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And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,
The Chief Priests and the Scribes demand of CHRIST his Authority for his Ministry. The LORD puts them to silence. He adds a Parable. In answer to a Sadducee, Jesus discourseth on the Resurrection.
And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders, And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
As we are now drawing nigh the solemn scenes of CHRIST'S sufferings and death, the Evangelist relates to the Church the increasing opposition made by the sworn foes to CHRIST, against his person and doctrine. This chapter opens with telling us, that now the chief priests and scribes, with the elders, came upon him 1 in a collected body, to attack. him. Hitherto they had smothered their base designs under cover, as if they would question him for information; but now their plan for his destruction is nearly ripened, they throw off all courtesy, and imperatively demand his authority, both for his miracles and doctrines. Reader! do not overlook the folly as well as the wickedness of the question. Miracles spake for themselves. None but GOD could do the work which JESUS did. So Nicodemus wisely judged. John 3:2 . And every man of common sense must judge the same.
And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
I should not detain the Reader over these verses, for they are too plain to need a comment, were it not that I wish to remark to him, how very suited the LORD'S answer was to the menacing question of those designing men. How graciously the LORD teacheth his people by his lovely example, to avoid the captious conduct of the ungodly. Men of the same principles as those Scribes and their companions, are in every generation. And as they are all alike enemies to the pure truths of the Gospel, the faithful cannot be too earnest in seeking grace, to avoid all unnecessary conversation, which minister questions rather than godly edifying. 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 1:4 .
Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
This parable of the LORD JESUS, though addressed to the people, the Chief Priests and Scribes perfectly well understood was meant for them. They were the husbandmen our LORD had in view, among whom the Church of GOD, as a beautiful vineyard had been long planted, even from the days when the Church was brought out of Egypt; but in vain, from them as a nation had fruit been sought for. Reader! do not from hence, however, suppose that the real Church of the LORD was unproductive to GOD'S glory, during all this period. For even in the worst of times, when the prophet Elijah thought himself alone, as the servant of the LORD; there were seven thousand in Israel, which grace had reserved from the general corruptions 1 Kings 19:14-18 . And in all ages as Isaiah remarked in his days, and Paul in his, there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Isaiah 10:22 ; Romans 11:5 . But JESUS is here describing under the similitude of a Parable, the professing church of Israel, nationally considered, of which those Priests and Scribes were the supposed husbandmen under GOD the rightful owner. And in this sense what a pointed parable it was! And how justly true, in the destruction of the many faithful servants of the LORD, which in the several ages had been sent to them. And though the great and concluding instance of the whole, in the killing the Son was not in the moment CHRIST was then speaking, actually accomplished, yet intentionally it was done, and that by some of the very persons, in whose hearing JESUS delivered the parable. CHRIST had the whole process in view, which he knew would soon be accomplished; and therefore prophetically describes the thing as really fulfilled. I beg the Reader to remark, what an effect for the moment, the relation had upon their guilty minds. For when JESUS said, the Lord of the vineyard will come and destroy those husbandmen, and give his vineyard to others, they cried out under the impression of indignation against themselves, GOD forbid! Yes! Reader, there are moments in the lives of the ungodly, in which conscience will do her office, and compel the sinner to give sentence against himself. And I beg the Reader yet further to remark, how very sweetly JESUS is described as beholding them, and calling their attention to a well known scripture in confirmation of what he had said. Psalms 118:22 . By which the LORD led them again to their studies, for their further conviction of the truth. Oh! what aggravated condemnation to men, that with the word of GOD in their hands, are enemies to GOD'S CHRIST in their hearts! Our LORD's observation respecting himself as a stone, in men's falling upon it and being broken, or the stone falling upon them and grinding them to powder, is very striking. To fall upon CHRIST, is when JESUS becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, 1 Peter 2:8 . When the carnal heart takes offence at CHRIST and his salvation, in setting up their own righteousness in w hole or in part, this is to fall on CHRIST, and not to build upon CHRIST. And very awful is the condition of both, in rejecting the LORD of Life and Glory. Precious LORD JESUS! I would say, be it my portion that blessedness, thou hast pronounced to him, who is not offended in thee! Matthew 11:6 .
And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.
I beg the Reader to observe the eagerness with which those awful characters followed up their pursuit in hunting after the life of JESUS. The Evangelist saith, that it was the same hour. Like the malice of the men, which in after days sought to destroy Paul, who vowed neither to eat or drink, till they had killed him. Acts 23:12 . But let not the Reader overlook in every minute circumstance which attended the death of the LORD JESUS, the hand of JEHOVAH in all. This is a grand part in the whole transaction. Isaiah 53:10 ; John 19:10-11 ; Acts 4:27-28; Acts 4:27-28 . The attempt of those men in the instance here mentioned, was with a view to bring an accusation against him to the Roman government. The nation of the Jews at that time, was under bondage to this power. And the whole body of the people were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, to deliver them from it. Nothing therefore could exceed the art of those men. They therefore now send spies, which should address JESUS very courteously. Rabbi! (say they,) we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of GOD in truth. Thus in flattering words, they covered over their evil design. Either way, by CHRIST'S answer, they made sure to entangle him. For if he confessed the authority of the Roman government, they concluded he would lose his popularity among those who considered him as the Messiah. And if he denied the Roman power of tribute, they would have hurried him away to Pontius Pilate the governor. Precious JESUS! how truly wert thou all along manifested to be the hind of the morning, when, according to thine own language, many bulls compassed thee, and strong bulls of Basham beset thee round! Psalms 22:0 title, and Psalms 22:12 .
Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.
The error of the Sadducees being founded in the first principles of doctrine, that, with the termination of the present state, man falleth into his original nothing, could not but bring after it, like so many links in the chain, error in all the after consequences. Their views being wholly carnal, they considered that CHRIST would be greatly puzzled on the supposition of a resurrection; how a woman, which in this life had been the wife of seven men, could be disposed of in another. This childish notion, however, hath not been confined to the age of the Sadducecs, for some calling themselves Rational Christians, have in their light philosophical moments ventured to call in question doctrines of an higher nature; respecting the resurrection of CHRIST from the dead, and his return to heaven the same identical body as he lived on earth. But what is there the human mind, untaught of GOD, is not capable of setting up in opposition to the revealed truths of the Gospel? But leaving men of such principles, as well as the Sadducees of old; I beg the Reader to observe with me, how sweetly the LORD JESUS took occasion from their ignorance, to raise a subject of the highest improvement to all his people. For what can be more blessed than CHRIST's own declaration, that the children of GOD, namely, the redeemed in the covenant, are the children of the resurrection. For by virtue of their union with CHRIST, they are included in all that is communicable from CHRIST: He, the head, and they the members, of his body. Hence their resurrection is not the simple effect of sovereign and Almighty power, for thus all the dead shall arise; but the children of the resurrection being children of GOD in covenant, will arise from their oneness and union with CHRIST. To this purport speaks GOD the HOLY GHOST by the Apostle. Romans 8:11 . If the Spirit of him that raised up JESUS from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up CHRIST from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. CHRIST is the efficient cause. His blessed Spirit secures the resurrection of. their bodies. He saith himself by the spirit of prophecy, when the LORD is promising the Mediator this covenant blessing: Thy dead men, saith GOD, shall live together (saith He) with my dead body shall they arise. Isaiah 26:19 . So that it is from the union with the LORD, as the members with the head the resurrection of his people is effected. Thy dew (saith he) is as the dew of herbs, which after a winter-like death, gives a warmth like the dew of the morning, and the earth will give up CHRIST's dead ones. And as it was the Spirit of CHRIST which first quickened the souls of his redeemed from the death of sin, so is it the same Spirit, from their union with him, which reanimates their bodies at the resurrection. Oh! the preciousness of a oneness with CHRIST! Reader what a miserable hope is the doctrine of the Sadducees, and the philosophical creed of the rational Christian, as he affects to call himself, compared to this!
And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David's son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son? Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
Our LORD, having now forever driven from the field of disputation, the whole body of Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, takes occasion to lead to a subject highly interesting, that he might not only instruct his Church in that great doctrine of his double nature, GOD and Man, in One Person, but at the same time, pass his farewell sentence of condemnation upon the Scribes of that day, and the Pharisees, and self-righteous of every day in all future generations; JESUS therefore puts forth a question respecting the relationship between David king of Israel and the Messiah, which was foretold as David's son after the flesh. He takes for granted, that none among them had any question, as to the coming of CHRIST; but he questions, if they knew in what sense it was that he was David's son. They were struck dumb at the question; and from not being taught of GOD, were unable to answer it. But, Reader! how truly blessed is our privilege, when taught of GOD, You and I perfectly know, and are assured, from that infallible teacher, that CHRIST is both the root and the offspring of David. For as GOD, One with the FATHER over all GOD blessed forever; he is, and must be GOD: David's root, and the maker of all things. And as man he is the offspring, which as a branch, was promised to grow out of his roots: Isaiah 11:1 . Precious Jesus! hadst thou not been both, what would have become of me? LORD I hail thee, as the LORD my righteousness! Reader! do not hastily turn away from the solemn sentence CHRIST pronounceth on the Scribes of old. Awful as the case of all sinners must he, who live and die in their sins; yet of all the tremendous judgments pronounced on the Christless, you see, by CHRIST'S own words, the greater damnation will be on those who from self-righteousness, lessen in their esteem the infinitely precious value of CHRIST'S blood and salvation; as if the necessity of CHRIST'S sufferings were not so highly needed to recommend them to GOD! Isaiah 65:5 .
Reader! observe in the opening of this chapter, with what determined hatred the Chief Priests, and Scribes, and Elders, came upon CHRIST! What had JESUS done? He had preached the Gospel to the poor; and had gone about healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And was this the cause of all their hatred and malignity? Yes! truly; and cause enough, to Satan and his seed. Look into the world now. Is the offence of the cross ceased? Oh no! Let any of CHRIST'S servants in the present hour preach the Gospel the master preached; and hold forth salvation alone in his name, throwing to the ground all goodness and righteousness of men, and declaring, that CHRIST'S blood and merits are the sole cause of acceptance before GOD, and the same effects will follow. The whole body of modern Pharisees will rise up, and like the hornet's nest will buzz about to sting if they can.
What an awful, but just parable, hath JESUS here delivered of the vineyard and the husbandmen. The very enemies of CHRIST were compelled to acknowledge the application of it. How truly awful it is to behold a professing Church wholly destitute of godliness. Husbandmen like foxes of the desert, destroying, but not cultivating, the LORD'S vineyard!
Reader! The HOLY GHOST hath not recorded the events in this chapter for nothing. Let you and I learn, both from Pharisee, and Sadducee, to discover the melancholy state of a mind unenlightened by grace; and if so be, the LORD is our teacher, to bless GOD that we are the children of' the resurrection. Blessed LORD! do thou reveal thyself in a covenant way, as the GOD of Abraham, and the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob, to my soul; and then shall I live unto thee, and live in thee, and derive all life from thee, forever and ever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Luke 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany