Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Luke 20



Christ voucheth his authority, by a question concerning John's baptism. The parable of the vineyard. Of giving tribute to Caesar. He confutes the Sadducees who denied the resurrection. How Christ is the son of David. He warneth his disciples to beware of the scribes.

Anno Domini 33.

Verses 3-8

Luke 20:3-8. And he answered, &c.— The great sanhedrim seems to have been established after the failure of prophesy; and concerning the members of this body the rabbies tell us there was a tradition, that they were bound to be skilled in the sciences. So far is certain, that they extended their jurisdiction to the judging of doctrines and opinions. (see on Matthew 21:23.) as appears by their deputation to Jesus, to know by what authority he did his works. We are not to suppose the answer of Christ to this deputation, to be a captious evasion of the question made by those whose authority he did not acknowledge; on the contrary, it was a direct reply to an acknowledged institution, (as Jesus was obedient to all the institutions of his country,) convincing them, that the question needed not any precise answer, even on the principles of that jurisdiction. They sent to him to know his authority: he asked them, whether they had yet determined of John's? They acknowledged that they had not. "Then, (replies Jesus) I need not tell you of my authority, since the sanhedrim's not having determined of John's, shews such a determination unnecessary: or, at least, since both by John's account and mine he is represented as the forerunner of my mission, it is fit to begin with his pretensions first." The address and reason of this reply are truly divine.

Verse 13

Luke 20:13. It may be they will Numberless predictions in the Old and New Testament, as well as the nature of Deity, plainly shew that the Divine Nature foresaw Christ's death as a certain event: this therefore like many others is merely an ornamental circumstance, which cannot, without absurdity, be applied in the interpretation of the parable. The reader will refer to Matthew 21:33; Matthew 21:46.

Verse 16

Luke 20:16. He shall come He will come.

Verse 20

Luke 20:20. Which should feign themselves just men, See the note on Matthew 22:16.

Verse 36

Luke 20:36. And are the children of God, &c.— Our Lord is here speaking of the resurrection of the just, who are called God's children, on account of the inheritance bestowed on them at the resurrection, and particularly on account of their being dignified with immortality, as well as for many other reasons. See Romans 8:17. Galatians 4:7. 1 John 3:2.

Verse 37

Luke 20:37. Moses shewed at the bush, Moses shewed, where he speaks of the Lord in the bush being the God of Abraham, &c.

Verse 38

Luke 20:38. For all live unto him. It is evident that γαρ, for, must here have the force of an illative particle, and may be rendered therefore, or so that; for what it introduces is plainly the main proposition to be proved, and not an argument for what immediately went before. In this connection the consequence is apparently just: for, as all the faithful saints of God are the children of Abraham, and the divine promise of being a God to him and his seed is entailed upon such, it would prove their continual existence and happiness in a future state, as much as Abraham's: and as the body as well as the soul makes an essential part of man, it will prove both his resurrection and theirs, and entirely overthrow the whole Sadducean doctrine on this head. See the note on Matthew 22:31; Matthew 22:46.

Verse 40

Luke 20:40. They durst not ask him It is plain that this is meant of the Sadducees, and must be understood as limited to them, because in Matthew 22:35 we read of a question which one of the Pharisaic scribes afterwards put to him.

Verse 44

Luke 20:44. David therefore calleth him Lord, &c.— This implies both the existence of David in a future state, and the authority of the Messiah over that invisible world, into which this prince was removed by death. Else, how great a monarch soever the Messiah might have been, he could not have been properly called David's Lord, any more than Julius Caesar could have been called the Lord of Romulus, because he reigned in Rome 700 years after his death, and vastly extended the bounds of that empire which Romulus founded. See on Matthew 22:42; Matthew 22:46.

Inferences drawn from the parable of the vineyard and husbandmen. Luke 20:9-18. When we read the parable before us, and consider it as levelled at the Jews, we applaud the righteous judgment of God, in revenging so severely upon them the quarrel of his covenant, and the Blood of his Son. But let us take heed to ourselves, lest we also fall, after the same example of unbelief.

We learn from this parable,—and what part of the blessed scripture, nay, what part of universal nature does not bear witness to the same delightful truth?—that our God is a God of love, of forbearance, and long-suffering kindness; like a father pitying his own children; like a benevolent master willing and wishing the welfare of all his servants. Had any tenants of ours used the messengers whom we sent, as these husbandmen used the messengers of our God, which of us would not have been moved in such a case? Which of us would have proceeded to such lengths of loving-kindness, as to send our only and beloved son to reclaim and bring them to a better mind? Alas! a very small indignity presently swells us with angry resentments,—poor, imperfect, sinful mortals! and were our God like us, extreme to mark what is done amiss, who of us could stand one moment before him? But St. John tells us, that he is Love; not merely Loving, but perfect Love itself—an unbiassed Will to benevolence and the happiness of his creatures.

Nothing can magnify his love so much, (would to God we were so wise as duly to consider it!) as the sending his only beloved Son, in the likeness of our sinful flesh, to live and die afflicted and despised: we do not enough contemplate this astonishing instance of the divine philanthropy. We should doubtless be very sensibly affected, were but any thing of the like nature with this parable to happen in our sight,—even though a father should send a son solely for his own interest; and yet we are but too insensible as to that which faith teaches us, concerning the only Son of God, sent into the world and infinitely humbled, purely for our salvation. This ought to convince us, that our faith is in general very weak, and that our salvation is but little regarded by us: would we increase the one, and be happy in a greater anxiety for the other, we can fix our thoughts on nothing so likely to attain that end, as the great object of divine love, the Son sent into the world, and thus humbled for our salvation.

Which of our hearts feels not a just indignation against these wicked husbandmen, who, after their Lord had favoured them with so choice a vineyard, yet ungratefully refused him the fruits; and not only so, but abused and killed his servants, and, adding iniquity to iniquity, at length rose up against the son and heir himself, slew him, and cast him out of the vineyard?—Let us ask our own hearts, could any of us have acted thus basely, thus cruelly? or, to speak of the facts which this parable presents, could any of us have had a hand in shedding the innocent blood of the prophets? or have joined the horrid cry at Jerusalem, Crucify him! crucify him!—his blood be upon us and our children!—I doubt not, but every reader shudders at the thought, and trembles even at the most distant apprehension of being an accessary in such atrocious deeds.

Take we heed, therefore, that, while we condemn the Jews, we condemn not ourselves. The vineyard is now with us; the church of Christ is taken from the Jews, and planted among us; fruits are required of us; the only acceptable fruits of repentance, faith, and living works. The sacred scriptures are as the messengers demanding them; and the ministers unfolding these scriptures, are as the servants of God sent to receive the fruits in their season. If we despise and reject those scriptures, disregard their holy instructions, and the rule of faith and life which they propose; if we neglect to hear the ministers of our God, the servants of the heavenly King, demanding fruit in their Master's name, and throw contempt upon the Son by evil lives,—then, like these husbandmen, do we prove ungrateful to our Supreme Benefactor, and shall be esteemed in his sight but as those wicked tenants who withheld the fruits, abused the servants, and murdered the heir. See Hebrews 10:29-31.

Awed by the dread of these things, may we unite our utmost efforts through divine grace to bring forth unto God the fruits of his holy love; and in obedience to his commands, do honour to his Son, and strictly conform to all the holy and pure precepts of his divine gospel. This is the only way to secure our souls from that eternal destruction, which will certainly fall on the ungrateful and obstinate sinner, as was figured out by the destruction of the Jews: and this is the only way, as to secure our personal happiness, so also to secure the happiness of the state, and to discharge our duty, not only to ourselves, but to our country, on which inevitable ruin must indisputably fall, if the servants of the Lord of heaven, his messengers, and his word, be reviled, despised, and scorned; if his Son himself be mocked, cast out, and crucified afresh.

And all wilful sins are so many murders of Jesus Christ. It seems as if sinners had conspired to kill him by innumerable deaths: the Jews killed him while he was mortal, in respect to his human nature; wicked Christians crucify him afresh, now that he is become immortal and all-glorious. Wicked Christians kill and cast him out of the vineyard, when they cast him out of their hearts, or deny him an entrance into them. How many hearts are guilty of this murder in the sight of God! And if so great destruction overwhelmed the Jewish state and nation for that one crime, what may we imagine will overwhelm those persons, and that place, who live in a continual act of murdering of their Saviour, by living in continual sin! May the gracious Father of mercy give us all a due sense of this important truth; and may we, who profess his faith and love, increase in our zeal towards him, as we find the presumption of sinners increase! May we, by their negligence, be stirred up to more watchfulness; by their contempt of the things of God, be more filled with thankfulness with regard to them; and by their reviling be animated to more fervent prayers; that ere it be too late, they may know and pursue the things, which belong to their everlasting peace!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, While Jesus was engaged in the blessed work of preaching to the people the glad tidings of salvation, the chief priests, scribes, and elders came upon him, to interrupt him in these labours of love. Note; We may not wonder, if in the service of the gospel we meet with many interruptions from the great enemy of souls, and his emissaries.

They demanded his authority for what he said and did; insinuating, that as it belonged to them to judge of the pretensions of those who assumed the prophetical character, unless he produced his commission, they must proceed against him as a deceiver. He answers their question by another, respecting the baptism of John; but they not choosing to answer for fear of the people, and unwilling to own the divine mission of the Baptist, pretended ignorance, and gave him a just reason to refuse them a farther account of himself, seeing they had already rejected the plainest evidence. Note; It is but lost labour to endeavour to persuade those, who are before resolved not to be convinced.

2nd, The parable contained in Luke 20:9-18 is designed for a warning to the priests and rulers, of the ruin coming upon them and their nation, for their persecutions of the messengers of God, and their rejection of the Messiah.

1. The vineyard was the Jewish people, who had been taken under God's peculiar care; and he having instituted a magistracy and ministry among them, expected suitable returns of love and duty from them; but instead of that, they treated with the greater cruelty those divinely-appointed messengers, whom he sent to remind them of his just expectations, and now were about to murder the Son, who was come on the same errand; the consequence of which would be, the ruin of the nation, and the eternal destruction of these miscreants. Note; (1.) The best of men have often met with the cruellest usage from those, whose good alone was the object of their labours. (2.) The end of obstinate transgressors is to be rooted out at the last.

2. Struck with the denunciation of vengeance, they could not but deprecate the wrath threatened, and express their abhorrence of such a crime as the murder of the Messiah; but Christ with deepest concern beheld them, assured of their determined obstinacy, and approaching ruin.—Though their efforts would all be fruitless; for that stone which these Jewish builders rejected, would, notwithstanding, become the head of the corner. This Jesus, whom they despised, would be exalted to the right hand of Majesty on high, and invested with all power and authority in heaven and in earth; and his enemies, who were offended at him, and on whom his vengeance would light, must terribly perish.

3. The chief priests plainly perceived the design of the parable, and rage boiled in their bosoms. They would gladly have seized and murdered him on the spot, but were deterred through fear of the people, and forced reluctantly to defer their bloody purpose to a more convenient opportunity. So little effect have the fairer warnings upon those who harden their hearts against conviction.

3rdly, Resolved, if possible, to destroy him, and not having the power in their own hands, they determined to try if they could not ensnare him, and render him obnoxious to the Roman government, as a seditious person; for which purpose we have,

1. The insidious question proposed to him by certain of the Pharisees and Herodians, who, under the guise of conscientious regard to their duty, pretended a great concern to know whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, and thereby acknowledge themselves the subjects of a foreign power. They suggest their fullest confidence in the rectitude of his decisions, their opinion of his integrity, unawed by the fear of men, and their confidence in that divine commission under which he acted; and thus they endeavoured to flatter him into an unguarded freedom, which either must embroil him with the civil powers, or render him odious to the people. Note; (1.) The garb of piety has often served to cover the vilest designs. We need be on our guard against some who feign themselves just men, and not credulously trust to every specious professor. To be wise as serpents is our duty, as well as to be harmless as doves. (2.) It has been the common artifice of persecutors, to endeavour to represent the faithful as enemies to the state, and thus to gain the civil powers to oppress them.

2. His answer confounds and silences his enemies. He perceived their craftiness; for from him nothing is hid, nothing is secret; and out of their own mouth draws a decision of the question, to which they cannot object. As they own that their money bore Caesar's image and superscription, he had certainly a right to his own; though this interfered not with God's demands, to whose worship and service their hearts and lives must be devoted. Unable to object, in sullen silence they held their peace, marvelling at his wisdom, yet obstinate in their infidelity.

4thly, The confutation of the Sadducean objection to the resurrection of the dead, was considered before, Matthew 22:23; Matthew 22:46. Mark 12:18; Mark 12:44. But our Lord here enlarges a little concerning that awful state which after death succeeds. The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: necessary it is that the world should thus be supplied with inhabitants, and the ravages of death be repaired by the rising generation: but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, have higher joys than the marriage-state can afford, and need not to increase, where death is swallowed up in victory. They are said to be accounted worthy, not that in and of ourselves we have any merit; our worthiness consists in being found in Christ, justified by his blood, and sanctified by his Spirit. In that unseen world to which the blessed go, [1.] They neither marry, nor are given in marriage; their holiness and happiness are complete without it: the delights of sense are swallowed up in the infinitely surpassing ecstacies of the soul. [2.] Neither can they die any more: that world needs not to be replenished with new inhabitants, where life eternal reigns, and death never enters, [3.] They are equal to the angels; partaking in their service, enjoying the same bliss; glorious and immortal as those seraphic spirits. [4.] They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection; they are instated in full possession of the purchased inheritance.

5thly, The scribes, the established expositors of the law, expressed their high approbation of his answer to their Sadducean opponents, whom our Lord had entirely silenced. But though they had done with him, Christ has not done with them.

1. He proposes to them a question, which seemed of easy solution, but which quite disconcerted them for an answer. Ignorant of the mystery of the person of the Messiah, in whom the divine and human natures were united, they could not account how David's Son should be David's Lord. To us this mystery is unfolded: we behold God and man in one Christ.

2. He condemns the hypocrisy and covetousness of the scribes, and cautions his disciples against them. They made a vast parade of profession, and with flowing robes in solemn stateliness as they passed, expected homage, as due to their superiority; delighted in hearing the incense offered to their vanity; proudly affected precedency; and while by their long prayers they insinuated themselves into the confidence of widows, they basely and wickedly abused the trust reposed in them, and devoured their substance. These shall receive greater damnation: wickedness committed under such a veil of piety, brings the most aggravated guilt on the conscience, and must be attended with the most terrible vengeance of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 20". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.