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Luke 20 Study Notes

20:1-2 Luke did not specify which day of the Passion Week is in view here, but the parallel account in Mk 11:19-20,27-33 indicates it was Tuesday. Chief priests . . . scribes, and elders were part of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin (see note at 22:66). The Jewish religious leaders questioned Jesus’s authority for throwing the merchants out of the temple complex (19:45) because such an act was a direct attack on the heart of Jewish religion. To their mind, none but a blasphemer would dare do such a thing. Thus they sought to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people gathered for Passover (see note at 19:47-48).

20:3-8 As he often did, Jesus turned the attention back on his questioners by asking them about the authority of John the Baptist’s baptism. Finding themselves in a “no-win” situation, the religious leaders stated that they did not know the basis of John’s authority. Having caught his opponents in a trap, Jesus also refused to answer their question.

20:9-12 The vineyard was a symbol of Israel (Is 5:7), and its owner was God. The tenant farmers stood for the people of Israel, notably its religious leaders. The successive servants who suffered mistreatment from the tenants stood for the OT prophets who were sent from God but were rejected and even killed by Israel.

20:13-18 My beloved son stands for Jesus (see note at 3:21-22). The Jewish religious leaders did not want to kill Jesus to claim his inheritance but rather to forcefully and finally reject him as Messiah and heir to David’s throne. The destruction of the farmers (Israel) by the owner of the vineyard (God) looks ahead to Gentiles being added to God’s plan for his new covenant people, the church. This is one of Luke’s major focuses in his next book, the Acts of the Apostles. The people in the temple area who were listening to Jesus (vv. 1,9) could not imagine God doing such a thing. In this quote from Ps 118:22, Jesus is the stone and cornerstone (see Ac 4:11; Eph 2:20; 1Pt 2:7). The builders are not identified, but they were undoubtedly Israel’s religious leaders (vv. 1,19).

20:19-21 The religious leaders (scribes . . . chief priests) understood that Jesus’s preceding parable referred to them, and so they wanted to get rid of him immediately. But in order not to anger the people, they sought to trap him through a question that would allow them to turn him over to the Roman authorities. So, while attempting to sound pious and respectful, they asked for Jesus’s view on one of the most divisive issues of the day—the Roman poll tax.

20:22-26 The religious leaders thought they had found the perfect way to trap Jesus, no matter how he answered. If he said it was lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar, it would turn the Jewish people against him. If he said it was not lawful, it would provide grounds for the Romans to arrest him for treason. But Jesus did not fall into their trap. By asking for a denarius, the specific coin used to pay the poll tax, Jesus demonstrated that the religious leaders themselves found it necessary to cooperate with the ruling Roman government. Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s was a proper recognition of the legitimate role of human government in God’s plan (Rm 13:1-7). To God the things that are God’s does not divide life into secular and sacred, which would imply that God is indifferent about some aspects of human existence. Rather, Jesus’s statement demonstrates that all facets of life have reference to God, including the need to submit to governmental rule. This answer amazed the scribes and chief priests (v. 26), thwarting their efforts to catch Jesus in a self-condemning statement.

20:27-33 Another group among the religious leaders attempted to trap Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection from the dead because it was not taught in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). They asked Jesus a question that was designed to discredit the idea of resurrection by reducing it to absurdity. If a man’s brother . . . dies childless refers to the law of levirate marriage in Dt 25:5. The Sadducees mistakenly assumed that life after the resurrection of the body would include the same basic structures as earthly life.

20:34-36 Jesus answered that marriage is confined to this age. Those who are counted worthy are those who place faith in Christ because faith in Messiah is the only means by which anyone can be accepted by God (Rm 5:1; Gl 2:16). In heaven we will be like angels, who enjoy many meaningful relationships but do not marry or reproduce. After the resurrection, the human life cycle (birth, marriage, reproduction, death) is forever changed.

20:37-40 Jesus quoted Ex 3:1-6 to draw in the Sadducees, who revered the books of Moses. Jesus’s logic is as follows: God could identify himself to Moses as the God of Abraham . . . Isaac, and Jacob only if they were still living in Moses’s day. Since these men had died many years previously, there must be an afterlife. The religious leaders no longer dared to bait Jesus after this because he had spoken well and made them look foolish.

20:41-44 Jesus then asked his own difficult theological question based on Ps 110:1: how could the Christ be both the son of David and the divine Lord of David? Though not given here, the answer is that Jesus, the Christ, was both fully God (Lord) and fully human (son of David).

20:45-47 The long robes of the scribes were of white linen and had a decorative fringe. The best seats were where a person could be seen by everyone in attendance at the synagogue. Devour widows’ houses probably means that some scribes defrauded helpless widows of their homes and their limited resources. Matthew 23:1-36 is an extended parallel passage describing the sins for which the scribes and Pharisees would be judged by God.

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