Luke 20:1-47

His name was Irwin Rommel. He was to be known as the Desert Fox. But before leading the Axis army in North Africa, Rommel was a commander in the German army as they invaded France in 1940. It was during that invasion that Rommel tells of having taken a ride in his command car to reconnoiter the front. He was driving through the Belgium hills when he rounded a turn and came face to face with a truck filled with enemy soldiers. Without missing a beat, Rommel was out of his command car and calling loudly to the soldiers, "You are all now prisoners of the German army. Just drive your truck in that direction and you will be processed accordingly." The soldiers in the truck nodded their agreement and moved to comply. The truck behind them followed suit. As did the truck behind that one. In amazement, Rommel watched while 20 truckloads of soldiers meekly surrendered, all because one man had spoken with authority.

One of the distinctive things about Jesus was that He spoke with a calm but unshakable authority. This set him apart from the rabbinical teachers of that day who were always having to quote the opinion of some earlier rabbi or expert. Jesus spoke from God. He was able to say, "Thus saith the Lord." And He even went further to say, "Thus saith ME."

He did not only speak with authority; He also ACTED with authority. He acted with authority when He commanded demons to leave those whom they had possessed. He acted with authority when He told a storm to be silent. He acted with authority when He told a lame man to walk, when He rebuked disease and it departed, and when He commanded a dead girl to get up. And He acted with authority when He came in and cleansed the Temple, driving out those who had come to make a profit instead of to listen to the Prophet.

Imagine what would be the reaction if an out-of-town carpenter showed up this Sunday in your church and began overturning pews and tossing around the offering plates. What would be your reaction? It would probably be the same as was seen by the Temple leaders: "What gives you the right to do these things? Just who do you think you are?"



And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, 2 and they spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?"

And He answered and said to them, "I shall also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?"

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet."

And they answered that they did not know where it came from.

And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Luke 20:1-8).

The issue here in this initial question and the issue that shall run throughout this entire chapter deals with the question of authority. It is brought by those who held authority in the Temple. The delegation who comes to Jesus is made up of the most important men in the nation of Israel. Three groups are mentioned:

The chief priests

There were 24 courses of priests who took turns serving in the Temple. At Passover, ALL of the priests were in attendance. Everyone who was anyone in the priesthood was here. And so, it was the upper echelon from among the priests who were a part of this delegation.

The scribes

These were the scholars and the experts in the Scriptures. It was their duty to correctly hand copy the Scriptures.

The elders

These were the representatives of the major tribes and families of Israel.

Together, these three groups comprised the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Israel. There were 70 members of that August body. Their president was the high priest himself.

  1. The Question Asked: They spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?" (20:2).
  2. Notice that they do not ask Jesus why He cleansed the Temple. They knew why He had done what He had done. They knew that they had turned the Temple into a den of robbers. They knew that they were guilty of fleecing the flock instead of feeding the flock. And so, the question is not, "Why?" but rather, "By what authority?"

    Jesus has not been ordained by any reputable denomination. He has no seminary degrees hanging on His wall. He goes by not title such as "reverend" or "rabbi." So what gives Him the right to overturn moneychangers’ tables or to drive out animals being bought and sold? What gives Him the right to stop the "business as usual" within the Temple?

    If Jesus answered

    He was acting on His own authority

    His enemies could say

    He is a megalomaniac

    He was acting on the authority of God

    He is blaspheming God

    They view this as a trick question. They feel that they have boxed Jesus into a corner and no matter what He answers will be something they can use against Him.

  3. Jesus Replies: And He answered and said to them, "I shall also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?" (20:3-4).
  4. Jesus turns the question over to them. He does this by asking about the baptism of John. Notice that it is specifically the BAPTISM of John about which He asks, not the ministry of John or even about the character of the man John. The question regards the source and the authority of the baptism of John. It came from one of two locations:

    (1) From heaven.

    (2) From men.

    The baptism of John was something new and different in the religious life of Israel. They were used to ceremonial washings. At several of the main entrances of the Temple there were large pools dedicated to ceremonial washings. The priests were constantly having to wash themselves before serving in the Temple.

    But John’s baptism was different. It was in rivers and streams. And it was part of a call to repentance. And it was accompanied by the promise of One who was to come to establish a Kingdom.

  5. The Reasoning of the Religious Leaders: And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet" (20:5-6).
  6. I enjoy playing chess. There sometimes comes a point in a chess game where, no matter what you do, you are going to lose a piece. That is what happened here. They pondered their possible range of answers and came to the conclusion that, no matter what they said, it would be wrong.

    If we say...

    "From heaven"

    "From men"

    Jesus: "Why did you not believe him?"

    They will lose popularity with the people

    Notice that they are more interested in fighting Jesus and in holding onto their popularity than they are in learning the truth. The one thing that they do not do is to ask, "I wonder if John and Jesus are right in what they are saying?"

    Why? Why don’t they see their need for the truth? It is because they have a vested interest in continuing in their unbelief. And so, they refuse to answer the question.

  7. The Response of Jesus: And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things" (20:8).

There is a lesson here. It is that when you refuse to believe the teachings of Jesus, then no further teachings are given. The criteria for receiving further spiritual truth is receiving and believing that which you have been given.



Jesus now proceeds to relate a parable. This parable must be seen in the context of this confrontation with the leaders of the Temple. It is still an issue of authority.

1. The Story.

And He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10 And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order that they might give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.

"And the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’

"But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours.’

"And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." And when they heard it, they said, "May it never be!" (Luke 20:9-16).

The man in the story was a landowner. As a landowner, he owned a vineyard. In the course of time, he leased the land to a group of vine-growers with the agreement that, at the time of the harvest, he would be given a share of the produce.

When the harvest came, the unfaithful vine-growers treated the landowner with disdain, even going so far as to beat and kill those of his servants which were sent to represent the master.

When the master sent his own son, the vine-growers murdered him, hoping to steal the son’s inheritance for themselves.

What you must understand is that Jesus is borrowing from an Old Testament parable. The parable is from the pages of Isaiah.

Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
And He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it,
And hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones. (Isaiah 5:1-2).

Who was this vineyard of the Lord who had been the object of such care and such devotion from the hand of the Lord? Verse 7 indicates the identity of the vineyard.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,

And the men of Judah His delightful plant.

Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;

For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress. (Isaiah 5:7).

The analogy of the parable is rather obvious. Jesus is telling this parable in the Temple in Jerusalem. He is speaking to those who view themselves as the servants of the Lord.

Character in Story

What it Represented


God’s kingdom

Owner of the Vineyard


Vine-growers to whom the Vineyard was leased

Leaders of the nation

Servants of the Owner


Son of the Owner


It is not the vineyard that is being condemned, but the vine-growers who hold control over the vineyard. Remember the initial issue which gave rise to this parable? It was when the Jews asked Jesus what was His authority. This parable answers that question. His authority comes from the Father. He has authority because He is the Son - He is the heir to the vineyard. They are the sharecroppers who were charged with the job of raising fruit, a portion of which was to be returned to the Master. But they have been unfaithful in their duties. They have taken up the mantle of a false authority. And in their pseudo-authority, they are rebelling against God Himself.

The following lessons come to us from the story.

We tend to read this story out of long years of association and as a result, we do not feel the emotional impact. But to anyone reading the story for the first time, it seems incredible that the master could be so longsuffering in the matter of the cruel treatment of His servants.

When was the last time that you were startled by the love and the patience and the forgiveness of God?

Did you ever stop to wonder what happens if, at the end of it all, the rebellious farmers repent of their sinful actions and receive the landowner? He forgives them. And he welcomes them into his family to take the place of the Son who they murdered. And he gives them the vineyard as their inheritance.

This parable reveals some basic truths about Jesus.

It reveals that Jesus is the Son of God. He had described Himself to the populace as the "Son of Man." Luke has pictured Him as the teacher from the Lord. He is both of those things. But He is also the beloved Son of God.

It reveals that Jesus will be rejected by the Jews and killed by them. Jesus knows that there is a cross awaiting Him.

It reveals the ultimate triumph of Jesus. There is coming a day when the Lord shall return to take His vineyard and to render judgment upon those unfaithful stewards.

Forty years from the date that Jesus stands talking in the temple, the Roman general Titus will surround Jerusalem, capture the city, burn that same temple to the ground, and carry the surviving inhabitants away into captivity.

  1. The Scriptures.
  2. But He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust" (20:17-18).

    The Scripture to which Jesus refers is Psalm 118:22-23. This Psalm speaks in its context of the nation of Israel. As the nations of the world sought to build their empires, they regarded the nation of Israel as a rock that was merely in the way - a rock that was to be set aside from the important affairs of men. But this tiny nation was to play a key role in God’s economy.

    Do you see what is happening? Jesus takes this passage which refers to the nation of Israel and He applies it to Himself.

    There is a lesson here. It is that Jesus is the personification of the nation of Israel. He is everything that the nation of Israel was supposed to be.



    Descendants of Abraham

    Descendant of Abraham

    Nation of priests

    The High Priest of God

    A witness to the nations

    Word of God & light of the world

    Keeper of the law of God

    Righteousness of God

    What does that mean to us? It means that we have been called to be everything that Jesus is.

    m Spiritual descendants of Abraham.

    m A nation of priests coming boldly before the throne of grace

    m Salt and light as we take the gospel to a world in darkness

    m Living holy and righteous lives

    Jesus gives the Psalm a new meaning. He points out that, in the same way Israel has been rejected in the past, so now the leaders of the nation are themselves going to pass a similar judgment upon the Messiah of Israel. They look at this little Galilean rabbi and they think that He is merely in the way. A stone to be rejected and cast aside. What they cannot realize is that this stone is to become the foundation stone for God’s covenant people.

  3. The Response.

And the scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them (20:19).

I don’t know if they understood all of the implications of the parable. But they understood enough to know that it was directed against themselves. They saw themselves as the unfaithful vine-growers. And their attitude was murderous.



It was not too long before the murderous attitude of the temple authorities came upon a plan to do away with Jesus.

1. A Politically Incorrect Question.

And they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so as to deliver Him up to the rule and the authority of the governor.

And they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" (Luke 20:20-22).

The Romans had ruled over Jerusalem in one form or another since 63 B.C. Since that time, there had been a gradual increase in taxes, all going to fund the Roman Empire. To be fair, it must be admitted that the Romans also provided certain services such as their system of roads. However, it is always true that government takes away more than it gives and Rome was certainly no exception to this rule.

Earlier in this century a rebellion had taken place under the banner of "no tribute to the Romans." It was claimed by these rebels that taxation was tantamount to slavery. There were three taxes which were collected:

The enemies of Jesus have come up with a trick question. They feel that He will be wrong, no matter how He answers.

If Jesus answers

Pay the Tax


Jesus will lose popularity with the people by advocating an unpopular tax

Don’t Pay the Tax

Jesus can be accused of inciting a rebellion against Rome

Notice how they approach Jesus. It is with flattery. They are lying through their teeth., hoping to disarm Jesus.

2. An Authoritative Answer.

But He detected their trickery and said to them, 24 "Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" And they said, "Caesar's."

And He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." 26 And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and marveling at His answer, they became silent. (Luke 20:23-25).

Jesus calls for a denarius. The fact that He had to call for one seems to indicate that He did not have a single denarius to His name.

A denarius was a silver coin. It was one day’s wages for a Roman soldier. On one side of the coin would have been an image of the Roman emperor - Tiberius Caesar. On the other side would have been an image of the goddess of peace. Around the image was an inscription which read, "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus, Chief Priest."

It was the practice of all new emperors to issue new coins with their own likeness stamped on the face. There is a sense in which the coin was considered to be the personal property of the king. It bore testimony to the rule of the king whose likeness it carried.

The first thing that a rebel or a conqueror would do would be to issue new coins with a new face.

Things with Caesar’s image




Give them to Caesar

Things with God’s image




Give them to God

There is a principle here. It is that the state is ordained by God. The state brings valuable services to the people of God. And as we share in the benefits of the state, so also we are to share in the responsibilities of the state.

But what about paying taxes to a government that has set itself up against God? Is it right to pay your good, hard-earned money to a government that wastes it, or puts it to a purpose that you adamantly oppose?

Jesus says that it is. He calls us to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. But notice that there is a limit as to what belongs to Caesar. Our ultimate allegiance is to belong to God. Caesar may own our money. But God owns US.

This has a direct impact upon the underlying issue in this chapter. That issue is one of AUTHORITY. Legal and political authority is real, but it is only of limited scope and duration. Final and lasting authority is in the hands of God.

Jewish Leaders


Had a limited and finite authority over the nation of Israel.

Has been given authority over a eternal kingdom.

Required to pay taxes to Rome in coins bearing the image of the Emperor.

The recipient of that which is in the image of God.

An earthly authority.

A heavenly authority.

This authority shall end.

This authority shall never end.

BOTH of these types of authority are ordained by God. Jesus was not advocating an abolition of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. Neither was He advocating a rebellion against Rome. Rather, He was establishing His claims to a higher authority - one that would be eternal both in scope and in nature.



The next question coming to Jesus also follows this theme of authority. In this case, it is a question of the authority of RATIONALISM. The rationalists of that day were known as the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were made up of the aristocracy. They were the advocates of Hellenization. They held the Law of Moses in high regard, but did not hold that the rest of the Scriptures were inspired. They did not believe in angels or miracles. They were not looking for any future Messiah and they rejected any notion of a future bodily resurrection. They tended to represent the upper class, the royalty and the priesthood. They were the philosophically sophisticated.

Have you ever noticed that when people achieve a certain social strata, they often stop believing in certain things? Politicians are like that. And so were the Sadducees.

They did not believe in the supernatural. They did not believe in miracles. And Jesus had the effrontery to have performed miracles. Therefore they decided on a plan that would put Him in His place.

1. The Question of the Sadducees.

Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28 and they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring to his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third took her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally the woman died also. 33 In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife." (Luke 20:27-32).

The question is meant as a trick. It is not a sincere question. It is one of those "can God make a rock so big that He cannot move it" questions. It is a question designed to disprove the doctrine of the resurrection.

The question revolves around the laws of the levirate marriage as set forth in the book of Deuteronomy. Remember, the Sadducees only believed in the books of Moses.

The question presupposes a situation in which there are seven brothers. The oldest is married, but before his marriage can produce any children, he dies. According to Jewish Law, it is now the responsibility of the second brother to have a child by that wife and to raise the child as the heir of the first brother (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). And so, he marries her, but dies before there are any children. And so it goes with the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and the seventh. By this time, I think that I would be a bit suspicious of the woman. But she eventually dies, too.

Now is the question. Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?

Do you see what the Sadducees are doing? They are not asking this question because they are actually worried about this situation. They are asking it because they think that the question shows a flaw in the whole teaching about the resurrection. They expect Jesus to stutter and stammer and get red in the face so that they can laugh at Him. But he does nothing of the sort.

2. The Answer of Jesus.

And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; 36 for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34-36).

The resurrection does not constitute a continuation of life as it is on earth. The old physical laws will no longer apply. And the old physical and social relationships will pale to insignificance in the presence of our relationship with the Lord.

3. Evidence for the Resurrection - an appeal to the Authority of Scripture.

"But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him." (Luke 20:37-38).

The Sadducees rejected the resurrection because they did not think that it was taught in the Torah - the first five books of Moses. But Jesus points out that this is not the case. He does this by quoting the words of the Lord to Moses when He spoke to Him out of the burning bush (Exodus 3:6).

In that passage, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then it stands to reason that they must still be alive. And if they are alive, then there is life after death.



And some of the scribes answered and said, "Teacher, You have spoken well." 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

And He said to them, "How is it that they say the Christ is David's son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my LORD, "Sit at My right hand, 43 until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet."’ 44 David therefore calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?" (Luke 20:39-44).

Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees are out of questions. They have taken their best shots against Jesus and they have nothing left with which to attack Him. A few of them even go so far as to grudgingly admit that He has spoken well. At this time, Jesus asks a question of them. It is a question about authority and the promised Messiah.

The word "Christ" is merely a transliteration of the Greek Christos, meaning "anointed one." It is an exact equivalent of the Hebrew term "Messiah."

The Jews of that day had a very specific Messianic expectation. They believed that God would raise up a man who would have a special anointing of God’s Spirit and who would come and deliver Israel from her enemies and lead her in victory and in righteousness. They also believed that this Messiah would be a descendant of David.

The question that Jesus asks is taken from the Psalms. He quotes Psalm 110:1. This is one of the most quoted Psalm in the entire New Testament. It presents three characters:


He is the one who writes Psalm 110

The Lord

The Hebrew of Psalm 110 uses the term Yahweh to describe the Lord

My (David’s) Lord

This unidentified one is told to sit at the right hand of Yahweh. The only other clue to his identity is that he is David’s lord (adoni)

The question revolves around the true identity of the one whom David describes as "my lord." He is shown to be a different person from Yahweh, for it is Yahweh who says to Him, "Sit here."

Here is the point of the question. A son is not by nature greater than his father. Fathers do not bow down before their sons. Fathers do not look to their sons for leadership. If this is the sake, then how can the Messiah be both...

David’s Son

David’s lord

The Scriptures make it quite clear that the Messiah is BOTH David’s son as well as David’s lord. How can this be? It can only be the case if the Messiah’s existence predated his birth. It can only be the case if the Messiah had a pre-incarnate existence.

The questioning of Jesus has a direct impact on our understanding of His true authority. The Jews thought that Messiah would be a wonderful person who would follow in the footsteps of his father, David. But Jesus moves to show that they concept of the Messiah was much too small. The Messiah would exercise greater authority than that which belonged to David, for He would be David’s lord and master.



And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows' houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." (Luke 20:45-47).

Jesus has demonstrated a true authority. That true exercise of authority is seen in contrast to the scribes who exercised a false misuse of authority. Their use of authority was for the purpose of self-gratification. They sought to bring glory to themselves. This is in contrast to Jesus who only sought to bring glory to God.

Do you like it when people think highly of you? When someone demonstrates an exalted respect of you? Of course you do! The danger is that such exaltation becomes addictive and that you begin to conduct yourself so as to receive the accolades of others. True faithfulness is what you do when no one else is looking.

You remember that because, in those times when you think that no one else is looking, those are the times that you are playing for the audience of heaven.

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