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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Luke 20

 

 

Verses 1-47

AUTHORITY:FROM HEAVEN OR OF MEN?

(vs.1-8)

The chief priests and scribes used every means they could to discredit the Lord Jesus among the people. While He was teaching and preaching in the temple, they planned a determined attack to challenge His right to do as He did. What authority did He have for teaching a preaching in the temple, and who gave Him this authority? Their thoughts were earthbound, for they thought of no authority but that of man, and this was the very snare that trapped them.

With admirable wisdom the Lord responded by also asking them a question. >From what source did John the Baptist receive his authority to baptize: was it from heaven or from man? Though they had ignored it, yet they could not escape the fact that heaven's authority is far superior to man's. But if they admitted the truth that John's baptism was from heaven, they would condemn themselves for not believing him, but if they were to lie and say it was from men, then they would be in trouble with the people whom they wanted to influence. In fact, if of men, then what men? John the Baptist had absolutely no human credentials as they well knew: he was sent from God.

Deceitfully they evaded the question by claiming they did not know (v.7). He flatly answered them then that neither would He tell them by what authority He acted. For certainly His authority had the same source as did that of John: it was from heaven. If they would not honestly admit the one, then manifestly they had no intention of admitting the other. In fact, they had admitted themselves not to be qualified to judge as to the question of authority.

PARABLE OF THE WICKED VINEDRESSERS

(vs.9-19)

The parable the Lord then spoke was pointed enough that the chief priests and scribes discerned its application to themselves (v.19). The vineyard is Israel, over whom the vinedressers (religious leaders) had been allowed authority by God, while He retired from the scene for the time of their testing under law. Yet He sent servants (the prophets) from time to time to remind Israel of their true Master and to require some proper recognition of His rights. Notice the patient grace of the Master of the vineyard, for when one or two servants had been badly mistreated and sent away empty, it would be natural that the full force of His displeasure would bring quick judgment against the keepers of the vineyard.. But even after a third had been badly treated, there was no punishing action taken. Rather, the Lord of the vineyard decided to send His beloved Son who was certainly worthy of the deep respect of the vinedressers. All of this is a great understatement of the actual patience of God, who had sent many prophets to Israel before sending His Son.

When God in His marvelous grace sent His beloved Son to Israel, this precious manifestation of His kindness toward man only exposed the cruel enmity of man's heart against God. Israel's leaders were concerted in their determination to kill the Heir (v.14), so they might claim unchallenged possession of the vineyard. Such was the guilt of Israel's leaders in killing the Son of God.

How blinding is the greed of man's heart! How can he hope to escape the just retribution of the Lord of the vineyard? The more patient and longsuffering God has been toward men, the more dreadful and decisive will be His judgment when eventually it falls. In fact, the destruction of those vinedressers took place when, in the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, Israel's leaders were totally stripped of authority and destroyed. The giving of the vineyard to others (v.16) may refer to Israel being yet, in the coming millennial age, placed under the authority of those whose genuine faith will fit them for the place of responsible government.

The destroying of the vinedressers and the giving of the vineyard to others seemed to some to be too hard. They said, "God forbid." But is justice never to be done? He looked them in the eyes and quoted from Psalms 118:22, asking them what God meant by declaring that the stone rejected by the builders is to become the head of the corner (v.17). Jacob, prophesying concerning Joseph -- a striking type of the Messiah -- said, "from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel" (Genesis 49:24). Israel's true Shepherd, the Messiah, is the "one stone" referred to. Psalms 118:1-29 says He would be rejected, yet would become the head of the corner. How could the chief priests and scribes evade the force of such words? This same One they rejected will yet take supreme authority, yet they were plotting His death.

The Lord added a most solemn word for their consciences. Those who fall upon this stone, that is, Israel casting out and crucifying their Messiah, would be broken, as indeed history has proven true (v.18). But all those upon whom the stone will fall will be ground to powder. This is the dreadful judgment of the Son of Man at the time of His future manifestation in power and glory. When much time has been given for repentance, and men refuse this, their judgment will be swift and decisive..

But the blindness of unreasoning unbelief had taken hold of the chief priests and scribes. They perceived that the Lord's parable of the vinedressers had direct application to themselves, yet they were so hostile as to determine to fulfill the prophecy of the parable by putting Him to death! (v.19).

TAXES REQUIRED BY CAESAR

(vs.20-26)

Although the chief priests and scribes had before been trapped by the cunning snares they had laid for the Lord, they tried again the same type of deceit attempt to ensnare Him, so they might find an excuse to accuse Him before the Roman authorities. They sent spies who pretended to be righteous men, but their hypocritical flattery was fully discerned by the Lord. Yet, enemies as they were, they bore public witness to the fact that He taught the way of God in truth (v.21). What a condemnation of their own evil designs! When the spies asked if it was lawful to give tribute (or taxes) to Caesar, they were expecting Him to champion the cause of Israel against Caesar and to say "No." They hated Caesar's authority, but the expected answer would have given them a dishonest means to accuse Him.

He showed He knew their deceit, and asked was the image and superscription on a coin. Being under Roman domination they were required to use Roman currency, and answered correctly that it was Caesar. He told them, since it was Caesar's money, then render it to Caesar, but He added solemnly, "and unto God the things that are God's" (v.25). Their sin had put them in bondage to Rome: they must bow to this shame. But what of giving God His due? They were reduced to silence, and could only marvel at the wisdom of His words.Then the Sadducees decided to try their dexterity in tempting the Lord Jesus. They denied the resurrection, and thought they had an iron-clad argument that would easily defeat Him. They based their argument on a provision in Moses' law that directed that if a man died childless, his brother was to take his wife and have children that would be counted as his brother's (v.28). They then proposed an unlikely case of the same woman have as husband seven different brothers in succession, all dying childless. Then came their vainly triumphant question as to which of the seven would have her as wife in the resurrection (v.33). They thought their very question disproves the possibility of any resurrection!

With simple, pointed words the Lord exposed their pathetic ignorance. Marriage is only for this world. He did not speak of those who die in their sins and will be raised for judgment at the Great White Throne; but only of those accounted worthy (by grace through faith) to obtain "that world," the glory of heaven, and the resurrection from among the dead. They neither marry nor are given in marriage (v.35). (Those unsaved will certainly not be married either, but will be raised only to be cast into the lake of fire.) Nor can death ever again touch those who have been raised, as at present it terminates the marriage relationship (vs.34-36). Moreover believers are as the angels which are neither male nor female, as we are told in regard to the new creation (Galatians 3:27-28). They are sons of God, having a relationship and dignity higher than all natural relationships, being sons of the resurrection, that is, introduced into a sphere that mere human intelligence has not penetrated.

The Lord not only answered their question, but rather proceeded to expose their ignorance of the Word of God in using Moses as their authority, though Moses had declared the truth of resurrection when he called God the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is not a God of the dead, but of the living (v.38). Though their bodies were put in graves, their spirits still live unto Him; and God cannot consider man complete apart from the union of spirit and soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be a resurrection.

BOTH LORD AND SON OF DAVID

(vs.41-47)

Some of the scribes (but probably not the Sadducees) couldn't help but admire the wisdom of the Lord's words, but all were silenced. Now the Lord asked a question more vitally important than those questions asked Him, which they were unable to answer, but which they ought to have known from their Old Testament scriptures. Why did the scribes say that Christ, the Messiah, was David's son, though David himself in Psalms 110:1 plainly called the Messiah "Lord"? (v.41). There could be no doubt of the application of that scripture, and the scribes could not dispute it, yet had no response.

The fact is that both are true: He is not only "the Offspring of David" -- David's Descendant -- but "the root David" (Revelation 22:16). As Man He is David's son, but as God He is David's Lord. Though as Man He came from David, yet since He is God over all, it is just as true that David came from Him. Certainly His eternal glory as God is the far more important fact, yet this had been passed over and ignored by the scribes. This same tragic ignorance is repeated today by many who even claim to be Christian: they recognize that Jesus is indeed a great man, but forget (and in many cases even strongly deny) that He is God manifest in flesh. The Lord's question then should stir every such person to realize that he needs to learn the Word of God. If Christ is David's Lord, how is He then his son? Let everyone face this question seriously.

By their questions to the Lord and the Lord's question to them, the religious leaders exposed the ignorant folly of their opposition to the truth. The Lord therefore, in verse 45 to 47, in the hearing of all the people, gave solemn warning as to men who claim to be the highest authorities of learning. Notice that although all the people could hear this, He spoke directly to His disciples. Believers ought not to be deceived by men's high pretensions. The scribes wore long robes to draw attention to themselves, as is copied by men's religions today, and loved to be recognized wherever the people gathered. They liked the highest religious honors and places of honor at feasts. All of this was empty vanity, a veneer to cover up the fact of their ignorance of God's Word, ignorance of His ways in government, ignorance of His grace. How different was the precious character of the lowly, faithful Son of Man, who being the eternal Son of God, was entitled to every honor, yet sought none whatever from man.

Greed was another evil principle linked with such arrogance, such greed as had no pity even for widows. Instead of caring for them, as Israel's leaders ought to have done, they devoured their houses, that is, made themselves rich at their expense (v.47). At the same time their long public prayers made a show intended to impress such people. Solemn is the Lord's denunciation of this hypocrisy: these leaders would receive greater judgment.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 20:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/luke-20.html. 1897-1910.

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