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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
Luke 20

 

 

Verse 1-2

The Authority of Jesus.

The challenge of the Jewish leaders:

v. 1. 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,

v. 2. and spake unto Him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest Thou these things, or who is he that gave Thee this authority?

On one of those days, the last days before the great Passion, on Tuesday of Holy Week. See Luk_21:23-27; Mar_11:27-33. Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple after His custom, the content of His preaching being summarized by Luke as preaching the Gospel, the good news of salvation. To the very last Christ's great concern was for the eternal welfare of the people entrusted to His ministry, and there was no greater benefit that He could give them than that of the message of redemption, the sweet and comforting proclamation of the forgiveness of all their sins through His labor of love. But Jesus was disturbed in this occupation by the leaders of the Jews. They came upon Him, stood over against Him. It is not so much the suddenness of the coming as the deliberateness and solemnity of their appearance that is brought out by the word. It denotes the official character of their coming, for they came, chief priests, scribes, elders, either authorized representatives of the great Jewish council, or the Sanhedrin in a body. They wanted Jesus to be impressed at once with the importance of their embassy. They demanded an explanation from the Lord, for He acted with such definite authority and power, in the matter of cleansing the Temple as well as in His preaching in the Temple, that they bristled with resentment. They wanted to know who it was that had given Him such power. It was in no way a humble request for truth, otherwise they would have been remarkably dense. With all the great miracles happening before their eyes and with the overwhelming power of the preaching of Christ as evidence before them, they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that His authority was divine. But they had hardened their own hearts, and they now challenged Him before the people, to hurt His prestige, if possible.


Verses 3-8

The answer of Jesus:

v. 3. And He answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer Me:

v. 4. The baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men?

v. 5. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, He will say, Why, then, believed ye him not?

v. 6. But and if we say, Of men, all the people will stone us; for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.

v. 7 And they answered that they could not tell whence it was.

v. 8. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

The challenge of the Jews Jesus answered with a counter question, which incidentally contained the answer they demanded. For His question implied that He personally knew John's ministry to have been a divine commission. And if the Jews would concede so much to be true, they would admit also the authority of Jesus, for John had expressly testified concerning the Prophet of Galilee. The question of the Lord was therefore a poser for the members of the Sanhedrin, since Jesus made their answer the condition of His own answering. They well knew that to this question, whether the baptism of John had been done by divine authority and commission, there were only two answers possible, yes or no, from heaven or of men. They therefore conferred very earnestly among themselves in order to find some way out of the dilemma, either alternative being exceedingly distasteful to them. If they should say: From heaven, they would thereby invite the just censure of Christ on account of their refusal to believe. Should they say, on the other hand, that John had no divine commission, but acted solely on his own authority, they would incur the hatred of the people, who would probably stone them without the slightest compunction. For the people at large had the firm persuasion that John was a prophet, and would therefore have meted out quick justice upon any blasphemous denier of this truth. And so the wise leaders of the people had to acknowledge themselves outwitted and unable to answer; whereupon Jesus informed them that His answer would also be deferred. They had actually received both answer and refutation, and well they felt it. They had to admit to their own hearts: If even the baptism and ministry of John was from heaven, then Christ, whose miracles and preaching both proclaimed Him a greater than John, would have still greater authority to act as He did in the world. Note: It appears from this story how despicable, even from the standpoint of mere morality, unbelief must acknowledge itself to be. The unbelievers cannot deny the power of the truth, and yet refuse to bow to the truth. And so they try to avert disaster by making use of lies, subterfuges, and excuses. If a Christian is firmly grounded in the truth of the Scriptures, it will not even be necessary for him to know all the arguments of the opponents in advance. By simply marshaling facts of Scripture and calmly standing on the infallibility of the Bible, he can confound, even if he cannot convince, the gainsayers.


Verses 9-12

The parable of the wicked husbandmen:

v. 9. 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.

v. 10. 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.

v. 11. And again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.

v. 12. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also, and cast him out.

Luke gives the beginning of this parable in a very brief form, omitting the detailed account of the planting of the vineyard. See Mat_21:33-46; Mar_12:1-12. Jesus told this parable to the people, but in the presence of at least some of the Jewish leaders. They all would understand the reference to the vineyard, since a very similar description is found Isa_5:1-7. The owner, having made all the necessary arrangements, gave his vineyard into the charge of certain vine-dressers, and himself went on a long journey, to be away for a long time. At the proper time, however, at the season of fruit each year, he sent servants to the husbandmen, to whom the latter should give that part of the fruit or of its proceeds which belonged to the owner. But the wicked vine-dressers had determined, if possible, to get the vineyard into their own possession, to do therewith what they pleased; and they carried out their intention of discouraging the owner in their own way. Just as regularly as the master sent servants, so regularly did they heap indignities upon them. The first one they beat, literally, gave him a sound thrashing; the second one they not only beat, but they also treated him in a shameful manner, putting him up to disgrace before all the people; the third one they wounded severely, and then cast him out of the vineyard. It was a picture of such utter wickedness that the Lord drew that it stood before the eyes of all the hearers with great vividness and distinctness. And in every case the wicked husbandmen sent the servant away empty.


Verses 13-18

The climax of the story and its application:

v. 13. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will relevance him when they see him.

v. 14. 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.

v. 15. So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?

v. 16. He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid!

v. 17. 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?

v. 18. Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

The patience of the master of the vineyard is brought out with remarkable power. He deliberates upon the situation with himself, finally concluding to send his only, his beloved son. Surely the vine-dressers would not be so lacking in all qualities of decency and honorable dealing as to show disrespect and relevance for the son of the owner, whose authority stood second to that of his father: I should think that without doubt they will relevance him. But his kindness had not reckoned with the utter depravity of the wicked husbandmen. For, seeing the son coming, the renters immediately held a consultation, with the result that they determined to kill the heir and to put themselves into possession of the property. And, acting upon this heinous plan, they took the son, cast him out of the vineyard, and put him to death.

The explanation of the parable must have been evident to the leaders of the Jews at once. The owner of the vineyard is God. The vineyard, as Isaiah says in his song, is the kingdom of God, which He had planted in the midst of His people, the children of Israel. God had made Israel His people by the covenant of Mount Sinai. And His people had lacked nothing under His fatherly care. He had planted the hedge of His Law around them, He had given them the tower of the kingdom of David, and the wine of the Word of God flowed in streams of unchanging richness. But the great benefits which God showered upon His people were not repaid by them in kind. The vinedressers are the individual members of the Jewish congregation, especially the leaders of the nation. When God sent them His servants, the prophets, expecting from them the fruit, the obedience they owed Him, these servants were treated with contempt and every form of hatred. They were despised, derided, mistreated and even put to death, 2Ki_17:13-14; 2Ch_36:15-16. Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, the son of Jehoiadah, and others were obliged to feel the murderous hatred of the Jews, Heb_11:36; Act_7:52. When all other means had failed, God sent His only-begotten Son. But against Him their enmity rose to heights hitherto untouched. They held councils against Him to kill Him. They did not want Him to rule over their nation as the King of grace and mercy. The Jewish leaders wanted to rule the people in their own selfish way, for their own sinful gain. And so the murder of Christ was the climax of their wickedness.

Instead of ending the parable in the usual narrative style, Jesus, for the sake of emphasis, put the direct question to His hearers as to what the owner of the vineyard would do to those wicked vine-dressers. And He answered Himself, saying that he would come and destroy those husbandmen, and give the vineyard to others. This answer was echoed by some of the bystanders, though the chief priests and scribes felt that the parable was spoken for them. Some of them, therefore, called out in apparent horror: Let it not be done! Since the Jews rejected Christ and His Gospel, the Lord carried out His judgment against them by taking from them the proclamation of His love and giving it to the heathen, many of whom heeded His call and brought forth fruits meet for the kingdom of God. Undisturbed by their shocked objection, therefore, Jesus fixed His eyes upon the Jews and reminded them of the words of the prophet, in the very Hallel Psalm which they sang with so much show of sincerity on their great festivals, Psa_118:22. The chosen people rejected the Chosen Stone, and were. therefore rejected by God. Christ is the Corner-stone of His Church, Eph_2:20. By faith in His atonement there is salvation for both Jew and Gentile. But everyone that rejects the salvation through His blood must take the bitter consequences which he thus brings upon himself. It is a peculiar, a paradox judgment that falls upon the opponents of the Gospel. Foolish, mentally deranged, and spiritually blind people they are that want to run their heads, with the product of man's wisdom, against the rock of the eternal Wisdom of God. Instead of making so much as a dent in the Rock of Ages, they find themselves staggering back with badly battered heads. And their rejection, in turn, reacts upon them, for the Stone falls on them with crushing judicial effect. They have their sentence of condemnation even here in time. And they will find out, in a dreadful eternity, what it means to reject the mercy of God. These solemn words of warning may well be brought to the attention of many people in our days that think the world has outgrown the old Gospel of salvation through the redemption of the blood of Jesus.


Verses 19-22

The Pharisees and Sadducees Confuted.

The question of the Pharisees:

v. 19. 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.

v. 20. 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.

v. 21. 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.

v. 22. Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?

So embittered were the scribes and the chief priests on account of the merciless frankness of Jesus that they sought to lay violent hands upon Him in that very hour. But their fear of the people caused them to take such a step under advisement. Though they fairly ached to vent their anger upon Jesus, since they understood that the parable had been spoken against them, yet they deemed it expedient not to try extreme measures. The people at the time of Jesus, not having received the proper instruction in the Word of God, were about as fickle as the majority of the people today that live without God in the world and are driven hither and thither by every wind of doctrine, no matter from which side it is presented. But they had to do something to have an outlet for their feelings, and so they employed watchers and sent them to observe every move the Lord made and every word He spoke. The instructions of these spies were simple. They were to simulate great piety and righteousness, surely not a difficult matter for the sanctimonious hypocrites, all for the purpose of laying hold of some word of His, which might be construed in His disfavor. In that event the Jewish leaders wanted to deliver Him to the rule and authority of the Roman governor. To strike once and for always, under the semblance of honesty, in the pose of men that were sincerely anxious to know and do, their duty, that was the program of the Jewish leaders. Their ingenuousness in the entire matter seems pitiful when the omniscience of Christ is taken into account. But they earnestly try to insinuate themselves into His favor by words of honeyed flattery. There are three points which they hold up before Him in order that He may not recognize their true selves under the mask. They flattered Him that He had sound judgment, that He always said the right thing at the right time; they praised His impartiality, that it made no difference to Him whom the sentence would strike, so long as the truth prevailed; they gave due deference to His sincerity, that He always said just what He thought. All of which, in their mouths, was the basest and most hideous flattery. But what made the matter almost ghastly was the fact that every word they uttered was true, in the full sense of the word. If only they had come to Him with sincerity in their heart and with openness of mind, then He would have been but too glad to lead their steps on the right way for their soul's salvation. Their question was in the nature of an alternative, whether it was the right, the proper, the obligatory thing to pay tribute, the imperial tax to the Roman emperor, or not. Whether the answer of Jesus proved to be positive or negative, the Pharisees hoped to gain the upper hand. For should He, in the presence of such notorious opponents of the Roman government, declare Himself against the payment of the tax, then they could accuse Him before the governor. But should He declare Himself in favor of paying the tax, then they could fasten the suspicion upon Him, as though He were not the true friend of the people, but an abettor of the Roman tyranny.


Verses 23-26

The answer of Jesus:

v. 23. But He perceived their craftiness and said unto them, Why tempt ye Me?

v. 24. Show Me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's.

v. 25. And He said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.

v. 26. And they could not take hold of His words before the people; and they marveled at His answer, and held their peace.

Jesus, the omniscient Son of God, noticed their craft, their sly cunning, even before they started to make their request. And He is not wanting in the frankness which they have just praised in telling them what He thought of them. He plainly told them that He knew their thoughts in trying to tempt Him. He then asked for a denarius, the coin in which the imperial tax was usually paid (value, about 17 cents). Then He demanded information as to the picture and the inscription stamped upon the coin. Note: Instead of explaining to them at once what He told them afterwards, He made them give the information, making it appear that they had led Him to the conclusion, in order to confound them and win the people. Since the coin bore the emperor's picture, it presented irrefutable evidence that the emperor was the ruler of the land, for the coins of a strange country are not legal tender in the homeland. And so the conclusion of Jesus seemed the only one that was justified under the circumstances, to give the things of Caesar to Caesar and the things of God to God. That is what God demands. The people of God, the Christians, will, above all, give due honor and obedience to God. In matters which pertain to God, the Word of God, Christian worship, faith, and conscience, they are obedient only to God, and reject all interference of men. But in temporal things, in matters which concern this world only, such as money, goods, life, Christians are obedient to the government of the country in which they are living. The State is not to interfere in the matters of the Church, and the Church is not to meddle in the business and affairs of the State. This answer of Jesus, while it satisfied the people, completely baffled the questioners. They could find no point at which they might take hold of, and attack, the Lord. At the same time, they could not repress a grudging, reluctant admiration for the clear distinction made by the Lord, and so they quietly withdrew.


Verses 27-33

The question of the Sadducees:

v. 27. Then came to Him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked Him,

v. 28. 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.

v. 29. There were therefore seven brethren; and the first took a wife, and died without children.

v. 30. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.

v. 31. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died.

v. 32. Last of all the woman died also.

v. 33. Therefore in the resurrection, whose wife of them is she? For seven had her to wife.

See Mat_22:23-33; Mar_12:18-27. The chief priests and scribes having ignominiously failed in their attack, the Sadducees hoped to have better luck with a catch question which they had devised upon the basis of a story, real or invented for the occasion. The chief characteristic of the Sadducees is given by the evangelist, namely, that they denied the resurrection. They also denied the existence of angels and refused to accept any books of the Old Testament as having full authority but the five books of Moses. Their question, while striking at the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead which Jesus preached, had its direct concern with the institution of the so-called levirate marriage, Deu_25:5-10. The rule made by Moses required that a man marry the widow of his brother in case there was no male issue and the brothers had been residing on the same family estate. Now the case which the Sadducees presented concerned seven brothers who, in accordance with this rule, had married the same woman in succession, all of them dying without issue. And last of all the woman died also. The question of the Sadducees, which they thought very clever, was regarding the husband's rights in this case, after the resurrection had taken place. The successive marriages had purposely been so graphically described, in order that the great difficulty of the situation and its ridiculousness might appear at once. Now if there be such a thing as a resurrection, which, they sneeringly implied, could not be, how will this difficulty be solved? Is it not flatly insurmountable? With similar arguments, that lack, however, the cleverness of this story, the opponents of the Scriptural resurrection try to ridicule the hope of the Christians, and there is an interesting lesson in the manner in which Christ. handles the situation.


Verses 34-38

The answer of the Lord:

v. 34. And Jesus, answering, said unto them, The children of this world marry and are given in marriage;

v. 35. but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage;

v. 36. neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

v. 37. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

v. 38. For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto Him.

First of all, Jesus corrects an entirely false idea which the question of the Sadducees showed them to be holding or to be inferring from the belief of others. So long as people are in this present physical world, they are subject to the laws of the propagation of the human race, they are under the blessing which God gave to our first parents, Gen_1:27-28. And the necessity of marriage is emphasized by the sinfulness of human nature, 1Co_7:2. For that reason they marry and are given in marriage. But those that in the judgment of God will be accounted worthy of the life to come, those that will be taken up into the bliss of heaven, those that will obtain the real resurrection, that unto life, they will no longer be subject to such conditions. For in that life they will be immortal, and will no longer be dependent upon propagation and increase. There will be no marriage in heaven, because all persons will there, like the angels, be sexless. Since they are children of the resurrection, since they have become partakers of the resurrection, they are children of God. All old things that pertained to the life of the flesh will then have passed away, and all things will be new. The believers will indeed have their true bodies, but transfused with the spiritual, heavenly existence. That is one argument. And the second concerns the actual Scriptural proof for the resurrection. Jesus here very wisely refers only to the Pentateuch, to the five books of Moses, choosing His proof-text from one of these books, in order to conform to the idea of the Sadducees. That the dead actually do rise again, Moses indicates very plainly in the story of the burning bush, Exo_3:6. For the text there calls God the Lord of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. In popular belief the patriarchs may have been adjudged dead, but they could not have been, since God is called their Lord. And He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him. Before Him they are living, and so He accounts them. The souls of the righteous men of all times are alive and in the presence of God in eternal happiness. This is true of all believers of all times. And this view and exposition of God is infallible. Therefore we have the confidence that God will raise all those that are His, also according to the body, out of the grave, to a new, blessed, eternal life.


Verses 39-44

The counter-question of Jesus:

v. 39. Then certain of the scribes, answering, said, Master, Thou hast well said.

v. 40. And after that they durst not ask Him any question at all.

v. 41. And He said unto them, How say they that Christ is David's Son?

v. 42. And David himself saith in the Book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand,

v. 43. till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.

v. 44. David therefore calleth Him Lord, how is He, then, his Son?

The answer of Jesus had been so convincing that even some of the scribes had to admit that He had spoken well. And all the enemies having been vanquished and no longer daring to ask any questions, the Lord, on His part, assumed the offensive. The question which He here put is one of the great questions of the ages. Its answer has become a touchstone to distinguish the believers from the unbelievers. How can people say that Christ is the Son of David? What think ye of Christ, whose son is He? How does the fact that He is called David's Son agree with the fact that David himself, in Psa_110:1, calls Him his Lord? Though Christ therefore is truly the Son of David, the descendant of David according to the flesh, yet He is at the same time a Lord, David's Lord, the Son of God. Now, since Jesus had from the beginning claimed for Himself the Sonship of God, Christ's is the unanswerable question of the ages for all such as do not believe the Scriptures or want to modify the Bible to suit their so-called modern. ideas. But for everyone that believes the old Gospel word for word, He is true God, born of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.


Verses 45-47

A warning against the scribes:

v. 45. Then in the audience of all the people He said unto His disciples,

v. 46. 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;

v. 47. which devour widows' houses, and for a show make long prayers. The same shall receive greater damnation.

In the hearing of all the people Jesus sounded this warning against the scribes, for they all should know what the situation was. The scribes among the Pharisees were the most dangerous of them all, for they were teachers of the Law and should have been examples to all the people both in doctrine and life. Instead of which they were corrupters of the people in their teaching and hypocrites in their life. See Mar_12:38-40. They dearly loved to walk around in a grand manner. As a mark of distinction they wore their robes or mantles clear down to their feet. They were flattered if anyone recognized them in public with the greeting of deference due to a person of higher station. In the synagogues they invariably chose the seats of honor, the place where the rulers of the synagogue sat, facing the people. In the homes also, they made it a point to try for the highest place at the table, the position of honor next to the host. Morally rotten they were, for they offered to make intercession for the widows in their bereavement and pretended thus to advance their interests, while in reality their own interest was their own enrichment at the expense of the poor credulous women. Thus hypocrisy, pride, and covetousness are the outstanding traits in the character of the scribes. They themselves who, as teachers, should know better, will receive the greater damnation, greater than that of those who sin in ignorance. And all disciples of Christ of all times should beware of their oily presence, since nothing good can ever come of it.

Summary.Jesus defends His authority, tells the parable of the wicked husbandmen with its application, eludes the craftiness of the Pharisees, rebukes the ignorance of the Sadducees, by a counter-question silences all opposition, and warns against the scribes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 20:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/luke-20.html. 1921-23.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 20th, 2018
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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