David’s True Son


David’s True Son

Luke 20

Main Idea: We are likely to wrestle with authority and its abuse until we see Jesus in all his perfect use of authority.

  1. You Cannot Question His Authority (20:1-8).
    1. The challenge (20:1-2)
    2. The clap back (20:3-7)
    3. The conclusion (20:8)
  2. You Cannot Refuse His Authority (20:9-18).
    1. The parable
    2. The point
    3. The privileged
    4. The point, again
  3. You Cannot Trump His Authority (20:19-26).
    1. The plot (20:19-20)
    2. The pretense (20:21-22)
    3. The perceptiveness (20:23-26)
  4. You Cannot Trivialize His Authority (20:27-44).
    1. The Sadducees’ scenario (20:27-33)
    2. They don’t understand the ages (20:34-36).
    3. They don’t understand the resurrection (20:37-40).
    4. They don’t understand David’s Son (20:41-44).
  5. You Cannot Avoid His Authority (20:45-47).

Authority. Most people want it. Few people want to be under it.

We are suspicious of authority. We don’t trust claims to power and control. And sometimes we have reason. We’ve seen all kinds of authority abused. We’ve seen parents mistreat their children. We’ve seen bosses terrorize their employees. We’ve seen government leaders become dictators. We’ve even seen church leaders prey on the people they were meant to shepherd.

With so much misuse of authority, it’s no wonder many people withdraw from it. Since at least the 1960s, American society has questioned, challenged, opposed, and even ridiculed authority. Rebels are seen as heroes. Mavericks are thought to be independent. “Sticking it to the man” has become a pastime, even when you’re not quite sure who “the man” is.

But no matter our attitude, the world remains filled with authority. Individuals and institutions control our lives. We still report to bosses. We still pull over when officers turn on their sirens. We still obey our parents. We still submit to our government and its laws. We even submit to religious leaders in voluntary religious organizations like the church.

Why do we submit to authority? Why do we sometimes want it when we don’t have it? Why do we question those in authority and mistrust it?

You Cannot Question His Authority

Luke 20:1-8

Verse 1 takes us back to the last few days before Jesus’s death. The Lord has finally entered Jerusalem, where he will be tried, crucified, and resurrected. Luke casually tells us that it was just “one day.” It’s almost as if this day began just like any other day. “One day.” And what do we find the Lord doing? It cannot be stressed or highlighted enough that Jesus preached the gospel. How important is the gospel? Well, the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed it up until his death! Until he died, the Lord told people why he came to die. If the good news is that important in the Lord’s sight, then it must be about the most important thing imaginable!

What was the good news Jesus preached? It was simple, but it was and is the most important news ever. You can summarize this good news in four sentences:

  • The only true, living, and holy God made all of mankind in his image and likeness so that all people could know him and enjoy him forever.
  • People have broken their relationship with God through sin and now deserve God’s righteous condemnation in hell.
  • To rescue mankind from his condemnation and to bring us back to his love and acceptance forever, God made up for our sin by sending his Son Jesus to suffer condemnation in our place on the cross and to defeat death in the resurrection.
  • To receive that new life and to be brought back to God in righteousness, God requires all people everywhere to confess their sin, turn away from it, and follow Jesus as their Savior and God.

That’s the good news. That’s what Jesus was proclaiming on that day. That’s what we’re preaching today. And we want you to believe, to put your trust in Jesus, and to rely on him to rescue you from hell.

The Challenge (20:1-2)

As Jesus was preaching the gospel—the most important message in the universe—some religious people interrupted him. “The chief priests and the scribes, with the elders, came and said to him: ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’” These people make up the entire religious authority of the Jewish people in Jesus’s day. They controlled worship and spiritual life in Israel and in the temple where Jesus was preaching. These are the conservative religious folks. They believe the Scripture, so they say. They believe in obeying the law. In a way, they take religious authority and faith seriously.

But they challenge Jesus’s authority. They know they had not granted Jesus authority to teach and preach in the temple. And while they didn’t recognize Jesus’s authority, they sure did want to hold on to their own. So they challenged the Lord by questioning his authority.

The Clap Back (20:3-7)

The Lord has a little clap back of his own. He answers their question with a question in verse 4: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or of human origin?” They didn’t expect that. So they did what religiously conservative people do when they have a question—they held a conference (v. 5). They formed a little holy huddle. You could see them with bowed heads talking and looking up at Jesus every once in a while.

After their discussion, all they could come up with was a Washington, D.C., answer we hear a lot during election season: “We don’t know.” They don’t know because they don’t want to know. They don’t want to say John’s baptism was from heaven because they rejected John. They don’t want to say it was from man because all the people recognized John as a prophet from God. They were stuck between conviction and cowardice. They’re trying to control the spin.

But, beloved, sometimes the simple admission of wrong is the most freeing thing in the world.

The Conclusion (20:8)

When they said that “they did not know its origin” (v. 7), the Lord answered them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Beloved, this is a stunning scene. With one question the Lord Jesus Christ exposed the spiritual emptiness of Israel’s religious authorities. If you don’t know where authority comes from, then you can’t truly have it yourself.

By that one question the Lord demonstrated that all of Israel’s religious authorities were unqualified to question his authority. If they couldn’t tell the difference between a prophet and a mere man, how could they judge the Son of God when he came?

When we meet Jesus we meet a person with unquestionable authority. Mere men cannot challenge the Lord’s right and ability to teach and to rule.

Do you question or do you recognize Jesus’s authority in your life?

You Cannot Refuse His Authority

Luke 20:9-18

If the Lord’s authority cannot be questioned or challenged, that means his rule cannot ultimately be refused.

The Parable

The Lord turns from the religious leaders to address the people. He tells a story about a man who planted a vineyard and then rented it out to tenants. When the man wanted some of the fruit of the vineyard, he sent servants to collect. Each time, the tenants beat the servants, treated them shamefully, and sent them back empty-handed. Finally, the man sent his son, and the tenants killed him.

The man in the story symbolizes God the Father. The Father owns the vineyard, which represents his kingdom and the rewards of his covenant. The tenants represent the religious leaders of Israel. They were not owners of God’s kingdom and covenant; they were merely stewards who were to give God what was his when he asked for it. The three servants that were sent were prophets God sent to Israel. Israel had a long, long history of rejecting God’s prophets and mistreating them. The son in the story represents the Son of God, Jesus himself.

The Point

Verse 13 portrays God as the owner asking himself after all the servants have been abused, “What should I do?” Now, don’t misunderstand that. The story is not picturing God as confused about things or out of ideas. That question has the ring of something like this: “How much more can I do? What greater step should I take?” The image is of an owner God who continues to pursue what is his, including the tenants. So the owner decides to send the dearest thing in the world to him—his son. And when the son is sent the tenants decide to murder him with the hopes of taking the vineyard once and for all (v. 14).

These fools are crazy. How was that supposed to work? Let’s kill the son and then we can have his inheritance. What father do you know who will give his wealth to his son’s murderers?

In rejecting the son they rejected the owner’s highest expression of love. So now we need to feel the question of verse 15: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” Doesn’t verse 16 make perfect sense in this story? “He will come and kill those farmers and give the vineyard to others.”

No one can safely reject the Father’s prophets or the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ. “How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3). We will not. We will be destroyed.

The Privileged

If you understand that these tenants deserve this judgment, then you understand something about the justice of God in condemning sinners. But not everybody will admit this so clearly. The people said, “That must never happen!” (v. 15). It’s as if they understand the point of the parable but refuse to accept it. The moral logic of the parable is clear, but they try to refuse it.

Why would someone not believe this? It is entitlement and privilege right there! They think the kingdom is their right and not a gift. They still can’t see how much like the tenants they really are. They are right then denying the King’s authority over them and over his kingdom.

The Point, Again

I love what verse 17 teaches us about the boldness and seriousness of our Lord when it says that he looked at them. You get the sense that the Son of God is not playing any games. In an authority contest the Lord does not back down. He leans in and locks eyes.

This time, rather than tell a parable, the Lord quotes the Scriptures. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 17). He asks them if they know the meaning of this text found in Isaiah 28 and Psalm 118. A cornerstone is used in constructing a building to make sure the foundation is square and level. If the cornerstone is off, the entire building will be off, so this one stone is essential to the entire structure.

The Lord Jesus was speaking of himself. Acts 4:11 says, “This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.” The entire building of God’s kingdom is built on the Lord Jesus Christ. If we fall on that stone (by rejecting him) or that stone falls on us (in condemnation), then we will be “broken to pieces” or it “will shatter” us (v. 18). If we reject Jesus Christ when he offers himself to us in the gospel, we break ourselves. If his condemnation falls on us, it crushes us.


My non-Christian friend, the point of what I am saying is that Jesus Christ is essential. There’s no way to build your life without him. There’s no way to enter God’s vineyard without him. You must not stumble or fall on this stone. You cannot survive if the stone falls on you. The only safe way to live is to stand on the stone. To build on it. To make it the foundation of your life. You do that by believing the gospel and following Jesus as your Lord with all authority over you.

Church, this cornerstone is the foundation of our entire existence. Without Christ as the chief cornerstone, there is no building. We are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:20-21).

You Cannot Trump His Authority

Luke 20:19-26

The religious authorities fail in their effort to question Jesus’s authority. They fail so miserably that Jesus says the vineyard will be taken away from them unless they acknowledge him as the chief cornerstone.

The Plot (20:19-20)

“Then the scribes and the chief priests looked for a way to get their hands on him that very hour, because they knew he had told this parable against them” (v. 19). Well, duh. Wherever did they get that idea? But once again, their plots are held up because “they feared the people” (v. 19). It’s striking how often cowardice and murder can be in the same religious heart.

Because they’re afraid, they recruit some spies (v. 20). These spies “pretended to be righteous,” but they were looking for ways they “could catch him in what he said.”

Since their religious authority has been destroyed, they now look to use government authority to silence the Lord Jesus Christ. So we move from religious court to the secular court.

The Pretense (20:21-22)

They use flattery in verse 21. They’re trying to butter up the Lord. Satan’s agents will often make their appeal to our pride. Then they come with their trap question in verse 22: “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” By asking this question they hoped to discredit the Lord with the people because the people all hated the Roman oppression through taxes. If that didn’t work, they hoped they could get the Lord into serious trouble with the Roman government, because not paying taxes would be considered treason.

The Perceptiveness (20:23-26)

But the Lord sees right through them (v. 23). He knows when we’re playing games and trying to rig the system like a Cleveland ref.

We don’t have time here to discuss all the implications of Jesus’s response for our understanding of government authority, but we should say at least two things:

  • The Lord affirms Caesar’s authority, even down to paying taxes. The Lord is not an anarchist. We can never justify disobedience to civil authority with appeals to Jesus. Pay your taxes. Obey the speed limit. Serve on jury duty. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
  • The Lord does not equate Caesar’s authority with God’s authority. There are some things that belong to Caesar, and there are some things that belong to God. Caesar may put his face and name on what is his, but this is my Father’s world. What Caesar has, God gave to him. What belongs to God, Caesar can never claim or take.

The higher authority—the highest authority—is God’s authority. Taxes belong to Caesar; hearts and souls belong to God. God can demand of us things that Caesar could never rightfully demand. For example, the Lord can demand that we worship him. Caesar could not rightly do so. We know this intuitively, don’t we? That’s why in verse 26 they simply were amazed at his answer and shut up.

You Cannot Trivialize His Authority

Luke 20:27-44

The Sadducees’ Scenario (20:27-33)

Now in verse 1, the conservative religious leaders approached Jesus to question his authority. They failed. So in verse 27 the liberal religious leaders take their turn. The Sadducees were a group of Jewish people who “say there is no resurrection” (v. 27). The Sadducees are the opposition party to the Pharisees. They argue with each other all the time, but they are united against Jesus. They don’t care who has authority as long as it’s one of them.

So they come along to test the Lord as well. The Pharisees tried to question Jesus on the grounds of religious authority and civil authority. The Sadducees decide to challenge Jesus on the ground of scriptural authority. They try to make the Scriptures and Jesus look ridiculous by putting together an absurd scenario (vv. 28-33).

When they say, “Moses wrote for us” (v. 28), they’re referring to the first five books of the Bible. They’re referring to Scripture. The scenario that they use builds on a law called the “kinsman-redeemer” or “levirate marriage” law. That law required just what they outlined. They are undermining one part of Scripture (the resurrection) by twisting another part of it (the kinsman-redeemer law). It’s a challenge to the authority, clarity, necessity, and inspiration of the Scriptures. Our Lord responds with three basic points.

They Don’t Understand the Ages (20:34-36)

First, he tells them that they don’t understand the differences between “this age” and “that age” (vv. 34-35), between earth and heaven. There are tremendous differences between what happens on earth and what happens in heaven. There are tremendous differences in our very existence. In heaven or the resurrection or “that age,” there is no marriage. Marriage is an earthly reality, not a heavenly one. Incidentally, this is why sanctified singleness is ultimately better than discontented marriage. When we tear ourselves up about marrying, we’re crushing this temporary life over a temporary relationship.

The reason marriage does not exist in heaven is because we are transformed in heaven. We cannot die anymore. We who believe “are like angels and are children of God” (v. 36). We are finally fit to live with our true Husband, who is Christ.

They Don’t Understand the Resurrection (20:37-40)

Second, the Lord tells them they don’t understand the Bible’s teaching about the resurrection. The Lord quotes the same author they quoted: Moses. He reminds them of one of the passages that every Jewish person would accept as true and wonderful: the burning bush. It’s in that passage where God speaks to Moses and for the first time in the Bible states his name: Yahweh. He calls himself “the I AM,” the always existing One (Exod 3:14). That’s God’s name. In the giving of his name, God mentions Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the patriarchs or fathers of the Jewish nation.

The Lord Jesus reads the Bible so closely and carefully! No Jewish person would deny that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived with God. The present tense nature of the verse required belief in the resurrection. Who could deny it? That’s why the Sadducees say, “Good answer. Good answer.” Verse 40: “They no longer dared to ask him anything.” The Lord shuts them up, too.

They Don’t Understand David’s Son (20:41-44)

Third, the Lord reveals the deep truth about David’s true Son. He’s already shut the Sadducees up. Now he’s going to shut them down. They’re done with their questions; now the Lord has one of his own: “How can you say that the Christ is the son of David?” (v. 41). I imagine they looked puzzled at first. Everyone knew God promised David a son who would rule on David’s throne forever. That was Judaism 101. That son would be the Christ, or the Messiah, who would bring God’s kingdom and gather all of Israel. Of course the Christ is David’s son.

Then the Lord, still reading his Bible so carefully, quotes Psalm 110:1 and says, “For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, ‘The Lord declared to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”’” (v. 42). Jesus helps them understand that King David eavesdropped on a divine conversation. The first Lord is the Father—Yahweh. He spoke to the second Lord, the Son—Adonai—and told him to sit in the place of honor at his right hand. It’s a glimpse into the divine relationship and the Trinity of persons in the Godhead. David calls them both “Lord.” If David calls the Christ “Lord,” then how could David be greater? How could David be a father in that sense? How could the Christ be David’s son in that sense?

He couldn’t be. The Christ, David’s true Son, is also God’s Son. He rules far above all powers. He sits at the Father’s right hand, and all his enemies will be placed under his feet. You cannot trivialize the Lord’s authority by playing Bible trivia, by trying to make the Bible look absurd. He is high above all!


When we come to the Bible, do we fail to approach it with a sense of the authority it has? Is it a book of curiosities and debatable doctrines? Or does it appear to us a book of power and control because it comes from the mouth of God?

Before we “use the Bible,” we must submit to the Bible. We must recognize its authority in our lives because it comes from God. When we get to know Jesus, we find out that the Lord really does honor the prophets—from John the Baptist (v. 4) all the way back to Moses (v. 37). Because he honors the prophets, the Lord also honors the Scriptures that come through them. Did you notice how often the Lord quoted Scripture (vv. 17-18,37-38,41-44)?

  • His parable was but an illustration of a biblical text.
  • He stands on Scripture even when it’s being attacked.
  • He gives attention to the details of the Bible for meaning.
  • He trusts the Bible’s accuracy and authority even when others are mocking it.
  • He believes the whole Bible—the law of Moses, the prophets like Isaiah, and David’s psalms—is sufficient for life and doctrine.
  • He believes Moses really did write the first five books, Isaiah really did write Isaiah, and David really did write some psalms.

Jesus believes the Bible is true and trustworthy. He believes the Bible reveals what heaven and God are like. He does not trust another authority apart from the Bible. We will never know Jesus well until we know our Bible well and approach it the way he did.

You Cannot Avoid His Authority

Luke 20:45-47

The Lord Jesus’s authority cannot be questioned. It cannot be refused. It cannot be trumped—there is no higher authority. His authority cannot be trivialized or undermined. Finally, it cannot be avoided.

Many people live as if Jesus did not exist. Even among those who know his name and know about his gospel, some act as if that has nothing to do with them. Many live as if they will never have to respond to the Lord’s authority.

They could not be more wrong. Luke 20 began with Jesus preaching the good news, the gospel. It ends with Jesus preaching the bad news. The good news does not appear good until a person really reckons with the bad news. The scribes put on religious shows. They want to look holy. But they’re pretending—even when they pray. The scribes along with all religious hypocrites in positions of religious authority “receive harsher judgment” (v. 47). In other words, the hottest parts of hell are reserved for hypocritical religious leaders. The false minister will not escape the searing authority of God’s judgment. They cannot avoid it.

Though the leaders receive “harsher judgment,” there remains a condemnation for everyone who lives in sin and ignores Jesus as Lord. One day you too will come before his throne on the day of judgment. If you have bowed before his authority and followed him in faith, you will not be condemned. You will not be put to shame. You will enter his kingdom and know the power of his resurrection. But if you have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart, you will hear the final verdict: “guilty.” You will hear God the Judge sentence you to condemnation in hell. There will be no escape.

The only escape is the gospel. Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins so we would not have to serve the sentence in hell. He rose from the grave to defeat death and to bring us righteousness through faith in him. All who trust him live free with God as they were meant to. Today, trust him.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. How do you feel about authority? What have been some of your most profound experiences with authority and its uses or abuses? How do those experiences shape your view of authority today?
  2. Authority seems wired into creation. Why do you think that is? What do you think it tells us about God’s purposes for creation and for authority?
  3. Can you be a good Christian while rejecting the Lord’s authority? Why or why not?
  4. Is the authority of human rulers the same as God’s authority? Why or why not?
  5. How does the Lord teach us to relate to human governments and their authority in this passage? Are we to relate to them in this way only when they are good or effective? Why or why not?
  6. When you approach the Bible, would you say you approach it with a deep sense of its authority in your life? Why or why not?
  7. What are the consequences for rejecting the Lord’s authority?