Sunday, March 03, 2013

Luke 20:9-26 - Jesus' Authority Revealed

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...
Jesus Christ - detail, Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Wikipedia)
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 20:9-26 to teach believers to trust Jesus our Inheritance, our Cornerstone, and our Lord.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Jesus.
Pray and Read:  Luke 20:9-26

Contextual Notes:
Throughout his Gospel, Luke emphasizes the importance of walking in faith and avoiding unbelief. He has made it clear that every individual who meets Jesus Christ must make a decision about Him. Christ must be received or rejected. His claims must be believed or denied. When the Gospel shifts gears at Luke 9:51, Luke urges us to prioritize faith over unbelief (Luke 9:57-11:36) and warning us to trust the Lord rather than ourselves (Luke 11:37-12:59).
Christ then calls us to a Kingdom marked by grace (Luke 13:1-21), repentance (Luke 13:22-35), provision (Luke 14), and redemption of the lost (Luke 15). Luke warns us to prepare for His Return by responding to God’s Word in repentance (Luke 16), guarding against sin with obedience and thankfulness (Luke 17:1-19), waiting with faithful service (Luke 17:20-37), and persevering prayer (Luke 18:1-8). God always responds with mercy to a humble and simple reliance on Him (Luke 18:9-17).
True faith is complete reliance on Him. The necessity of complete reliance on God is emphasized in Jesus’ response to the little children (Luke 18:15-17), the response of the rich young ruler to Jesus (Luke 18:18-30), and most powerfully by Jesus Himself when He shares with His disciples His coming death and resurrection (Luke 18:31-34). Then in two examples of His free mercies, Jesus turns aside to free from blindness a beggar who sees with faith Christ’s identity as Messiah (Luke 18:35-43). Then He turns aside to help a wealthy tax collector find the riches of Christ’s presence and purpose (Luke 19:1-10).
After Luke gives Christ’s clear mission on the planet, “to seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:10) he follows with a parable summing up our mission on the planet as we await Christ’s return (Luke 19:11-27). Luke calls us to trust this King who is worthy to be praised (Luke 19:28-40) because He is the only Hope for a doomed world (Luke 19:41-44).
Picturing the utter necessity of heart repentance toward God, Jesus cleanses the Temple of its merchants, arousing the murderous fury of the religious leaders (Luke 19:46-48) who challenge Jesus’ authority (Luke 20:1-8). Instead, Jesus exposes their unbelieving motives and plot to kill Him (Luke 20:9-19). Unable to act openly, the religious leaders try desperately to trap Jesus in His words so that they can report Him to the authorities (Luke 20:20-26).
Sermon Points:
1.   Trust Jesus our Inheritance (Luke 20:9-16)
2.   Trust Jesus our Cornerstone (Luke 20:17-19)
3.   Trust Jesus our Lord (Luke 20:20-26)

Exposition:   Note well,


a.   Although Jesus refuses to reveal the source of His authority to the Jerusalem leadership in Luke 20:1-8, he does now, in story form in teaching his people (Luke 20:9) while the high priests and scribes listen (Luke 20:19). Now Jesus tells a parable of impending judgment that depicts in allegory his controversy with Israel’s leaders. He uses the imagery and alludes to of Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7) where the vineyard represents Israel and the owner God. When the vineyard fails to produce fruit, the owner takes away its protection and allows invaders to overwhelm and destroy it. In Isaiah’s context they were the Assyrians. For Jesus’ time it would be the Romans. But Jesus goes a step further than Isaiah. God is the owner and the vineyard Israel, but the main characters are now tenant farmers, representing Israel’s corrupt leaders. When the owner sends servants (i.e., the prophets) to receive the produce of the vineyard, the tenants beat and abuse them, sending them away empty-handed. The people and leaders who are listening recognize the “literal” significance in the real world of what Jesus is saying in the form of a story. He is being rejected. Their leaders will kill Him the Son. Judgment will fall upon those who reject the servants God sends to His people.

b.   Luke 20:9-10 – Rented it to some farmers: Wealthy landowners often leased land to poor farmers, so the portrait here was familiar to Jesus’ hearers. There were many absentee landlords there, particularly in Galilee. Some of the fruit: Tenant farmers normally paid rent for the land through a percentage of the grapes produced. He sent a servant . . . they beat him: The OT speaks of God’s repeated sending of prophets to call Israel to repentance and Israel’s frequent mistreatment and even murder of them (1 Kings 18:4; 22:24-27; 2 Chron. 24:21; Jer. 26:20-23; 37:15; Neh. 9:26; Heb. 11:36-37).

c.   Luke 20:13 - Finally, the owner sends his own son (i.e., Jesus), whom the farmers murder, thinking they will now inherit the vineyard. The Messiah was expected to have a unique father-son relationship with God. Jesus is making a definite allusion to His being the Messiah here by calling him “my son whom I love,” (agapeton), a word with a technical meaning identifying a person as the primary heir.[1] Luke has already shown that the Father said of Jesus at His baptism (cf. Luke 3:22). The phrase is also a definite prophetic connection here with Isaac and his near-sacrifice at Mount Moriah, the site of the Temple at Jerusalem (Gen 22:2).

d.   Luke 20:14-15 – The inheritance will be ours: Jesus reveals their true motives here. They seem to be secretly conscious that Jesus’ claims were well founded (Nicodemus - John 3:2; Caiaphas – John 11:49-52). True spiritual leaders are marked by their sacrifices for others, not how they can steal or profit from them. The Jewish leaders were after the inheritance that belonged to the Messianic Son. Luke 20:15 – They threw him out and killed him: Luke emphasizes the rejection of the Lord through unbelief. The present rejection of the Messiah will result in His death.

e.   APPLICATION: The irony here is the inheritance. One cannot receive an inheritance until someone else has died. But Jesus was different. He received His own inheritance when He died (and then rose again). In a great Reversal, His death brought forth the inheritance the Jewish leaders craved!

f.    Yes, in another way, on this earth, someone has to die for us who are living to receive an inheritance. But Jesus died to give His inheritance to people who are spiritually dead so that they can be made alive!

g.   Seen in another way, we only receive an inheritance when someone with whom we have a relationship has died. One doesn’t ordinarily bequeath an inheritance without a relationship with the one receiving it. To all who would choose to have a relationship with Him, Jesus freely gives His full inheritance. What is that inheritance? It is eternal life forever with Him and fullness of life now. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Do you know how to have a relationship with Jesus? The Bible says you simply confess to Him that you have been disobedient to Him, that you have sinned, and you realize that disobedience has separated you from a relationship with Him, and then you submit your life to Him, acknowledging Him as your Lord sot that He may be your Savior. Jesus has died (and arisen!) and given us an inheritance of eternal life! Hallelujah!

h.   Luke 20:16 - Jesus concludes by asking, “What then will the owner do to them?” The answer is obvious, He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.[2] Israel’s rejection of her Messiah because of unbelief will result in judgment, and Israel’s blessings will pass to others. But that does not mean that God is done with Israel. Jerusalem’s destruction (Luke 19:41-44) does not mean Israel is destroyed, just as killing the tenants does not mean the vineyard (Israel) is destroyed forever. Paul says in Rom 11:5 and 26, there is still a remnant, and God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.


a.   Luke 20:17 – The stone rejected has become the capstone: The people, who were no doubt familiar with Isaiah’s parable, gasp, “May this never be!” Jesus says all this is predicted in Psalm 118:22. As the disciples approached Jerusalem (Luke 19:38; 13:35), they shouted and sang Psalm 118:25-26. Now Jesus cites verse 22 to point out his rejection. Capstone is kephale gonias, lit. “the head of the corner,” probably the cornerstone, used to support two adjoining walls. Scholars argue over whether the word means a foundation cornerstone or a capstone like a keystone in an archway. It doesn’t matter. Jesus is like both. He is a foundation stone on which everything rests and through Whom all is supported. He is a keystone who joins the two and makes them one gateway to salvation. I am going with cornerstone so that we can move forward, but either one may be right.

b.   Cornerstones are essential to maintain the integrity of the structure. It connects, supports, and joins two walls together. Everything begins with and is built off the cornerstone. Its integrity will determine the longevity, the strength, and whether the building will be built to plumb. Though the rejected stone, Jesus will be vindicated by being the cornerstone of God’s new temple building, a building Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 is of Jew and Gentile. The teachers of the law and the chief priests understand the parable and know it is directed at them. So they look for a way to destroy Jesus. Again, however, Jesus’ popularity prevents his arrest.

c.   Luke 20:18 – Everyone who falls on that stone, but he on whom it falls: These images are about judgment and allude respectively to Isaiah 8:14-15 (cf. Luke 2:34) and Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45. In the Isaiah text, the Almighty calls Himself a sanctuary for those who fear him, but a “stone that causes men to stumble” for unrepentant Israel.[3] Christ does not here terminate Israel’s hope, but postpones it (Isaiah 27:1-5; Rom 11:5, 11-12, 25-28).

d.   APPLICATION: Jesus says that the Rock that will cause many to stumble is the sure Rock in which to trust. Do not fear what others fear. Fear the Lord. Put your trust in the Rock. If we truly fear God, our respect for his power will free us from fear of current dangers. Truly trust God, and you will know peace.

e.   In the Daniel passage, God’s kingdom is portrayed as a stone of the end times, not made with human hands, which crushes the other kingdoms of the world and endures forever. Jesus, the rejected stone, will triumph in judgment over all those who have rejected him, Jew and Gentile.

f.    Luke 20:19: Stung by Jesus’ obvious indictment of them, the Jewish leaders look for a way to arrest Jesus.

g.   APPLICATION: Chuck Swindoll says that Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders teach us that it is OK to stand for what is right. It’s OK to clearly proclaim the truth when God’s enemies are spreading lies. And it is not uncommon to be accused of the very things your accusers are doing themselves, such as what Jesus encountered. We can assert what we believe and what the Bible teaches and not violate Christ’s teaching on turning the other cheek. We can keep our balance if we keep two things in mind. First, be certain that the issue is worth standing your ground. For some people, everything is a fight. They seem to love to fight. But standing up to His enemies was just a small part of Jesus’ ministry. When it was not worth it or not the right time, Jesus was content to remain silent. So we, too, need to choose our battles wisely.

h.   Second, be gracious (mature) in the way you express yourself. Watch your words and tone of voice. You can have the right position but express it in such an ungracious way that you lose the battle. Jesus confronted his enemies with the truth to help them see themselves for who they were. He never used slander, nor did he bad-mouth the government. To follow Jesus’ example, we must learn to hold truth and grace in balance, to stand against sin while holding out a hand of welcome. Think about a recent situation in which you expressed your opinion about your government, the church, or a social issue. Did your attitude and tone of voice create more light or heat?

3.   TRUST JESUS OUR LORD (Luke 20:20-26)

a.   Luke 20:20-22 - Note their deceit: The conflict and controversy only gets more intense as the religious leaders send spies to catch Jesus in a compromising statement. They pretend to recognize Him as a great teacher and flatter him, and then the hook: They ask him a clever “no-win” question. They want to know if the Jews should pay taxes to the Romans.

b.   Luke 20:20 – Spies who pretend to be honest: The term spy (enkathetos) means someone hired to lie in wait and is a clear indication of Jesus’ enemies aim to entrap Him. Honest (dikaios, righteous, innocent) probably means sincere observers of the Mosaic Law.

c.   Luke 20:21 – We know you speak and teach what is right: They use flattery to try to gain Jesus’ confidence. The OT repeatedly warns against the danger of flattering lips (Psalm 5:9; 12:2-3). By their own mouths, the spies affirm that they know Jesus teaches the way of God, an expression meaning obedience to God’s law and living the righteous life God desires (Deut. 8:6: 10:12).

d.   APPLICATION: So those who suppose themselves right meet the One who is righteous. Those who consider themselves judges themselves meet their Judge.

e.   Luke 20:22 – Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? They refer especially to the poll tax paid directly to Rome, not to local customs or property taxes. The Jews hated Roman rule with its heavy tax burden. Josephus describes Jewish revolts[4] over paying Roman taxes.

f.    APPLICATION: An enemy can be anyone who deliberately seeks to hurt us. How do we respond to such people? Should we stand up to them or turn the other cheek? Here are some questions to help us decide.
                    i.        First, is the issue worth it? Is it a minor offense I can forgive and let go? Or is something more important at stake?
                  ii.        Second, is revenge my motivation? Jesus stood up to His enemies, but He never sank to their level of trading insult for insult, lie for lie, hurt for hurt. Am I only trying to defend myself or strike back?
                iii.        Third, what is best for the other person? Jesus commands us to love our enemies. Confrontation can be a powerful form of love. Confrontation is not an aggressive term. It is a sensible, loving, one-on-one gracious interaction. Is it time to let an enemy know how much his actions are hurting me and others?
                 iv.        Fourth, how can I honor Christ and uphold His name in this? This question more than anything else will help you keep your balance between truth and grace.

g.   Luke 20:24 – Show me a denarius: Of the many coins in circulation, Jesus asks for a Roman denarius (a day’s wage). The coin bore the image of Emperor Tiberius (Luke 3:1) with the inscription, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus.” Both the image and claim of deity were abhorrent to the Jews because of the Ten Commandments prohibition against making images for worship (Exod. 20:3-5, 23). What an irony. These pious inquisitors of Jesus themselves carried and used the Roman coins that for them bore idolatrous images and blasphemous inscriptions.

h.   APPLICATION: Have you noticed that those who make accusations are often only reflecting their own character at you? Have you noticed that when you hear a person being critical, that they are reflecting a critical and bitter spirit? Christ has not been allowed to overthrow that idol of a critical spirit and replace Himself with the fruit of graciousness. Have you noticed that when people make accusations or insinuations, that they are actually guilty of the very things of which they themselves are accusing someone else? Have you noticed after you reflect on the bitter words you had for your spouse or your co-worker or your supervisor or your customer or your fellow believer that you could be rightly pointing the finger at your own heart? We are like that, aren’t we? We hold people to a higher standard than we do ourselves. We complain about the speck in our brother’s eye while neglecting the plank of wood in our own.

i.    Luke 20:25-26 – Render to Caesar: Note their defeat. Again Jesus silences them with his wisdom. Ecclesiastes 8:2 calls for obedience to the king, and the NT repeatedly commands submission to the governing authorities. The beauty of Jesus’ response is its disarming ambiguity. On the surface it affirms Roman authority, encouraging obedience to the government while maintaining spiritual allegiance to God. Yet for those opposed to Rome, it could be interpreted, “Since everything belongs to God, nothing belongs to Caesar.” Jesus’ opponents are astonished and silenced by his answer.

j.    APPLICATION: Here Jesus recognized two God-ordained spheres of authority. One is God’s which is supreme, and within it, Caesar’s which is delegated authority. Jesus’ teaching anticipates Paul’s which says that civil authorities are constituted by God. Consequently, they are to be supported by the payment of taxes (Rom 13:1-7). What Caesar claims is irrelevant unless it interferes with our relationship with God. Very little of what Caesar claims interferes with our relationship with the Lord.

k.   That is Jesus’ point. Caesar has authority. There is no question there. He is the Emperor of the Roman Empire. But what these spies (and many commentators) miss is that they are talking to the Emperor of Emperors, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. They want to trap Jesus about civil authority when Jesus has universal authority. They want to trip up the words of the very Word of God. They seem to think that their sly questioning is any match for the questions the Ancient of Days will ask them one Great Day.

Have you made Jesus your Lord? I didn’t ask you if you were baptized or came down an aisle when you were nine years old. I asked you if you are living a life of submission to the one you claim to serve. Is this the day to get that most important thing right in your life?

[1] And a synonym for monogenes (one and only, only begotten, John 3:16).
[2] In fact, the listeners must have understood what Jesus was saying because their own rabbinical writings teach this interpretation. The Isaiah Targum says that God’s judgment on Israel will include the removal of the Shekinah, the destruction of “their sanctuaries” (perhaps synagogues), and the end of prophecy (Targum of Isaiah 5:1-6).
[3] Jesus interpreted Isaiah 8:14-15 in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:17-18, Paul did as well in Romans 9:32ff, as well as Peter in 1 Peter 2:8.
[4] One under Governor Coponius (A.D. 6-10) when Judas of Galilee revolted over paying Roman tribute.