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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Luke 20

Verses 1-2

Question About the Authority of the Lord

Although the temple has become a robber’s den, the Lord teaches the people there daily and tirelessly continues to proclaim the gospel. The people are like a distressed and dispirited herd for whom He feels compassion. It is a herd with ruthless shepherds. Those shepherds confront Him. In the last week of His life on earth before the cross, the temple becomes the area where enmity becomes stronger and stronger. This chapter describes the conflicts the Lord has with the leaders. He unmasks them and silences them, but the murderousness is not extinguished.

The first issue the Lord teaches in the temple is that of authority. The teaching about this is of great importance to the church, that is the temple of God now (1 Corinthians 3:16). The question is how to recognize divine authority. The Lord responds to this question in response to a question of dispute with which the religious leaders come to Him. They do acknowledge His authority, but they ask Him in a critical spirit about its origin.

People who eagerly claim authority, always question real authority. They are never able to recognize real authority because they do not want it. With their question they assert to be able to judge Him. They want to know whether He has personal authority, for example through education, or whether He exercises authority on behalf of someone else, a higher authority on behalf of whom He speaks. It is both true for Him. He is personally the highest authority. He is God the Son. He is also as Man the Son of God Who has taken the place of dependence and obedience to God. These are the questions of blind people who refuse to see.

Verses 3-8

The Answer of the Lord

The Lord wants to make it clear to them that they are blind, that they may acknowledge their blindness and then receive sight. Therefore He has as answer a question to them. With the words “tell me” He commands them to answer Him. His counter-question must make it clear whether they are capable of forming a real judgment about His authority. Their answer will bring their mind to light.

His question concerns the baptism of John. John was His forerunner and herald. John announced Him and preached the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). Many have come to his baptism (Luke 3:7) and have even wondered if he might not have been the Christ (Luke 3:15). However, the reaction of John was clear that he was not himself, but that it was He Who came after him.

The answer to the question about John’s baptism therefore determines their view of the Lord. He presents them with two possibilities: the baptism of John was from heaven or from men. It is one of two. Let them say it.

In their falsehood and insincerity, the religious leaders consult with each other. They don’t discuss what the right answer is, but what He will answer to a particular answer. They are so corrupt that they only look at the result of their answer and not at its truth. They discuss what His answer will be when they say that John’s baptism was from heaven. They know this: He will say: “Why did you not believe him?” They cannot deny that John’s baptism was from heaven, but they do not want to admit it.

The other option is also being considered. They refrain from that because they know the great admiration of the people for John. Instead of joining the people and acknowledging that John was a prophet, they consider that an answer that John would bring down could cost them their lives. They are afraid to lose the people’s favor and to get the people against them, even fearing for their lives.

Both answers turn around themselves. Because they think they will suffer the least loss of sight if they say they don’t know where John’s baptism is from, they give that answer. With this answer they indicate that they do not deserve an answer to their question from the Lord. He has made it clear that they have reprehensible intentions. It is tragic that they do not want to repent, but rather, as His declared opponents, are becoming increasingly murderous. They can be stopped by nothing. The Lord shows in the following parable how they consciously want to kill Him.

Verses 9-12

The Unrighteous Vine-Growers

The second topic in temple education is fruit bearing. The Lord tells a parable on this, not to the religious leaders, but to the people. He wants to warn them about the attitude of their leaders. The leaders also listen. Luke 20:19 shows that they know they are meant. It makes them angry instead of repenting.

The parable is about someone who plants a vineyard, rents it out to vine-growers and then goes on a journey for a long time. The vineyard is a picture of the people of Israel (Isaiah 5:1) who were expected to produce fruit for God. It is important to apply this history to ourselves as well because we are also expected to bear fruit (John 15:1-Deuteronomy :). The vine-growers are the responsible leaders in the people. The man, the owner, is God, Who has withdrawn into heaven.

The man has rented out the vineyard with a view to the fruits. He would like to receive the fruit of his vineyard. The fruit of the vineyard is joy, for wine is a picture of joy (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15). God wants His people to serve Him with joy and to come to Him with sacrifices of gratitude.

To receive the fruit, the owner sends a slave to the vine-growers. But the slave, a prophet who reminds the people of God’s right to fruit, is abused by the vine-growers and sent away empty-handed. If God sends us His Word through His servants to bring us to fruit bearing to give this fruit to Him, how do we react?

Sending another slave shows the patience of the owner. But also this slave is beaten and treated shamefully and then sent back empty-handed. When the owner sends the third slave, the vine-growers become very violent. The slave is not only beaten, but also wounded. Mercilessly he is thrown out of the vineyard. Away with it.

All these messengers of God are as many proofs of His love for and patience with His people. Although His prophets were so mistreated every time, God kept sending them (2 Chronicles 36:15-Nehemiah :). And yet that is not the end of God’s patience and His attempts to obtain fruit from His people. In this parable another step is taken, the last and most far-reaching step: the beloved Son is sent.

Verses 13-16

The Beloved Son Killed

The owner is looking for ways to persuade the vine-growers to give him his fruit. It is no longer so much about the fruit, but of the attitude of the vine-growers. It cannot be better tested than by sending his son. The owner may assume that they will in any case spare him.

From this attitude God finally sent His Son. He considered the chance present, which is indicated by the word “perhaps”, that they will not give him such treatment as they have given the slaves, but will respect him. Although God as the Omniscient knew what they would do with His Son, His assumption that they would respect His Son is perfectly justified. By the fact of sending His Son He places man under the responsibility to acknowledge His Son. He couldn’t have expected anything else, couldn’t he?

The purpose of the coming of the beloved Son is presented here and that is to receive fruit for His Father. The Father wishes to receive fruit through His Son from the hands of the vine-growers. That goal is still valid today. God still seeks the fruit of the lips (Hebrews 13:15). We may offer praise to God through the Son. It is even so, that the beloved Son Himself raises the song of praise and we can go along with that (Psalms 22:23). In connection with the temple, the area where the Lord is when He tells this parable, we can also think of the church as a temple, as a spiritual house, where we offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5).

When the Son comes, they also acknowledge Him as the Heir. At that same moment, their true nature comes fully to the surface. They reveal themselves as people who do not want to acknowledge God’s rights because they want to be lord and master themselves. What God has intended as the last possibility to obtain fruit from His people becomes the opportunity of revealing the incorrigible wickedness of man who consciously rejects God in His Son. The intent of vine-growers is followed by their deeds. The Son is thrown out of His vineyard and killed and shares in the fate of the prophets sent before Him (Luke 13:34).

The Lord asks the question what the Lord of the vineyard will do now. Isn’t enough is enough? Everything has been tried to bring the people to the producing of fruits. There has not only been shown unwillingness, but utter enmity and rebellion against the Lord of the vineyard, that is God. God’s grace is not endless. If every attempt to prove grace is answered with deadly hatred, God has nothing but to execute the judgment. The Lord pronounces judgment on the vine-growers. And not only that. He says that the vineyard will be given to others.

Luke 20:19 clearly states that the leaders understand that He has spoken this parable in view of them. Also their spontaneous reaction “may it never be!” makes that clear. They have followed the Lord’s story well and recognized themselves in it. When He speaks of “others”, they understand that these must be the Gentiles. That thought makes them furious. This is the expression of people who themselves despise grace and who begrudge it to others.

But how is our reaction? The thought can easily take hold that the church where we are is the only right one and that it will never depart from us. In pride we can hold on to what God must take from us precisely because of our pride. If we forget that grace is the power in which we may be a church and also experience that when we come together to bring God the fruit of our lips, we cease to be God’s church and to be witness.

Verses 17-19

The Rejected Stone Becomes a Cornerstone

On their reaction may it never be!” the Lord responds by telling them a word from the Scripture that they know well. Here He changes his metaphor. What at first was a vineyard now becomes a building (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9). This change of metaphor is no problem for the leaders. They know that it’s about the same things.

The Lord Jesus, like the stone, was rejected by the leaders, but God made Him the cornerstone of His building. He will realize that building in the church. The stone is a touchstone. For God and those who belong to Him, Christ is the cornerstone on which God’s building is unshakably fixed. He who falls upon him, he who stumbles over and rejects him (Romans 9:32) as the leaders do now, of that person nothing will remain. He will also fall on those who rejected Him and chose the antichrist. This will happen at His second coming when He falls as judgment from heaven (Daniel 2:34). On whomever He falls will be scattered like dust by Him.

After the Lord has said this, Luke describes the feelings of the scribes and chief priests. How much would these leaders have liked to have seized him now. They understand that the parable was about them. Instead of repenting now, their hatred and murderousness only increases. They are only withheld because they are afraid of the people. That they cannot lay hands on him yet is also because God’s time has not yet come.

Verses 20-26

Question About Paying Taxes to Caesar

The third topic of the Lord’s temple teaching is about the relationship to the government. We are not only members of the church, but also subject to worldly authorities (Romans 13:1).

The leaders do everything in their power to eliminate the Lord. Now that they have been silenced themselves, they are looking for new ways to obtain information that will give them the material to carry out their plan. They don’t risk having to suffer the defeat again. Blind and foolish as they are, they send spies toward Him as if they could deceive Him with them. What follies does a man indeed come to if he wants to accuse God!

The fact that these spies are also people of low quality is evident from the remark that they pretend to be righteous. Besides spying, they can also play very well. They are instructed to catch Him in some statement. It is about having something for which they can deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.

Hypocrites are good at dealing with flattering. They approach the Lord with the disingenuous pronounced title “Teacher”. Then they say flattering things about His speaking. They mean it as flattering and even say they “know” it, but inwardly they reject Him and have corrupt intentions. Yet they unintentionally give a wonderful testimony of His speaking and teaching. They themselves are luring him into the trap via a sneaky, crooked way, but at the same time they testify of Him that He speaks straightforwardly. They themselves seek the honor of men, but from Him they testify that He teaches the way of God in truth, without being partial to any against whom He stands.

Following on their flattery, they ask Him a trick question about paying taxes. They want to know from Him whether or not according to Him it is lawful for them to pay taxes to Caesar, or not. With this question they think they can catch Him. If He said ‘yes’, they could discredit Him among the people as one who accepts Roman rule and thus cannot be the Messiah. The Messiah would come after all to free them from the rulers and establish His kingdom. If he would say ‘no’, they could prosecute him with the Roman government as an insurgent and agitator.

Of course the Lord sees through their cunning. He knows their true intentions. The whole inner thinking of man has no secrets for Him, but is open and laid bare for Him (Hebrews 4:13). He will discover them to themselves and make them go away ashamed. He – Who Himself had no money! – commands them to show Him a denarius, a Roman payment currency. They take one from their purse, put it on their hand and show it to the Lord.

Then the Lord asks whose likeness and inscription it does have. Their answer is correct: “Caesar’s.” Both likeness and inscription on the money in circulation in Israel, the likeness and what is written on it, indicate that Israel is under strange dominion. This is the result of the people’s unfaithfulness to God (Nehemiah 9:34-Zephaniah :).

When the spies have given the correct answer, the Lord Jesus does not so much give an answer to their earlier question but a command. This command is twofold. On the one hand they have to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. This also applies to us (Romans 13:7). By using the money of the occupier, they acknowledge that a stranger rules over them. If they are honest, they know that this is so as punishment for their deviation from God. On the other hand, they have to render to God the things that are God’s. And God stands before them. In this way He places them in the light of God, which always happens to everyone who comes to Him.

It is also important to see that the Lord does not sacrifice one duty for another. They do. They set one duty against the other, but they do not fulfil either as it should be because they seek themselves and not the honor of God. The plans of these cunning people and those who had sent them are exposed, reversed, and directed against them.

If the answer gets through to them, they are amazed. They must have been clever people who have reviewed all kinds of plans and questions before they came up with their ultimate question. Spies are resourceful. The question they asked gave them, they were convinced, a guarantee that they could catch Him. How sobered they are now, completely knocked out by it The spies have not been able with their cunning approach to catch Him in a statement that would have made it possible for them to take Him out of favor with the people or deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.

Verses 27-33

Question About the Resurrection

The fourth topic in the temple teaching given by the Lord is about the resurrection and about life in the world of resurrection. The reason for this is the question of another group of opponents that presents itself, because satan has more accomplices. The Sadducees enlist in the battle to overthrow the Lord Jesus. These people are the rationalists. They only believe what they can reason with their intellect. That’s why they say that there is no resurrection (Acts 23:8), for there is no proof for it, they claim.

The Sadducees come to the Lord with an ordinance from Moses about the duty of a husband’s brother (Genesis 38:8; Deuteronomy 25:5). They do not doubt this ordinance, but in their unbelief they do signal a problem here when they think of the resurrection. That they present to Him as a trap.

To ridicule the resurrection, they present Him with the imaginary case of seven brothers who all marry the same woman one after the other to comply with the ordinance of Moses. They indicate that the first one marries, but dies after a short time, childless. According to the duty of a husband’s brother, the second of the seven brothers takes her, but he also dies after a short time, also childless. So it goes on until all seven brothers have had her and all have died childless. Finally, the woman dies.

Then they ask their question. We can imagine the hidden smile of someone who thinks that the other one has no solution. The question that the Sadducees ask is who of the seven she will be married to in the resurrection. She was the legal wife of all seven brothers. How should this be done in the resurrection? She can’t be married to all seven men at the same time there, can she? The law is clear about that too.

With this difficult, if not unanswerable question, they think they that the Lord is at a loss for words. With this example, they have cleverly demonstrated that the resurrection is nonsense. Satisfied they cross their arms and wait for His reaction. It comes faster than thought and overpowers them.

Verses 34-40

Teaching About the Resurrection

In His answer, the Lord first refers to the age in which they now find themselves as the age in which is married and given in marriage. It is part of life on earth, on this side of death. Then He speaks about the age and the area after death. The Spirit also speaks about this through Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. The Lord says here, and Paul through the Spirit there, that on the other side of death very different stipulations apply. It is the same body, but after the resurrection it is no longer material but spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:42-Acts :).

Those who attain to the resurrection are “those who are considered worthy”. These are the people on earth who have chosen Him and shared in His rejection. “That age” is the future age of the kingdom of peace, but then the heavenly side of it, where all those who have risen from the dead or changed at the coming of the Lord are to be found (1 Corinthians 15:51). The resurrection from the dead means a resurrection from between the dead, a resurrection in which others remain in the dead.

The dead who remain in death are the dead who are not considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection. They are “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5), by whom are meant those who died in unbelief. They only become alive after ‘that age’, that is after the millennial kingdom of peace, to appear and be judged before the great white throne (Revelation 20:11-2 Kings :).

In the resurrection, for those who are considered worthy to attain to it, the circumstances are completely different from those on earth. One of those changed circumstances is that there is no more marriage. Marriage is intended by God to populate the earth (Genesis 1:28) and since the Fall also to preserve the human race. In the resurrection, however, it is so that no one can die anymore. There is no decrease in the number of people who participate in it and therefore there is no need to provide for offspring through marriages. In this respect the believers are like angels.

However, they are much more than angels. They are sons of God, for they are sons of the resurrection. They have left death behind them and everything that goes with it and have been brought into connection to God as His sons.

God is the God of the resurrection. The Sadducees had appealed to Moses for their cunning questioning. The Lord now also points them to Moses, namely to a statement by Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:15-Nehemiah :). He uses this statement to make it clear that Moses also believed in the resurrection. This is evident from the fact that Moses calls the Lord, Who is the LORD, Yahweh, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”.

It is remarkable that Moses here calls God the God of each patriarch individually and not of them together, as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is in a personal relationship with each of them individually. The Lord says that Moses said this, while in Exodus 3 it says that God says it (Exodus 3:15). That is because Moses wrote it down and agreed to it.

Another important aspect of this quotation is that it shows that with death man does not cease to exist. The moment God makes this statement to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have long since died. But for God they are not dead, because for Him they are alive, they live in His presence.

The Sadducees assume that the relationship that forms between God and man in this life is only temporary. That is not the case. Because God is eternal, the relationships He forms with someone are also eternal. God has no connection with those who are dead, that is to say those who died in unbelief, but with those who died in the faith. For Him, all who have died in faith, live.

Some of the scribes find this a wonderful answer to their doctrinal enemies, the Sadducees. They compliment the Lord for it. They think he has spoken well by taking the Sadducees down. They are indeed silenced and remain silent, afraid to ask Him something else so as not to suffer another defeat. For the scribes, who laughs up their sleeve, the Lord in His turn has a question.

Verses 41-44

Question About the Son of David

The fifth topic of temple teaching concerns the place and glory of the Person of the Lord Jesus. To make this clear, he finally asks the scribes a question. They know the law so well, don’t they? It is clear from the law that the Christ is a Son of David. There is no doubt about that in any scribe, it is their firm conviction and pride. But, the Lord asks, how in fact is that possible? For “in the book of Psalms” it says that David calls Him Lord.

The Lord Jesus quotes the first verse of Psalm 110 for them (Psalms 110:1). It is the special verse from which the Old Testament shows the exaltation of the Messiah at God’s right hand in heaven after His death and resurrection, to which is also linked an “until”. It is a Messianic verse that refers to a period when He is in heaven, while the enemies on earth still have the upper hand over God’s people. That period comes to an end – indicated by the word “until” – when God will say that the Messiah may claim His right to the earth (Psalms 2:8). Then God will make His enemies a footstool for His feet. It is not that far yet. Only faith sees that He is glorified at God’s right hand after the people and especially the leaders have rejected Him as their Messiah.

Faith also sees that He, Who is the great Son of David, is also the Lord of David. Faith sees that the Lord Jesus can say with regard to David what He says with regard to Abraham, namely that He was already there before David was there (John 8:58).

Faith sees in Him the summary of all previous teaching:
1. The authority in the temple, the church, lies with the glorified Lord (Luke 20:1-Ruth :).
2. Through Him we go into the sanctuary to bring offerings to God (Luke 20:9-Psalms :).
3. All rulers on earth reign by the grace of God. They have derivative authority which we have to respect because it comes from God. We have also to bear in mind that the Lord Jesus is God (Luke 20:20-Ezekiel :).
4. Only in Him do we learn about the resurrection in its true meaning and what its glorious consequences are (Luke 20:27-Matthew :).

Unbelief is blind to all this. Therefore, there is no answer to the Lord’s question as to how it is possible that David calls Him Lord while He is His Son. The latter category of opponents is also silenced, but they do not subject themselves either.

Verses 45-47

Beware of the Scribes

After the Lord has silenced all His different adversaries with their different attacks, He turns to His disciples. All the people hear what He says to them. His words contain a warning especially for the last category of opponents, that of the scribes. They are corrupt people through and through. The disciples must beware of these people.

Those people like to walk in conspicuous clothes, so that they can be admired by everyone. They also love to be greeted exuberantly at the markets, so everyone can notice how important they are. In the enclosed spaces of the synagogues and the houses they like to take the first places, so that everyone can look up to them. How do they want their pride to be caressed!

With their very hypocritical, pious appearance, they are in reality devouring monsters. The defenseless widows are prey to their greed. While praying for the sake of appearances and giving the impression of how much they live with God, they think up evil in their hearts against their socially weak neighbor.

God stands up for the widows. He is their Judge (Psalms 68:5). He will severely punish these corrupt leaders for their sham piety, which they use as a covering for their rapacity. Their punishment will be heavier than that of those who have lived wickedly without hypocrisy.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 20". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/luke-20.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.