The Authority of Jesus, 1-8

20:1 Now one day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the gospel, the chief priests and the experts in the law with the elders came up 20:2 and said to him, “Tell us: By what authority are you doing these things? Or who it is who gave you this authority?” 20:3 He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 20:4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven or from people?” 20:5 So they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 20:6 But if we say, ‘From people,’ all the people will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 20:7 So they replied that they did not know where it came from. 20:8 Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by whose authority I do these things.”
Lk 20:1–8 = Mt 21:23–27; Mk 11:27–33

Here begins (as EBC observes) a series of dialogues that typify the kinds of challenges that were posed by Jesus’ various opponents (Lk 20:1-21:3).  Appropriately, the section begins with a question about Jesus’ authority.

Edwards notes that, as opposition to Jesus grows, so do indications of his true nature.  ‘Jesus is presented as the “beloved son” (Lk 20:13), the vital cornerstone (Lk 20:17), the teacher who cannot be refuted (Lk 20:39), the Messiah and “Son of David” (Lk 20:41), and Lord (Lk 20:42–44).’

One day – Indefinite, but possibly the Tuesday morning after the Triumphal Entry.

Chief priests…experts in the law…the elders – A delegation from the Sanhedrin, no doubt.  It was from these three groups that the seventy-one men (along with the High Priest) of the Sanhedrin was drawn.  The ‘elders’ were laymen.  Their hostility towards Jesus contrasts with the attitude of ‘the people’, who heard him gladly.

Jesus was busy proclaiming the gospel.  His opponents were busy plotting how to silence him and the good news he brought.

“By what authority?” – The word exousia often implied supernatural authority (Edwards).

“These things” – See also v8.  Probably includes both his teaching and his actions (such as cleansing the temple).

Jesus replies with a question about “John’s baptism” – This was not a clever diversionary tactic, because ‘the answer to Jesus’ question would have given the answer to theirs, for John had testified that he was the Messiah.’ (Morris)

Just two choices.  ‘It is important to note that Jesus makes no appeal to the chief sources of authority in Judaism, such as rabbinic tradition, temple, or Torah. He advances only two possible alternatives—divine or human.’ (Edwards)

John’s fame.  ‘It is important to recall that John’s call for baptism, repentance, and preparation for the Coming One was not a negligible influence in first-century Judaism. Allegiance to John was great enough to arouse in Herod Antipas fears of a popular uprising (Mark 6:20; Josephus, Ant. 18.118). When Paul visited distant Ephesus in mid-first century, he discovered that John’s reputation exceeded that of Jesus (Acts 19:1–7). Josephus’s report on John (Ant. 18.116–19) surpasses his similar report on Jesus (Ant. 18.63–64) in both length and detail.’ (Edwards)

“From heaven” – from God.

“If we say, ‘From heaven’…” – ‘They had never accepted John’s baptism and thus to say that that baptism was of heavenly origin would leave them wide open, for in that case they should have believed him and followed him enthusiastically.’ (Morris)

“If we say, ‘From people’…” – That is, in fact, what they believed.  But they were afraid

They are not interested in the truth, but only in consequences.

They replied that they did not know where it came from – ‘That is not exactly true. They are unwilling to know. Their judgment is determined by strategy rather than by the desire for truth.’ (Edwards)

‘Their answer, We don’t know, was pitifully weak, and Jesus in effect won the argument. Yet the story is not about Jesus outwitting people in argument. Rather it shows how the questioners were unwilling to admit divine authority when they saw it and could not make up their minds what to do in the situation.’ (NBC)

Harper’s Bible Commentary concurs: ‘Jesus’ question about John’s baptism was probably not a clever move but a repetition of an earlier affirmation: both John and Jesus were authorized of God and yet both were rejected (Lk 7:29–35).’

“Neither will I tell you” – He could easily have done so, but that would have been casting pearls before swine.  His enemies were not minded to accept the truth, so they were denied it.

‘To those unwilling to commit themselves, he commits not himself. Were their faith as small as a mustard seed, he would respond, “Truly I tell you” (Gk. amēn legō hymin); but without faith, he responds, “Neither will I tell you” (Gk. oude egō legō hymin, v. 8).’ (Edwards)

The Parable of the Tenants

20:9 Then he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and went on a journey for a long time. 20:10 When harvest time came, he sent a slave to the tenants so that they would give him his portion of the crop. However, the tenants beat his slave and sent him away empty-handed. 20:11 So he sent another slave. They beat this one too, treated him outrageously, and sent him away empty-handed. 20:12 So he sent still a third. They even wounded this one, and threw him out. 20:13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What should I do? I will send my one dear son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 20:14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir; let’s kill him so the inheritance will be ours!’ 20:15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 20:16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “May this never happen!”
Lk 20:9–19 = Mt 21:33–46; Mk 12:1–12

The parable records the special privileges given to the Jewish nation. God has given them good and wise laws, godly leaders, gracious promises, and fellowship with himself. We might reflect that we too have been granted many favours by God, and might ask how grateful we are for them, and how positively we have responded to them.

Jesus reworks Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard (Isa 5:1-7), directing his parable not against the nation as a whole (as Isaiah does) but against the religious leaders of Jerusalem.  In doing so, he may be reflecting a rabbinic interpretation of the Isaiah passage.

This parable is found in all three Synoptic Gospels. Its implied Christology is very important, especially given the tendency of much modern scholarship to doubt that Jesus had, or even could have had, any self-awareness about his divine Sonship. ‘The so-called Parable of the Wicked Tenants could just as well be the Parable of the Son Sent at Last.’ (N.T. Wright, http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.htm)

The authenticity of this parable is sometimes doubted. The reasons include, ‘the clear presence of allegory in the parable; the precision of the future actions portrayed in the parable (Jesus’ being put to death outside of Jerusalem; the success of the Gentile mission; and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70); the use of an OT quotation in the parable.’ (NAC)

The assumption that Jesus’ parables could not contain allegorical elements is discredited.

‘This parable in effect summarises the whole of the biblical history, including the gospel story.’ (Evans)

This remarkable parable (it’s almost an allegory) summarises many of the key movements in the plot-line of Scripture: the giving of special privileges to Israel; the sending of the prophets; the selfish disobedience of the Jewish leaders; the sending, at last, of God’s own Son; the cruel rejection of the Son; the judgement on Israel and the offer of the gospel to the Gentiles; Christ’s establishment as the foundation-stone of God’s kingdom.

Yet the parable does not merely describe a series of events: it challenges our stewardship of the kingdom-privileges we ourselves have been given.

Note the threefold context of the parable:

(a) the cultural context – it describes an arrangement that was quite common at the time. Hendriksen informs us that the parable describes a situation that was common in the upper Jordan valley, where there were large estates owned by absent landlords. They had given their farms and vineyards into the care of local people and who enjoyed a considerable measure of independence in running them. For his share of the yield the owner was dependent on the honesty and co-operation of the tenants;

(b) the biblical context – The parable is closely related to Isaiah’s ‘Song of the Vineyard’, Isa 5:1-7 (the verbal similarities are even closer in Mark’s version). ‘Later Jewish interpretation came to understand Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard as a prophecy of the destruction of the temple, a prophecy fulfilled when in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. When Jesus utilises the language of this Isaianic parable in order to tell his own parable, his audience cannot help but sense the judgemental tone of the parable. Whereas in Isaiah’s version the vineyard itself (the people) is guilty, in Jesus’ parable it is not the vineyard, but the tenants (= the religious authorities). They are the reason that God does not receive the fruit that is due. The people’s leaders are selfish and disobedient. They will have to be replaced with new leaders who are obedient and responsive to God. This leadership consists, of course, of those whom Jesus has taught. His disciples will replace the old Jerusalem establishment and will servie God and his people more faithfully.’ (Evans)

(c) the biographical context – it comes during the last week of our Lord’s earthly ministry, and reflects his attitude towards, and relationship with, the Jewish leaders and with ‘the people’. Note that although told against Jesus opponents – the teachers of the law and the chief priests, v19 – it is addressed to ‘the people’ (cf 20:1). Some references to ‘the people’ in Lk 3:15,21; 4:31,36,40; 7:29ff; 13:17; 18:43; 19:7,11,47-48; 20:1,6,9,16,19:45; 21:38; 22:2; 23:5,14,35,48.

A vineyard – The process of establishing a vineyard includes: selecting a suitable plot of land; planting it with vines; enclosing it with a wall or fence; digging a wine-press; building a watchtower.

The vineyard symbolises Israel’s favoured status as God’s people.

‘Privilege entails responsibility. The more one receives, the more he must account for. They who had enjoyed so many more favours at the hand of God than other nations, ought to have been just so much better than other nations, and ought to have cheerfully rendered to him the service which he sought. Holy lives, loving service, cheerful and devoted loyalty to himself, – these were the fruits God sought as the return for the giving of the theocracy and its blessings to them.’ (Taylor)

Farmers – The underlying word can mean ‘farmers’ or ‘vinedressers’. The latter is more likely here, given the content of the parable.

A man…went away for a long time – This can scarcely allude to the delay in the Parousia, since it is ‘the man’, and not the son, who went away. Similarly, the judgement referred to in v16 does not fit the final judgement, but to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and to the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles.

Some writers (e.g Taylor) suggest that God was more openly present with his chosen people when they were being established as such at the time of the Exodus, and that he withdrew to the extent that he met less with them face-to-face, more through his prophets. But this line of reasoning may be pushing the detail of the parable too far. Ryle says, ‘This expression must not be pressed too closely. It signifies that as the lord of the vineyard left his vineyard to the occupation of the tenants, so God left the privileges of the Jews to be turned to good account by the nation.’

A servant – represents the prophets. On the rejection of the prophets, see Mt 23:29-37; Lk 6:23; 11:49-51; 13:31-35; Acts 7:52.

So that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard – This was one of several ways in which tenants might pay a landowner.

The tenants who beat him – symbolise Israel, especially its leaders, and the shameful treatment of the prophets.

‘In the days of Elijah, Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, and Ahab subjected Micaiah to the foulest indignity. In the reign of Joash, the people conspired against Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, on whom the Spirit of God came; and they stoned him with stones. Jeremiah was cruelly abused by those to whom he went as the messenger of the Lord; and the tradition has always been, that Isaiah was sawn asunder by the order of Manasseh.’ (Taylor)

“I will send my son, whom I love” – cf. Lk 3:22; 9:35. We are clearly intended to read this as a reference to Jesus. The identity of Jesus as the Son of God, far from being minimally attested in the Gospels, features quite widely. It is most apparent in passages such as Jn 5, but is perfectly clear in the Synoptics, the present passage shows. See Jn 3:16 Rom 8:32 Gal 4:4 2 Cor 9:15. See also Mt 21:37n.

Heb 1:1f affirms that Jesus is God’s last word in succession to the prophets.

Jesus was sent first of all to Israel, Mt 10:5f, but was rejected by the Jews, Mk 15:12f Jn 1:11 12:37-41 Acts 2:23 4:10.

“This is the heir” – The tenants assume, perhaps, that the owner has died. By killing the heir, they plan to lay claim to the ownership of the vineyard. ‘Possession in 9/10 of the law.’

If v13 clearly indicates the divine Sonship of Jesus, then this verse indicates his knowledge of the intentions of his enemies, and the following verse the fact that this intentions were carried out. The parable was spoken on the Tuesday before ‘Good Friday’.

And give the vineyard to others – These ‘others’ are evidently the Gentiles, Acts 13:45-47; 18:6; 28:25-28.

“He will come and kill those tenants” – ‘Lk wanted his readers to understand that this was fulfilled in Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70 (cf. Lk 13:35; 19:43-44; 21:20-24; 23:29-31).’ (NAC)

‘At the time when our Lord spoke this parable, it was a prophetical picture of the approaching ruin of the Jewish church and nation. The vineyard of the Lord in the land of Israel, was about to be taken from its unfaithful tenants. Jerusalem was to be destroyed. The temple was to be burned. The Jews were to be scattered over the earth. – At the present time, it may be feared, it is a mournful picture of things yet to come on the Gentile churches in the latter days. The judgements of God will yet fall on unbelieving Christians, as they fell on unbelieving Jews. The solemn warning of St. Paul to the Romans will yet receive an accomplishment: “If thou continuest not in God’s goodness, thou also shalt be cut off,” Rom 11:22. (Ryle)

“and give the vineyard to others – ‘Here the vineyard refers to God’s kingdom, which would be offered to the Gentiles, whose time had now come Lk (21:24). Mt 21:43 elaborates on this, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruits.”‘ (NAC)

‘The vineyard, i.e., the privileged position, once granted to Israel, was subsequently tansferred to the church universal, Mt 21:41; 28:19; Acts 13:46, a truth whose realisation was already foreshadowed when Jesus walked on earth, Mt 8:11f; 15:28; Jn 3:16; 4:41f; 10:16; 17:20f.’ (Hendriksen)

According to Evans, 16a is not about the giving of God’s kingdom to the Gentiles but the giving of the leadership of that kingdom to the disciples. Mt 21:43 would seem to weaken this interpretation.

‘Here, then, is the interpretation of the parable: The householder is God, the vineyard is the theocratic privileges enjoyed by those who were the chosen people of God, and as such were placed by him under the law of Moses; the husbandmen are the Jews themselves; the removal of the householder into a far country is the withdrawal of God from such open manifestation of himself as he made on Sinai, into “expectant passivity,” waiting for the result to develop itself freely in the choice of the people themselves; the servants sent were the prophets, who were often cruelly maltreated by those to whom they were commissioned; the son is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the crucifixion of whom was the climax of the nation’s iniquity, for which the kingdom of God was taken from it, and given to the Gentiles.’ (Taylor)

When the people heard this, they said, “May this never be!” – ‘The people by their response stood in sharp contrast to their leaders. (cf. Lk 19:47-48; 20:6,19) They expressed horror at the whole course of events in the parable, and their hearts furthermore were favorably disposed to the preaching of Jesus (Lk 20:1).’ (NAC)

20:17 But Jesus looked straight at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 20:18 Everyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.”

The quotation is from Ps 118:22. The Messianic reference is picked up in Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet 2:7.

“The stone” – a large building block.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” – we cannot but think of the rejection and subsequent vindication of the Messiah.

‘The cornerstone of a building, in addition to being part of the foundation and therefore supporting the superstructure, finalises its shape, for, being placed at the corner formed by the junction of two primary walls, it determines the lay of the walls and crosswalls throughout. All the other stones must adjust themselves to this cornerstone. Such is the relation of Christ to his church. But his glorious resurrection, ascension, and coronation he has become highly exalted, and for his place at the Father’s right hand sends out the Spirit to dwell in the hearts of his followers and to rule over the entire universe in the interest of the church, to the glory of God Triune.’ (Hendriksen)

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed” – ‘The quotation from Isa 8:14-15 demonstrates that those who are offended by the gospel and reject the stone will experience a disastrous judgment. Simeon in Lk 2:34 had already alluded to this. Jesus is the divine divider who separates the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, the blessed from the damned.’ (NAC)

There are several ways in which the two parts of this verse may be understood:-

(a) Some take the first part to refer to the temporary injury experienced by those who find Christ to be a stumbling-block, but subsequently believe in him, whereas the second part refers to those who permanently reject him. Thus, Taylor says, ‘Here are two different treatments of the Lord, with their respective consequences, foreshadowed to us’ –

‘The first is that of those who merely for a season stumble over certain difficulties regarding (Christ). They are not satisfied, it may be, concerning his deity; they are offended, perhaps, as even Peter was once, at the idea of his dying upon a cross; or they cannot unravel all the mystery of his atonement: therefore they do not yet accept him. That is bad. That is hurtful. They fall over the stone, and are broken…Yet such injury may not be absolutely irreparable if at least it occur in time; for those who have been thus hurt may be stirred up thereby to alter the whole plan of their lives, and begin anew by the acceptance of Christ as their only Saviour and Sovereign.’

‘But if one persistently and defiantly rejects Christ, and justifies thereby the Jews in their treatment of him, he does not fall over the stone, but the stone falls upon him, and he is eternally destroyed. “Ground to powder,” – what a terrible expression! describing utter, hopeless, remediless perdition.’

(b) Others (e.g. Evans) think that the first part of the verse refers to the difficulties that the followers of Christ will experience in their mission and ministry, whereas the second part refers to the judgement of Christ falling on those who reject him.

(c) Still others take both parts to refer to substantially the same thing, i.e. judgement and ruin coming upon those who reject Christ. This view is supported by the parallels with Isa 8:14f and Lk 2:34. The contrast is not between the two parts of v18, but between v17 and v18.

Lk 20:19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

They looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them – ‘Quite possibly some of the Jewish leaders who heard the parable at first might have wondered if the original tenants stood for the Romans who were occupying their land. By the end they clearly recognized that Jesus was telling this story against them, and so they became enraged.’ (Blomberg)

‘When the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil, the fairest warnings both of the sin they are about to commit and of the consequences of it make no impression upon them.’ (MHC)

But they were afraid of the people – This is not surprising, because the people held Jesus to be a prophet, Lk 7:16; had on the previous Sunday been shouting his praise, 19:37f; and on an earlier occasion tried to make him their king, Jn 6:15.

The theological emphases of the parable may be summarised as follows:-

1. Stewardship. The parable exemplifies the importance of the right use of gifts and privileges that God has bestowed. ‘Those who enjoy the privileges of the visible church are as tenants and farmers that have a vineyard to look after, and rent to pay for it. God, by setting up revealed religion and instituted orders in the world, hath planted a vineyard, which he lets out to those people among whom his tabernacle is, v9.’ (MHC)

What does stewardship mean for us today? It means that Christian teachers and leaders have a duty to be faithful. They are not called, first and foremost, to creative, innovative, speculative. They are to be faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted them with. They are to ‘keep the faith’, ‘preach the word’. There is a corresponding responsibility for those who sit under Christian ministry. Bearing in mind that this parable was spoken about, the Jewish leaders, but spoken to the ‘the people’, we all have a duty to weigh the words of our teachers, and observe their lives. ‘Beware of the leaven of Pharisees’, said Jesus. ‘You have observed my behaviour,’ said Paul.

2. The continuity of the covenant. The son follows in the footsteps of the prophets who went before him. ‘God sent his Son into the world to carry on the same work that the prophets were employed in, to gather the fruits of the vineyard for God; and one would have thought that he would have been reverenced and received. The prophets spoke as servants, Thus saith the Lord; but Christ as a Son, among his own, Verily, I say unto you. Putting such an honour as this upon them, to send him, one would have thought, should have won upon them.’ (MHC)

3. Israel’s rejection of God’s prophets and of the Messiah. ‘It has often been the lot of God’s faithful servants to be wretchedly abused by his own tenants.’ (MHC)

4. The judgement on Israel and the offer of the gospel to the Gentiles.

‘The most significant teaching found in this parable, however, is its Christology. Whereas the OT prophets are described as servants (Lk 20:11-13), Jesus is described as God’s “beloved son” (Lk 20:13, RSV). He is not simply his favorite servant or his most beloved servant. He is sufficiently different from the OT prophets that a qualitative change of category must be used to describe him. He is not a servant but the Son. Without reading more out of the parable than is warranted, the question of an “ontological” uniqueness of the Son is raised here. Jesus’ unique role as the “Church’s One Foundation” (see Lk 20:17; Acts 4:11-12; Eph 2:20; 1 Cor 3:11) is then shown by the quotation of Ps 118:22. Whether the judgmental role of the stone alludes to the role of the Son of Man in judgment is uncertain, but that each individual will be judged on the basis of his or her attitude toward Jesus is clear. (Lk 9:26 12:8-9 Acts 4:12) The Lukan emphasis on this point is evident, for Lk alone added in 20:18 the allusion to Isa 8:14-15 Dan 2:34-35,44-45. The reference to the Son as Heir (20:14) also has Christological significance, for here Jesus is seen as the future Lord of the vineyard. This lordship over the church and creation is more clearly described elsewhere in the NT, but it is found in Luke-Acts as well.’ (NAC)

Paying Taxes to Caesar, 20-26

20:20 Then they watched him carefully and sent spies who pretended to be sincere. They wanted to take advantage of what he might say so that they could deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 20:21 Thus they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach correctly, and show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 20:22 Is it right for us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar or not?” 20:23 But Jesus perceived their deceit and said to them, 20:24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 20:25 So he said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 20:26 Thus they were unable in the presence of the people to trap him with his own words. And stunned by his answer, they fell silent.
Lk 20:20–26 = Mt 22:15–22; Mk 12:13–17

“Is it right for us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar or not?” – ‘In order to make him lose favour with the people or incur the suspicion of the Romans they raised a question about the polltax imposed on the Jews by the Romans. It had been introduced amid fierce resentment and opposition (cf 2:2), and it continued to be unpopular. Would Jesus oppose it – and perhaps be arrested as a rebel? Or would he uphold it – and perhaps lose the support of the people?’ (NBC)

‘Jesus asked his questioners for a coin, not because he did not possess one, but so as to demonstrate that they themselves used Caesar’s money. The silver denarius, which bore Caesar’s head on one side and on the other the goddess of peace, was inscribed: ‘Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, chief priest.’ If the people used Caesar’s coinage, they were under obligation to pay back what was owing to him.’ (NBC)

“Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” – Christ hereby teaches that his followers have a dual citizenship. To be sure, our heavenly citizenship takes precedence, but we have responsibilities to both. We have civic as well as spiritual duties. Remember that Daniel was Prime Minster in no less than five totalitarian regimes.

”Trapped by the Pharisees and Herodians, who had diametrically opposite views of whether or not Jews should pay taxes to Rome, Jesus evaded the trap by making concessions to both parties: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”’ (Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the New Testament)

‘A double rebuke is implied: of the Zealots, who would not render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and of the Herodians, who would not render to God what is God’s.’ (Gerstner, ISBE, art. Law in the NT)

‘Jesus’ response is not some witty way of getting out of a predicament; rather, it shows his full awareness of a major development in redemption history. Jesus does not side with the Zealots or with any who expected his messiahship to bring instant political independence from Rome. The messianic community he determines to build (Mt 16:18) must render to whatever Caesar is in power whatever belongs to him, while never turning from its obligations to God. The lesson was learned by both Paul and Peter (Rom 13:1–7; 1 Pet 2:13–17). Of course, Jesus’ reply is not a legal statute resolving every issue. Where Caesar claims what is God’s, the claims of God have priority (Ac 4:19; 5:29). Still, Jesus’ pithy words not only answer his enemies but also lay down the basis for the proper relationship of his people to government. The profundity of his reply is amazing (v.22).’ (Carson)

‘Governmental authority is instituted by God and must be respected. (Pr 8:15; Dan 2:21,37-38; Rom 13; 1 Pet 2:11-17) Yes, our citizenship is in heaven, (Php 3:20) and we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, but that does not mean we should ignore our earthly responsibilities. Human government is essential to a safe and orderly society, for man is a sinner and must be kept under control. Jesus was not suggesting that we divide our loyalties between God and government. Since the powers that be are ordained of God, (Rom 13:1) we live as good citizens when we obey the authorities for the Lords sake. When obedience to God conflicts with obedience to man, then we must put God first, (Ac 4:19-20 5:29) but we must do it in a manner that is honorable and loving. Even if we cannot respect the people in office, we must respect the office. The counsel that Jeremiah gave to the Jewish exiles in Babylon is a good one for Gods strangers and pilgrims to follow today: (Jer 29:4-7) Seek the peace of the city! Caesars image and name were on the coins, so it was basically his currency. To pay the poll tax meant simply to give Caesar back that which belonged to him. Gods image is stamped on us; therefore, he has the right to command our lives as citizens in his kingdom. We should seek to be such good citizens that God will be glorified and the unsaved will be attracted to the Gospel and want to become Christians. (1 Pet 2:9-12 3:8-17) It is unfortunate that some Christians have the mistaken idea that the more obnoxious they are as citizens, the more they please God and witness for Christ. We must never violate our conscience, but we should seek to be peacemakers and not troublemakers. Daniel is an example to follow (Dan. 1).’ (Wiersbe)

Anti-imperial theme?
Tom Wright insists that the gospel (according to Jesus himself) must be seen not only as a message of fulfilment of Jewish expectations but also as a message of subversion of the imperial (Roman) authorities:- ‘The message was carved in stone, on monuments and in inscriptions, around the known world: “Good news! We have an Emperor! Justice, Peace, Security, and Prosperity are ours forever! The Son of God has become King of the World!… ‘Augustus Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus.’ On the reverse is a picture of Tiberius dressed as a priest, with the title pontifex maximus. It was a coin like this one that they showed to Jesus of Nazareth, a day or two after he had ridden into Jerusalem… After all, as the propaganda insisted, the rule of Caesar, the Roman ‘son of god,’ was the ‘good news’ that had brought blessings and benefits to the whole world.’ (Simply Jesus, p30)

Scott McKnight, on the other hand, can find little evidence to support this idea: ‘No matter how much I’m personally inclined to want this set of ideas to be true, I’m not convinced the anti-imperial theme was as conscious to the apostles as some are suggesting. I would prefer to see the apostles just come out and say it… to proclaim the gospel entails that Caesar – in whatever guise such an autocrat presents himself – is not. But to claim the gospel was intentionally subversive stretches the evidence.’ (The King Jesus Gospel, p144).

Christ and culture

This saying ‘sums up the biblical theme that the institutions of society are part of God’s design of human living and as such are worthy of their legitimate allegiance. But at the heart of Christianity is the conviction that “the things of God” have a higher claim than the things of Caesar. Culture is always a secondary good.’ (NDCEPT)

Not a zealot

‘It should be noted that Jesus nowhere denounces the Romans or explicitly says anything politically subversive (cf. his masterly – and ambiguous – reply to the question over the tribute). He never calls for military or political action, and he flees to the hills when the crowd, excited by a feeding miracle, seeks to take him by force to make him king. (Jn 6:15) In the Sermon on the Mount he preaches non-violence and love of one’s enemies. At his arrest he rebukes the disciple who takes up his sword (Mt 26:52; cf. Jn 18:11). The conjecture sometimes put forward that Jesus was a zealot or military revolutionary cannot be maintained without doing violence to all this evidence.’ (DJG)

Marriage and the Resurrection, 27-40

20:27 Now some Sadducees (who contend that there is no resurrection) came to him. 20:28 They asked him, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, that man must marry the widow and father children for his brother. 20:29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died without children. 20:30 The second 20:31 and then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. 20:32 Finally the woman died too. 20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For all seven had married her.”
Lk 20:27–40 = Mt 22:23–33; Mk 12:18–27
20:34 So Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 20:35 But those who are regarded as worthy to share in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 20:36 In fact, they can no longer die, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection.

They “neither marry nor are given in marriage” – ‘This would suggest that angels do not have the kind of family relationships that exist among human beings.’ (Grudem, Systematic theology)

Jesus does not say that there will be no marriage in heaven.  He says that people will neither marry nor be given in marriage.  The truth is that there will be marriage in heaven – the one marriage between Christ and his church.

Ian Paul quotes Ben Witherington, who argues that

‘the phrase ‘they will neither marry nor be given in marriage’ abolishes the sex difference in the process, suggesting that there are no new marriages in the resurrection, but that existing marriage bonds will persist. Jesus here is not arguing against the existence of marriage per se, but against the need for levirate marriage since this is an institution which specifically exists to counter the consequences of death.

But, as Ian Paul remarks, this ‘is a surprising reading, since the Sadducees are in fact asking a question about existing marriages and not about marriages that might be conducted in the age to come.’

Ian Paul himself thinks that a series of questions arise from the text:

      1. In the age to come, will we have bodies, that is, is our destiny bodily resurrection?
      2. If we have bodies, will those bodies have the marks of sex difference, that is, will we be male and female?
      3. If we have bodies which are sex differentiated, will we engaged in sexual intercourse, that is, will our sexual organs have any utility?
      4. If we have bodies with sexual organs which will have a use, will that lead to procreation?
      5. If we have bodies which are sex differentiated, whether or not our sexual organs will have a use, and whether or not there is procreation, will marriage persist?

We can, suggests Ian Paul answer the last three questions with a confident ‘No’: ‘there will be no marriage, sexual intercourse or procreation in the age to come.’

What would then be the point of having sexual organs in the life to come?  The ancients (who were interested in virginity in this life as an anticipation of the resurrection life) answered: if having sexual organs does not inevitably lead to intercourse or to conception in the present life, there is no reason to suppose that they will do so in the life to come.  This applies, of course, to the body of our Lord himself: if, following the resurrection it still carried the marks of his wounds, it is hard to imagine that it would not also carry the marks of his maleness.

But it is men who ‘marry’, and women who are ‘given in marriage’.  The two sexes will remain sexually differentiated in heaven, although they will not marry each other.

Summarising the teaching of Augustine and Jerome on this matter, Martin Davie writes:

  1. ‘Jesus’ argument requires the existence of both men and women in heaven because, if there were not, then the issue of marriage would simply not arise.
  2. ‘The very concept of the resurrection of the dead involves the resurrection of the body. This must mean that people will be resurrected as men or women, since the bodies that God will raise up are either male bodies or female bodies.’

This discussion raises the parallel question of whether we shall have digestive organs in the life to come.  As Ian Paul observes: ‘In the church in Corinth, problems with sex ran parallel with problems and questions about food and the stomach—and, Paul tells us, ‘God will put an end to both.’’

‘Apparently the exclusive and intimate marriage relationship is a thing to be enjoyed in this age only. The pleasure and fulfilment it affords will be transcended by the intensity of our union with God himself and the fulfilment of our relationships with one another. God’s gift of sexual union will thus be no longer necessary either for reproduction (since like the angels we shall not reproduce, the earth already being filled with God’s redeemed family) or for personal fulfilment.’ (David Lawrence, Heaven – It’s Not The End Of The World, 104f).

Stephen Travis says, ‘The exclusive sexual aspect of marriage…will be a thing of the past in God’s new world of deeply satisfying relationships amongst all God’s people.’

Robert Song (quoted by Ian Paul) presents the logic like this:

‘What happens in the resurrection, when death shall be no more? If there is no death, the sustenance of the people of God no longer requires future generations to be born; and if there is no need for future generations to be born, there is no need for marriage…where there is resurrection, there is no death; where there is no death, there is no need for birth; where there is no birth, there is no need for marriage.’

Does gender identity continue in the life to come?  ‘He did not respond by saying the question was completely irrelevant because marriage would be impossible, but only that present practices will cease. “You are in error,” he said, because “at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” They will, in that regard, “be like the angels in heaven” (vv. 29–30). Indeed, the form of response given by Jesus should be understood as confirming the ongoing existence of human sexual identity per se.’ (Daniel R. Heimbach, in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood)

Augustine pointed out that Jesus ‘affirmed that the [female] sex should exist [after the resurrection] by saying, “They shall not be given in marriage,” which can only apply to females; “Neither shall they marry,” which applies only to males. There shall therefore be those who are in this world accustomed to marry and be given in marriage, only they shall there make no such marriages.’

‘After the resurrection relationships change. “Putting on immortality” means there is no more need to create new mortals (1 Cor 15:50–54). With God as Father, families are no longer necessary. There is no more death, nor is there any need to worry about continuing one’s family line. This makes the afterlife a new paradigm of existence to which the problem the Sadducees have posed is irrelevant. People do not marry in the afterlife, and the issue of whose spouse the woman is becomes vacuous.’ (Bock)

“They are equal to angels” – Jesus is having another dig at the Sadducees, because they did not believe in the reality of the spirit world, Acts 23:8.

Like them in that they do not marry.  But not like them in some other respects: for example, angels are spirits (Heb 1:14), whereas we shall still have bodies (John 5:28–29; Luke 24:39).

The Sadducees disbelieved in angels as well as in resurrection. Jesus goes out of his way to side with the angels as well as to side with the resurrection.

“Sons of the resurrection” – ‘presumably because it is their resurrection which has given birth to them in this new age, but since it is God who has brought about this resurrection, they are God’s children, and this displaces any lines of heritage in ‘this age’.’ (Ian Paul)

20:37 But even Moses revealed that the dead are raised in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 20:38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him.” 20:39 Then some of the experts in the law answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well!” 20:40 For they did not dare any longer to ask him anything.
Pastoral application

Ian Paul notes a pastoral application of Jesus’ teaching about the life to come:

We often hear people (Christians and others) take comfort from the thought that a widow who has herself died is now ‘reunited’ with her husband (obviously, similar situations and responses occur in relation to the deaths of loved ones, or even of pets).  Ian Paul suggests that a good pastoral response would not be: “No, it won’t be like that!” (or otherwise to imply that the life to come will be less than the present life).  There will be no marriage in the age to come precisely because life in the new creation will be so much more than this:

‘We won’t need our nuclear family structures because we are all family, and we will not need the intimacy and security of marriage relationships because (as Rev 21 makes clear) we will find this superlatively in our intimacy with God.’

The Messiah: David’s Son and Lord, 41-47

20:41 But he said to them, “How is it that they say that the Christ is David’s son? 20:42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,
‘The Lord said to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
20:43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’
20:44 If David then calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
Lk 20:41–47 = Mt 22:41–23:7; Mk 12:35–40

“How is it that they say that the Christ is David’s son?” – They could have cited scriptures such as 2 Sam 7:12-13; Ps 78:68-72; 89:3-4,20,24,28,34-37; Am 9:11; and Mic 5:2 in favour of this reply. Jesus has recently been acclaimed as ‘Son of David’ by the crowds (Mt 21:9,15), and the title has recurred at varying points in his ministry (Mt 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31). Although Jesus had never applied this title to himself, he had not denied the attribution either. The Jewish messianic expectation included the idea that the Christ would be descended from David and would sit on David’s throne. But, of course, the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry was not a throne but a cross.

Jesus is not about to deny that the Messiah is the son of David. The common understanding was not wrong, only inadequate. The identification is clearly made in Matthew’s Gospel, Mt 1:1,17; 9:27. It would continue to be made in the apostolic church, Rom 1:3. But Jesus is about to affirm that the title, especially as currently understood, was inadequate. The Christ is not merely David’s successor; he is David’s Lord. And his kingdom is as different as his authority is higher than that of David. How many conceptions of Christ are around today that are true, but not adequate?

‘Jesus was warning people against judging his mission in traditional terms. Far from being enthroned in Jerusalem as a king like David, he would soon be rejected by his people. But even then, on the cross, he would be recognized at last not as a son of David (the title does not occur again), but as Son of God (Mt 27:54).’ (NBC)

v42 ‘The method of argument is one familiar in Rabbinic debate, to set up two scriptural themes which are apparently in conflict (an “antimony”) and to seek for a resolution. The Gospels record only the antinomy of David’s son/David’s Lord), not the resolution, but we may fairly assume that it lies in the recognition of two levels of Messiahship, much as in Romans 1:3f Jesus is declared “descended from David according to the flesh” but also “Son of God in power…”…So Jesus is David’s son, but he is far more. And the political connotations which “Son of David” carried made it, on its own, a potentially misleading title, which Jesus never claimed for himself, though he defended the right of others to apply it to him (21:14-16).’ (France, on Matthew)

The quotation is from Ps 110:1, where a literal translation would be, ‘Jehovah’ said unto my ‘Adonai…’

“‘The Lord said to my Lord'” – David’s son is also David’s Lord; the Messiah is both David’s human descendant and also divine Lord.

It was commonly accepted among the Rabbis that this passage referred to the Messiah.

“‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'”

Jehovah says to ‘David’s Master’, ‘Sit here, in the place of authority, honour and victory, until I place all your enemies in subjection to you.’ ‘His sitting denotes both rest and rule; his sitting at Gods right hand denotes superlative honour and sovereign power.’ (MHC, on Matthew) Cf. Eph 1:20 Php 2:9 Heb 8:1, and also Mt 28:18. And, of course, Jesus was quoting this to his very own enemies!

He sits at God’s right hand,
till all his foes submit,
and bow to his command,
and fall beneath his feet.

(Charles Wesley)

v44 Jesus does not give or receive an answer to his question. He has made his point. Those who are willing to have their eyes opened will go away and reflect and follow the logic through to its conclusion.

‘The clear result of the argument is that it is not adequate to call the Messiah Son of David. He is more than David’s son; he is also David’s Lord. When Jesus healed the blind men, they called him Son of David. (Mt 20:30) When he entered Jerusalem the crowds hailed him as Son of David. (Mt 21:9) Jesus is here saying, “It is not enough to call the Messiah Son of David. It is not enough to think of him as a Prince of David’s line and an earthly conqueror. You must go beyond that, for the Messiah is David’s Lord.”‘ (DSB, on Matthew))

‘What those Rabbis could not then answer, blessed be God, the plainest Christian that is led into the understanding of the gospel of Christ, can now account for; that Christ, as God, was David’s Lord; and Christ, as Man, was Davids son. This he did not now himself explain, but reserved it till the proof of it was completed by his resurrection; but we have it fully explained by him in his glory; (Rev 22:16) I am the root and the offspring of David. Christ, as God, was Davids Root; Christ, as Man, was David’s Offspring. If we hold not fast this truth, that Jesus Christ is over all God blessed for ever, we run ourselves into inextricable difficulties. And well might David, his remote ancestor, call him Lord, when Mary, his immediate mother, after she had conceived him, called him, Lord and God, her Saviour, Lk 1:46,47.’ (MHC)

‘Note, God will glorify himself in the silencing of many whom he will not glorify himself in the salvation of. Many are convinced, that are not converted, by the word. Had these been converted, they would have asked him more questions, especially that great question, What must we do to be saved? But since they could not gain their point, they would have no more to do with him. But, thus all that strive with their Master shall be convinced, as these Pharisees and lawyers here were, of the inequality of the match.’ (MHC)

Jesus Warns the Disciples against Pride, 45-47

20:45 As all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 20:46 “Beware of the experts in the law. They like walking around in long robes, and they love elaborate greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 20:47 They devour widows’ property, and as a show make long prayers. They will receive a more severe punishment.”

They like walking around in long robes – clothing which makes them distinctive, and which marks them out as ‘too post’ for manual labour (for which flowing roves would be an encumbrance).

They paraded their self-importance, they neglected how they appeared before God.

They devour widows’ property – Morris says that although scribes were not allowed to charge money for their teaching, they could readily encourage people to give beyond their means, or charge extortionate sums for handling people’s affairs.  Widows were the most vulnerable members of society in such regards.

Garland notes the ‘five fatal flaws’ in the scribes’ attitude and behaviour (cf. Lk 14:11; 18:14):

      1. They parade about in elaborate stoles that advertise their special status and wealth.
      2. They relish receiving accolades in public places.
      3. They are the ones who push and shove to get top billing at banquets and places of honor in religious settings (14:7–11).
      4. Their long prayers are for show and do not truly address God because they substitute length for substance and urgency in prayer (see 18:9–14). Their show of piety covers up their greed.
      5. What is worse, their wealth and status derive from oppressing impoverished widows, who are particularly vulnerable (18:2–5) and who should receive special care (Acts 6:1).’