space to choose one of these nonessential, Bible-supported theories. You can still have fellowship with them.
Fourth, the children of that age will be like the angels. The Greek compound noun can be translated as “equal to angels” (ESV). Heb. 2:7 says that God made humankind a little lower than angels or lower than angels for a little while (either translation works). So down here on earth, in our current earth suits, we are lower than angels. But in our deathless, transformed and glorified earth suits we will be unable to die, for mortality will be shucked off and God will put immortality on us. We will be like or equal to angels. It’s going to be amazing!
Fifth, why are we unable to die and are like or equal to angels? Because we are the children of God and the children of the resurrection. This shows directly that our immortality depends on God’s transforming power and indirectly that those who are not children of God do not have immortality, which is conditioned on their being his children. They are not his children; therefore, they do not have immortality but will eventually disintegrate when God says so. But let’s not push this indirect teaching too far.
Sixth, we will be like the angels at the final resurrection. Heb. 2:7 says that God made humankind a little lower than angels or lower than angels for a little while (either translation works). So down here on earth, in our current earth suits, we are lower than angels. But in our deathless suits we will be unable to die, for mortality will be shucked off and God will put on us immortality. We will be like angels. It’s going to be amazing!
Why will we be unable to die and be like angels? Because we are the children of God and the children of the resurrection. This shows directly that our immortality depends on God’s transforming power.
We will not get married or be married off (given in marriage) because we won’t need to propagate the human species. We will have new resurrection bodies. But this does not mean that we won’t know our spouses and other family members. We will not be floating on clouds and playing harps. God will refurbish the heavens and the earth, and he is infinitely creative, so we will have lots to do. Our relationships in this life will be enhanced and better than we could ever dream of or experienced. They will be more intimate.
“Luke tends to speak only of the resurrection of the just in his Gospel (14:14), a focus that enhances the picture of potential exclusion. But Luke is this aware of a universal judgment (Acts 17:32; 23:6; 24:21; 26:23), which presupposes a universal resurrection. These Acts texts stand against the view that Luke knows only a resurrection for the just and thus created this unique expression in this pericope (see also Acts 13:46 and 2 Thess. 1:5)” (Bock, p. 1623).
In other words, Jesus was speaking to the Sadducees who did not believe in a resurrection, so why complicate matters with a resurrection of the unrighteous, which the rest of Scriptures teach will happen at the same time as the resurrection of the righteous (e.g. John 5:28-29; Matt. 25:31-46).
Now Jesus shifts gears and addresses the Sadducean unbelief about the resurrection. He beautifully reads the text in Exod. 3. Both God and Moses said that the Lord is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3:6, 15, 16). By itself, some could accuse this interpretation of overreading the passage. God was simply identifying who he was in relation to the Israelites. He was the God of their ancestors. However, Jesus reminds us that God is omniscient. Everyone is alive to God. So when Moses spoke those words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive before God. And so is everyone else who walked the planet, whether in sheol or hades or paradise or some sort of holding tank or area before Jesus’s resurrection. This theology goes way beyond ancestry. All of these living humans, even after their death, leads to the further belief, not spoken of here but elsewhere (1 Cor. 15:35-58), that everyone will be reunited with their transformed bodies and undergo judgment to decide their ultimate fate, whether heaven or hell.
This pericope ends suitably. The teachers of the law liked what he had said (see v. 1 for more about them).
But what happened to the Sadducees? Why were they not said to like his teaching? The teachers of the law were aligned with the Pharisees, the main opponents to the Sadducees, and the teachers of the law believed in the resurrection. So of course they liked Jesus’s teaching here. To judge from their silence, apparently the Sadducees were humiliated. They must not have left because Jesus will speak to “them” (v. 41), which may include the Sadducees.
“they”: Commentator Darrell Bock notes that the term is sufficiently broad to include all the groups who challenged him and failed: Pharisees, nationalists, teachers of the law, Sadducees, and lay-leaders of the people (vol. 2, p. 1626).
Jesus was in control. He “owned” every major religious-political sect or group and everyone else who opposed him. This is the power of the Spirit flowing through him and receiving wisdom from God.
GrowApp for Luke 20:27-40
A.. What does the resurrection of the dead, when you will live forever, mean to you? Whom will you see? For whom do you need to pray to see them there?
Question about David’s Son (Luke 20:41-44)
41 Then he said to them, “How do they say that the Christ is the son of David? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit on my right
43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ [Ps. 110:1]
44 Therefore, David calls him Lord. How can he be his son?”
Bock on the prophecy in Psalm 110:1 and whether a prophet is speaking in v. 1 and who addresses the king:
The phrase my Lord must means David’s Lord, or else the tension evaporates and Jesus’ key messianological point is lost. In the first-century context this implies Davidic authorship of this psalm—especially of the utterance. It is conceivable, however, that one could see Ps. 110 in terms of David’s inspired declaration about his descendant Solomon … David’s declaration is recorded and passed on by a prophet under inspiration as a description of the Davidic family’s regal hope. Even though this approach to Ps. 110 looks a little sophisticated, it cannot be ruled out because of the uncertain origin of the cultic [temple ritual] materials of Israel and the possibility that a prophet addressed it to the king in the hopes that his descendant would be a king worthy of the dynastic hope and thus fulfill God’s promises.” (p. 1636).
The right indicates power. The word “hand” is not on Greek, but it could be translated as “Sit at my right hand” because “hand” is implied.
During Jesus ministry and long before, the people believed that the Messiah was also called the son of David.
Here is Paul’s restatement of Jesus’s descent from David.
3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 1:3-4, NIV)
Here is how Peter corrects the notion as he preaches to a crowd in Jerusalem:
34 For it was not David who went up into heaven, but he himself says:
‘the Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I put your enemies
Under your feet for a footstool” (Ps. 110:1)
36 Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God made him Lord and Christ, whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:34-35)
Jesus is exalted over David.
Here are some data points which I note in the post about God’s covenant with David:
Ps. 89:20-37 says in the context of God’s love and commitment to David that he has anointed him with sacred oil (v. 20); his hand and arm will sustain him (v. 21); the enemy will not get the better of him and not get victory over him (vv. 22-23); God’s love will go so deeply that that God’s love and commitment will sustain him forever (vv. 25-28). God will establish his lineage forever, and his throne will endure as long as the heavens endure (vv. 28-29). This commitment and love for his specially chosen will last forever, even if his sons and descendants should forsake God’s law and violate his decrees, so God would have to punish their sin with flogging and the rod (vv. 30-33). Still, even in those cases, God will not take his love for him and not violate his covenant with his anointed one. His line will continue forever (vv. 34-37).
So God promised to establish and maintain the Davidic dynasty on the throne of Israel and provide her with a godly king like David and through his descendants bring her to rest in the promised land.
It is mentioned to Solomon (1 Kings 2:2-4) and celebrated by him (1 Kings 8:22-26); it is mentioned to King Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:34-36) and reaffirmed during his reign (2 Kings 8:19); it was celebrated by the psalmists (Ps. 89:3; 132:1-12); it was reaffirmed by Isaiah (Is. 9:6-7) and by Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:24-25).
Jesus fulfilled and is fulfilling and always shall fulfill the Davidic covenant, for he is the righteous ruler for whom Israel had been looking or should have been looking.
Luke 1:32 says that Gabriel himself announced that the Lord God will give the Messiah Jesus the throne of David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; “his kingdom will never end.”
Matt. 1:1 and Rom. 1:3 says that Jesus was the son of David.
John 18:33-37 says that in a dialogue with Pilate Jesus affirmed that his kingdom is not of this world, so his fulfillment of David’s covenant would take place in heaven—for now.
In Acts 13:22-23, 34 Paul preached that Jesus fulfilled the Davidic covenant.
Paul also says that Jesus will hand over his kingdom to his Father when he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power (1 Cor. 15:24-25).
Jesus is called THE KING OF KINGS (Rev. 19:16).
Jesus sits on the throne of David now and will remain there forever, whatever happens to the sun and earth. David will never co-rule on this throne, as if David and Jesus would sit side by side. In heaven David will announce that the KING OF KINGS is the best and most qualified king to sit there, infinitely better than he is.
Before the end, however, Jesus sits on the throne of David in heaven and is watching out for Israel.
The priesthood is said to endure forever, and it does through the great high priest, Jesus. The kingship of David is said to endure forever, and it does through the eternal reign of King Jesus.
Personally, I believe David will kneel before his descendant and Lord and say, “Thank you for fulfilling the covenant God made to me. I was a sinner, but you are the true King and Lord. You sit on the throne by yourself! I submit to you. Thank you, Jesus!”
GrowApp for Luke 20:41-44
A.. When you submit to Christ, whose enemies have been subject to him, how does he protect you from the enemy? For ideas, read Eph. 6:10-18 and Col. 2:13-15.
Denouncing Teachers of the Law (Luke 20:45-47)
45 While the entire crowd was listening, he said to his disciples: 46 “Watch out for the teachers of the law who want to walk around in long robes and love greetings in the marketplace and take the first seats in the synagogue and the first places at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses and speak long prayers. These shall receive a severer condemnation!”
Matt. 23:1-36 expands on this denunciation, including the Pharisees. Jesus was also in Jerusalem.
The teachers of the law (some translations say “scribes”) just praised him, but he didn’t receive it.
See v. 1 and the link for more about them.
“disciples”: Who are disciples generally speaking? The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun that it means (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“first seats” and “first place”: this is an honor-and-shame society, and the teachers of the law insisted on the highest seats of honors both in the synagogues and the banquets. So many translations have “seats of honor” at synagogues and “places of honor” at banquets.
But then thud! They fall flat on their faces, when God is finished with them. They devour widows’ houses and pray long prayers. They are awful.
To apply this hypocrisy to the church world today, the hyper-prosperity teachers ruin it for everyone else. I believe in prosperity in the sense that families need an income to run the household business. Yes, households are like small businesses. They take money to operate. To get this money, a parent or parents need good jobs, to pay the bills and give some money to the kingdom of God. However, the hyper-prosperity preachers take things way out of balance. It is always disheartening when I hear about preachers of the gospel who live in gigantic houses and brag about their jets. They take money from Joe Factoryworker and Jane Shopkeeper, who never live in gigantic houses or fly around in private jets. “But they will still be blessed if they give to my ministry!” God loves generosity whether they give to the hyper-prosperity ministry or not. If there was a necessary connection between giving to the hyper-prosperity ministry and accumulating wealth, then it seems that Joe Factoryworker and Jane Shopkeeper would soon be hundred-millionaires.
These out-of-balance preachers are receiving their reward down here on earth and will get very little, if any, in the eternal kingdom.
Matt. 6:19-24 connects light and darkness in the soul with accumulating and loving money.
19 Don’t store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust disfigure and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust disfigure and where thieves don’t break through nor steal. 21 For where your treasure is there will be your heart.
22 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be light. 23 If your eye is bad, your whole body is darkness. If therefore “the light” in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 No one is able to serve two masters, for either he shall hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are unable to serve God and Mammon. (Matt. 6:19-24)
The teachers of the law had lost their way about religious duties and taking money from widows. They could do this by interpreting laws favorably for them. The (seeming) “light” is actually darkness.
One last comment in this pericope: the teachers of the law who sin publicly and socially, all the way to devouring widows’ houses, shall receive a severer judgment. Their judgment or condemnation or punishment shall be stronger or harsher than those who do not commit such sins. This indicates that there will be degrees of judgment and punishment on people who commit more egregious sins than someone who does not. Not all sins are equal on a social or horizontal level. Sins that harm people are worse than sins that do not harm anyone else.
Does this mean that private sin is not sin? Of course not! Any sin will keep everyone out of heaven. But down here on earth, sins having repercussions in society are worse than sins that do not. Isaiah was a holy man, but when he saw the Lord high and lifted up, he concluded that he was ruined (Is. 6:1-6). That’s the heavenly realm. Now let’s come back down to earth.
Hitler’s crimes were infinitely worse than a German grandmother who lived at that time and did something wrong but it was petty and private, like cussing under her breath. Degrees of sin and punishment exist in biblical theology.
GrowApp for Luke 20:45-47
A.. Study Matt. 6:19-24. What do you learn from this section of Scripture on wealth? What should your attitude be?
Summary and Conclusion
Let’s look at a table that lays out the events of Passion Week, before we summarize this chapter:
|Friday||Arrival in Bethany (Jn 12:1)|
|Saturday||Mary’s anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:2-8; Mt 26:6-13 // Mk 14:3-9)|
|Sunday||Triumphal Entry (Mt 21:1-11 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-38); surveying temple (Mk 11:11), return to Bethany (Mt 21:17 // Mk 11:11)|
|Monday||Clearing temple (Mt 21:12-17 // Mk 11:15-19 // Lk 19:45-48); cursing fig tree (Mt 21:18-22; // Mk 11:12-14); miracles and challenge temple (Mt 21:14-16); return to Bethany (Mk 11:19)|
|Tuesday||Disciples’ question about fig tree (Mk 11:20-21); debates with leaders of temple (Mt 21:23-22:46 // Mk 11:27-12:40 // Lk 20:1-44); Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:1-36); return to Bethany, but Lk 21:37 says he lodged on Mount of Olives|
|Wednesday||Little recorded in Gospel—Jesus and disciples apparently remain in Bethany; Judas arranges for Jesus’ betrayal (Mt. 26:14-16 // Mk 14:10-11 // Lk 22:3-6); I say he could be teaching in the temple or praying privately|
|Thursday||Preparation for Passover (Mt 26:17-19 // Mk 14:12-16 // Lk 22:7-13); after sundown, Passover meal and Last Supper (Mt 26:20-35 // Mk 14:17-25 // Lk 22:14, 21-23, 15-20); Farewell Discourse (Jn 13-17); Gethsemane (Mt 26:30-46 // Mk 13:32-42 // Lk 22:40-46)|
|Friday||After midnight, betrayal and arrest (Mt 26:47-56 // Mk 14:43-52 // Lk 22:47-53);
Jewish trials—Annas (Jn 18:13-14); Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Mt 26:52-75 // Mk 14:53-72 // Lk 22:54-71); full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1-2);
Roman trials—Pilate (Mt 27:2-14 // Mk 15:2-5 // Lk 23:2-5); Herod Antipas (Lk 23:6-12); Pilate (Mt 27:15-26 // Mk 15:6-15 // Lk 23:17-27);
Mocked by soldiers (Mt 27:27-31 // Mk 15:16-20);
Road to Golgotha (Mt 27:32 // Mk 15:21 // Lk 23:26-32);
Crucifixion 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. / 15:00h (Mt 27:27-56 // Mk 15:22-41 // Lk 23:33-49);
Burial (Mt 27:57-61 // Mk 15:42-47 // Lk 23:5-56)
|Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), who got it from Michael J. Wilkens, Matthew: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). I modified it.|
Now let’s summarize Luke 20.
Jesus is now in Jerusalem. He is teaching the people and preaching the gospel in the temple. Teaching and preaching is essential. He may be doing this on Monday through half of Thursday, in the above table. However, tension is running high. The Jerusalem religious establishment does not like his ministry.
His first challenge came from the chief priests and the teachers of the law and elders. By whose authority does he say these things, like overturning the temple money-tables (Luke 19:45-48). He turned the tables on them rhetorically speaking. Was John’s baptism from God or man? They were unable to answer the question safely.
Then Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. The owner (God) of the vineyard (Israel) went away for a while and lent the vineyard out to tenants. When he sought to collect the produce by sending a servant (messenger or prophet), the tenants mistreated him and sent him away empty-handed. The owner did this two other times, totaling three, indicating a full effort over time, not literally three. In other words, the history of God interacting with his people is long. Finally, the owner sent his son (Jesus), whom they killed. The tenant farmers are about to fall under heavy judgment. This happened in A.D. 70 and the destruction of the temple by the Romans. The big punchline to the parable is that the stones which the builders (those who should know better) rejected became the chief cornerstone.
This fulfills the Great Reversal. Recall that Luke 1:51-53 and 2:34 say that Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Then the teachers of the law and the chief priest tried to trap him by asking about taxes. He answered deftly. Whosever inscription and image of the coin owns it. Pay to him what belongs to him. But pay to God what belongs to him. The image of God is in humanity, so give him your entire life.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection or angels or demons. They wanted him to answer a ridiculous question about seven husbands and one wife. Whose wife will she be at the resurrection? He said that children of God are not given in marriage or get married. They will be like the angels. Immortality depends on God. It is not automatic for every soul. This is called conditional immortality. Others teach that it is immortal by virtue of being a soul, so it will live forever, even in the fires of hell.
Jesus wanted to point out how inadequate the popular conception was about the Messiah. He takes priority over David, the greatest king. Jesus is the Lord, while David acknowledges it by calling him Lord. So the title “the son of David,” though accurate, as far as it goes, does not go far enough. He is much more than the son of David.
Finally, Jesus is in Jerusalem now, and he sees a lot of religious pomposity all concentrated in one city. He saw through the hypocrisy and called it out. It won’t take long for the religious authorities to unjustly crack down on him.
Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).
—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).
Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).
—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).
Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).
Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).
Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).
Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).