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Luke 20


The Authority of Jesus Questioned Jesus' Authority Questioned On Jesus' Authority The Question About Jesus' Authority The Jews Question Jesus' Authority
20:1-8 20:1-8 20:1-8 20:1-2 20:1-8
The Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers Parable of the Vineyard The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard Parable of the Wicked Tenants
20:9-19 20:9-19 20:9-19 20:9-15a 20:9-15a
      20:15b-16a 20:15b-18
      The Question About Paying Taxes  
      20:19-22 20:19
Paying Taxes to Caesar The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar? Paying Taxes to Caesar   On Tribute to Caesar
20:20-26 20:20-26 20:20-26   20:20-25
      20:26 20:26
The Question About the Resurrection The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection? Questions About the Resurrection The Question About Rising From Death The Resurrection of the Dead
20:27-40 20:27-40 20:27-33 20:27-33 20:27-33
    20:34-40 20:34-38 20:34-38
      20:39-40 20:39-40
The Question About David's Son Jesus: How Can David Call His Descendant Lord? David's Son The Question About the Messiah Christ Not Only Son but Also Lord of David
20:41-44 20:41-44 20:41-44 20:41-44 20:41-44
The Denouncing of the Scribes Beware of the Scribes On Pride and Humility Jesus Warns Against the Teachers of the Law The Scribes Condemned by Jesus
20:45-47 20:45-47 20:45-47 20:45-47 20:45-47

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



This chapter is a series of confrontations.

A. Religious leaders attack Jesus

1. the chief priest, scribes, and elders (i.e., the Sanhedrin) ask the crucial question about the source of Jesus' authority, Luke 20:1-8

2. the Sanhedrin sends spies to try to catch Him by asking controversial, political questions meant to provide accusations which could be presented to the Roman authorities, Luke 20:19-26

3. the Sadducees ask a theological question related to the resurrection, Luke 20:27-40


B. Jesus challenges the attackers

1. He responds to the Sanhedrin's question

a. with a question, Luke 20:3-8

b. with a parable of God's rejection of Israel and her leadership, Luke 20:9-18

2. He responds to those trying to catch Him in a controversial political issue by a powerful, practical answer relating to human responsibility to God and government, Luke 20:23-25

3. He responds to the Sadducees' tricky, ridiculous question about Leverite (brother-in-law) marriage by asking them a question, Luke 20:41-44

4. He responds to all of them by a stern warning to the crowd, Luke 20:45-47



 1On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, 2and they spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?" 3Jesus answered and said to them, "I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4'Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?'" 5They reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Why did you not believe him?' 6But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet." 7So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8And Jesus said to them, "Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

20:1 This opening phrase shows that Jesus repeatedly and regularly taught in public. He imparted truth to whomever would come, listen, and receive. Christianity is open to all. There are no required academic degrees or special callings. Whosoever will come to God's banquet of truth may eat (cf. Isa. 55:1-13). Be careful of special teachers, speakers, and preachers who claim secret knowledge or special insight! There are no gurus or illuminati in biblical Christianity!

▣ "the chief priests and the scribes" This is the official designation for the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews made up of seventy leaders in Jerusalem. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SANHEDRIN at Luke 9:22.

NASB, NKJV"confronted Him"
NRSV, TEV"came"
NJB"came up"

Luke uses the Greek word ephistēmi often in his writings, but it is found in the rest of the NT only in Paul's writings. It has several connotations:

1. to approach suddenly, Luke 2:9; 21:34; 24:4; Acts 12:7; 23:27

2. to assault, Luke 20:1 (and possibly Luke 10:40); Acts 4:1; 6:12; 17:5

3. to appear, Acts 10:17; 11:11; 23:11

Remember that context, not a pre-set definition, determines meaning. Words have semantic ranges and only a context (sentence, paragraph) can denote which connotation is meant by the original author.

These religious leaders (the Sanhedrin was controlled by Sadducees) were concerned with both Jesus' popularity and His cleansing of the temple (cf. Luke 19:45-46). Jesus confronted their authority (the temple) with His own authority (He was the new temple of God, cf. Matt. 26:41; 27:40; Mark 14:58).

20:2 "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority" This question of authority (exousia) is a central issue that all humans must think through

1. about God (world religions)

2. about the Bible (holy books)

3. about Jesus of Nazareth (holy persons)

Humans are incurably religious creatures, but who speaks the truth?


20:3 "tell Me: 'Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men’" Jesus' counter question asks them about the source of John's authority to baptize Jews (cf. John 1:19-25). John the Baptist had previously witnessed to Jesus' person and authority (cf. Luke 7:18-23; John 1:29). If they answered the question affirmatively, they would have their answer about Jesus' authority. Neither John or Jesus were official scribes or teachers. Yet both clearly exhibited God's power and authority, which the people recognized and affirmed. The question of authority is not only a theological issue, but a practical matter of motives, actions, and results. Jesus' authority was clearly revealed in His life, teachings, and actions.

20:5 "if we say. . ." This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action (so is Luke 20:6). Self-interest, not truth, was the main issue in their deliberation.

20:6 "all the people will stone us" Although this verb (future active indicative) does not appear in the Septuagint, this is the OT response to blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:14-23; Num. 15:35-36; Deut. 13:1-5; 21:21). Speaking the truth was important. Lying or false statements had serious consequences, especially for those who claimed to speak for God.

"for they are convinced that John was a prophet" The term "convinced" is a periphrastic perfect passive. The people had a settled conviction that John the Baptist was a prophet (cf. Matt. 21:26). He was the last OT prophet fulfilling the prophecies about Elijah from Mal. 4:5.

20:7 They sidestepped the question. They had an opinion, but they would not publicly put themselves in jeopardy. Honesty was mitigated by self-interest. Jesus refused to respond to these hypocrites (cf. Luke 20:8). They did not want truth; they were not seeking information, but looking for an opportunity to condemn and attack Him for their self interest!

 9And He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 13The owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' 14But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, 'This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.' 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." When they heard it, they said, "May it never be!" 17But Jesus looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone'? 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."

20:9 This is paralleled in Mark 12:1-12 and Matthew 21:33-46.

▣ "And He began to tell the people this parable" See the introduction to Luke 8 for helpful guidelines for interpreting parables. This parable refers to either

1. the nation of Israel (cf. Isaiah 5)

2. the Jewish leadership (cf. Luke 20:19)

This is the strongest rejection of first century Judaism in the NT. Rejection of Jesus is rejection of God (cf. 1 John 5:10-12). This is a hard, shocking, culturally unacceptable (post-modernity), exclusivistic teaching, but true (if the NT is inspired)!

"a man planted a vineyard" In the Markan parallel (Mark 12:1-11) Mark (who records and organizes Peter's sermons in Rome) introduces the parable with a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 5:1-2. The grapevine was one of the symbols for the nation of Israel (as was the fig tree in Matt. 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14,20-25, but not in Luke).

It is hard to determine whether God rejected

1. Israel's illegal, non-Aaronic high priests

2. her self-righteous legalism

3. the unbelief of the entire nation

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this verse. Some manuscripts (MSS A and W, as well as the Syrian and Armenian versions and the Diatessaron) add tis (a certain man). Luke often uses tis to introduce parables (cf. Luke 7:41; 10:30; 12:16; 14:16; 15:11; 16:1,19; 19:12). It is missing in MSS א, B, L, and the Vulgate and Coptic versions, as well as the Greek texts used by Origen and Augustine. The UBS4 includes it in brackets and gives its inclusion a "C" rating (difficulty in deciding).

"for a long time" This is a literary idiom unique to Luke's writings (cf. Luke 8:27; 23:8; Acts 8:11; 14:3; 27:9).

20:10 This parable reflects the culturally expected landowner/tenant farmer relationship of first century Palestine. The landowner received a portion of the yield.

"beat him and sent him away empty handed" Here is the "surprise" or unexpected twist of the parable (cf. Luke 20:11-12,15). This repeated response by the tenant farmers would have shocked everyone!

20:12 "wounded" We get the English word "trauma" from this Greek word. Only Luke the physician uses it in the NT (cf. Luke 10:34; 20:12; Acts 19:16).

20:13,15 "my beloved son. . .they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him" These two statements seem to relate specifically to the life of Jesus of Nazareth at the hands of the religious leaders (i.e., My Beloved Son, cf. Luke 3:22; 9:35; Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 9:7)! Jesus was killed outside the walls of Jerusalem.

20:16 "give the vineyard to others" This word seems to refer to Gentiles (cf. Rom. 11; John 10:16).

In Mark's parallel Jesus asks the crowd a question (cf. Mark 12:9). Their answer seals their own doom!

NASB"May it never be!"
NKJV"Certainly not!"
NRSV"Heaven forbid!"
TEV"Surely not!"
NJB, REB"God forbid!"
NIV"May this never be!"
NET Bible"May this never happen!"

This is literally "May it not be" (negated aorist middle [deponent] optative), so common in Paul (esp. Romans), but used only here in the Gospels. Luke must have heard it often in Paul's teaching/preaching.

There are two ways to interpret this:

1. the Jewish leaders knew Jesus was talking directly to them (cf. Matt. 21:45)

2. this refers to the spontaneous outburst of the crowd, who in Mark 12:9 are shocked by the actions of the wicked tenants, not the landlord giving his vineyard to other tenants

They answered with an idiom which is an aorist middle (deponent) optative (a wish or prayer). This phrase is found several times in the Septuagint (cf. Gen. 44:17; Jos. 22:29; 24:26; 1 Kgs. 20:3). This is the only place it appears in the Gospels. Paul uses this same rare form often (cf. Rom. 3:4,6,31; 6:2,15; 7:7,13; 9:14; 11:1,11; 1 Cor. 6:15; Gal. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14). Jesus' parable totally shocked these religious leaders. This judgment and transfer of the OT promises from Israel to others was too much for them to hear!

20:17 "What then is this that is written" This verse is a quote from the Septuagint of Ps. 118:22, which is part of the Hallel Psalms, quoted during Passover. The emphasis of this passage is on the one (Jesus) they deemed unworthy who had become chief and central leader and Savior. This OT quote foreshadowed that the Messiah would be rejected by Israel's leaders.

"the stone" See Special Topic following.


20:18 "Everyone who falls on that stone" Notice that the person's own choices and actions destroy himself/herself. This is an obvious Messianic reference. Rejecting Jesus results in being rejected by God!

"will be broken to pieces" This is a future passive indicative of a word used several times in the Septuagint in judgment contexts (cf. Jdgs. 5:26; 9:53; Ps. 110:5; and Micah 3:3).

▣ "but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust" Unbelief has eternal consequences (cf. Isa. 8:14-15; Dan. 2:34-35). The "everyone" and "whomever" express the truth that judgment is for any and all who reject God's representative, the Messiah, regardless of position, nationality, or rank.

"like dust" This is the word used of winnowing grain so as to remove the husk which is scattered to the winds. This is also a judgment concept from the Septuagint (cf. Isa. 17:13; 30:22,24; 41:16; Jer. 30:27; Amos 9:9).

Verse 18 would be crystal clear to the Jewish leaders who heard it. Complete, total, and final judgment is coming to you!

 19The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. 20So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 21They questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. 22Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" 23But He detected their trickery and said to them, 24"Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." 25And He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." 26And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

20:19 "The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour" They clearly understood Jesus' words of condemnation. This parable's meaning was not at all hidden from them (cf. Matt. 21:45). This parable and the cleansing of the temple sealed Jesus' death.

▣ "and they feared the people" They were afraid of either (1) the people's wrath (cf. Luke 20:6; 22:2) or (2) Rome's reaction to a riot (cf. Luke 20:20). In this context #1 is best.

▣ "for they understood that He spoke this parable against them" It is obvious that the religious leaders recognized that the previous parable was specifically addressed to them (cf. Matt. 21:45).

20:20 "they watched Him" The term means to watch closely for an opportunity (cf. Luke 6:7; 14:1). We learn from Matt. 22:15-16 and Mark 12:13 of this unlikely alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodians.

▣ "spies" This was "someone hired to lie in wait" or "ambush" (cf. LXX Jos. 8:9; Ezek. 35:5; I Macc. 10:52). It was an OT idiom related to premeditated murder.

▣ "pretended to be righteous" This is a theatrical word for "play acting" or hypocrisy (cf. LXX Job 34:30; 36:13; II Macc. 5:25; 6:21,24,25).

"to the rule and authority of the governor" The term "governor" referred to the Roman ruler (cf. Matt. 27:2; Luke 2:2; 3:1). This means that these spies had to come up with a political charge, not a dispute over the Mosaic Law.

The Sanhedrin did not have the official authority to enact the death penalty. From time to time they did participate in mob violence to remove people who threatened them, like Stephen in Acts 7.

Jesus was accused of blasphemy and should have been stoned. However, based on the curse of Deut. 21:23, where the scribes of Jesus' day believed that being crucified meant being cursed by God, they wanted Jesus, this Messianic pretender, to be crucified!

I think this is one reason Paul had such a problem with Jesus being the promised Messiah, but after his personal encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), he saw that Jesus became the "curse" for us (cf. Gal. 3:13).

For "authority" see Special Topic at Luke 1:2.

20:21 "You are not partial to any" This is literally "lift the face." This originally meant no judicial favoritism by a Hebrew judge lifting a person's face to see who the accused was before pronouncing judgment.

They are trying to use flattery to trick Jesus into making a compromising statement about Roman taxation.

"the way of God" Truth is personified as someone following an appropriate path (cf. Ps. 119:105; Pro. 6:23; also note Ps. 16:11; 139:24). The first title for the church in Acts was "the Way" (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22).

God's truth is not hidden or hard to find. It is clearly defined lifestyle. The problem is human obedience!

20:22 "Is it lawful" This implies "is it lawful under the commands of God?" They were asking a political question under the guise of a religious question.

▣ "taxes" Both Matthew (Matt. 22:27) and Mark (Mark 12:14) have "poll tax" (kēnsos) This was an annual personal tax on males between fourteen and sixty five years of age and women between twelve and sixty five (cf. James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World, p. 143). It was one denarius and it went into the Emperor's treasury.

Luke has phoros (Luke 20:22; 23:2; also Paul in Rom. 13:6,7), usually translated "tribute." Roman taxes were the major bone of contention with the Zealots. The Jewish leaders were hoping to catch Jesus on the horns of the dilemma between the people (Zealots and popular opinion) and Rome.

20:23 "He detected their trickery" See the parallel in Matt. 22:18.

20:24 "Show Me a denarius" This was a Roman silver coin imprinted with the image of Tiberius Caesar, who reigned from a.d. 14-27. On one side was his image with the caption "Tiberius Caesar Augustus the Son of Divine Augustus." On the opposite side was the statement "Highest Priest." This coin represented Roman power and rule. It also asserted deity to the Caesar.

20:25 "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" Jesus asserted that humans do owe allegiance (apodidōmi, meaning to give back what is due, to discharge an obligation) to the political authority under which they live (an aorist active imperative, cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-4; Titus 3:1). However, He also asserts that when the claims of government enter the area of God's authority, believers must reject civil authority and receive whatever consequences there may be (cf. John's Revelation).

It is amazing to me how much of the modern discussion of the political concept of the separation of church and state has been built on this passage that has little to do with that issue. Most of our American political concerns about this issue come from historical precedents, not Scripture.

20:26 Later this same group of spies lied and perverted Jesus' statements (cf. Luke 23:2).

 27 Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28and they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30and the second 31and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32Finally the woman died also. 33In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her."

20:27 "the Sadducees" These were the wealthy aristocrats who supported the status quo because of their place of power. They controlled the high priesthood, which one family purchased from the Romans. Josephus said that they rejected the Oral Tradition so popular with the Pharisees and affirmed only the writings of Moses (i.e., Genesis - Deuteronomy). They also rejected any concept of the afterlife (cf. Acts 23:6-8) that was popular among the Pharisees (cf. Josephus' Wars of the Jews 2.8.14; The Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.4, which means they did not take seriously Job 14:14; 19:25-27; Ps. 16:9-11; Isa. 25:8; 26:19; or Dan. 12:1-2. This is the only mention of this particular political religious group in the Gospel of Luke). See Special Topic below.


20:28 "Moses wrote for us that" This refers to Deut. 25:5-10 in the Septuagint, commonly called the "Leverite marriage." The term "Leverite" comes from the Latin word levir, which means "brother-in-law," not "from the Tribe of Levi." The issue at stake was inheritance (cf. Num. 27:6-11; Ruth 4:1-2). Josephus records that it was still practiced in Palestine in Jesus' day (cf. Antiq. 4.8.23).

"if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action.

20:33 This question assumes that the afterlife will mimic earthly, physical life.

 34Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him." 39Some of the scribes answered and said, "Teacher, You have spoken well." 40For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

20:34 "the sons of this age" "Sons of" is a Semitic idiom of description. See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at Luke 9:2.

"the resurrection from the dead" This was a tenet of Pharisaic theology based on Job 14:7-15; 19:25-27; Dan. 12:1-2. However, they viewed it as just a continuation of the present life. Jesus clearly implies that the new age is different from the social structures of this age. Marriage was a crucial structure of Eden before the Fall of Genesis 3. God's command to be fruitful and multiply was a recurrent theme (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7).

20:35 "those who are considered worthy to attain to that age" Jesus is answering the Sadducees and does so within Jewish (Pharisaic) theology. The phrase "considered worthy" is used in the Septuagint in II Macc. 13:12; III Macc. 3:21; 4:11; IV Macc. 18:3 and also in Greek literature for those "deemed worthy." This is not Jesus affirming a works-righteousness, but an attempt to address these religious leaders. The NT teaches that one is only "worthy" in Christ (cf. Acts 13:46).

"neither marry nor are given in marriage" The social structures connected to procreation, so common of this world (age), will not continue into the spiritual, eternal realm. Sex will not be needed for societal stability or offspring. The family unit will not survive death, but intimate family fellowship in God's extended family will!

20:36 "they are like the angels" Notice that the context is emphasizing, not sexlessness, but the state of immortality (cf. Luke 20:36a). I tentatively believe some angels once had a capacity for cohabitation, or at least some did, based on Gen. 6:1-4; Jude 6; and the Book of I Enoch. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: "the sons of God" in Genesis 6

▣ "are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" As the angels (sons of God, cf. LXX of Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6) are seen as sharing God's realm, so too, now are a select number of worthy humans (resurrected believers). This is somewhat ironic or sarcastic since the Sadducees denied the elaborate angelology of the Pharisees (as does Jesus, but He does affirm their existence).

The Bible also speaks of a resurrection of the unworthy (cf. Dan. 12:2; Acts 5:29; 24:15). One group is raised to judgment and one group to eternal bliss in fellowship with God.

20:37 "where he calls the Lord" This is a quote from Exod. 3:6, which is the very significant passage on the Covenant name for God, YHWH. It is from the verb "to be." See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Luke 1:68.

20:38 "He is not the God of the dead but of the living" The patriarchs of Luke 20:37 are long since dead, but they still are present with God, which shows the continuing covenant relationship of YHWH and this chosen family even after death.

"all live to Him" All life on this planet derives its existence from God. He is the origin of life and the sustainer of life (cf. Rom. 14:8).

Physical life is connected to Elohim (cf. Genesis 1) in the OT, but spiritual life is connected to YHWH, the covenant God of Israel (i.e., the Patriarchs). The only life that moves from this age to the next is that of those who know God's mercy through faith, only those who have a personal relationship with the redeemer God through Christ. In the OT it was the faithful remnant. In the NT it is those who receive God's Messiah by faith. These are the "worthy ones" who become "the sons of God" of the new age of righteousness by resurrection.


20:39 "Some of the scribes answered and said" These must have been Pharisees because they rejoiced in Jesus' routing of the Sadducees' theological argument.

20:40 This verse refers to the Pharisees of Luke 20:19-26 and the Sadducees of Luke 20:27-39. It is a strong double negative. Nobody dared ask Jesus any more theological questions (cf. Luke 20:41-44).

 41Then He said to them, "How is it that they say the Christ is David's son? 42For David himself says in the book of Psalms, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 43Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."' 44Therefore David calls Him 'Lord,' and how is He his son?"

20:41 Jesus now asks them a Bible question!

▣ "the Christ is David's son" This is asserted in 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 11 (cf. Matt. 1:1; Rom. 1:3). Jesus seems to interject this Psalm because of their misunderstanding of the purpose of the Messiah (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11). As the Son of David, they expected Him to be a military leader, which He will be when He returns. He came the first time as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 (cf. Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Zechariah 9; John 3:17-18).

20:42 "For David himself says in the book of Psalms" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Ps. 110:1. In this verse both terms for "Lord" appear. The first "Lord" translates YHWH; the second "Lord" translates Adon (owner, master, husband, lord). This second "lord" refers to the Messiah who comes after David. See Special Topic at Luke 1:68.

"Sit at My right hand" This is an anthropomorphic phrase (see Special Topic at Luke 1:51), which means we use human words and worldly concepts to describe God who is an eternal, Spirit presence through the universe and not affected by time or space.

"Sit" denotes an Oriental palace, a throne and denotes a majestic ruler. God does not have a throne (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:27). It would be too limiting.

God does not have a right hand, although God can take physical form (cf. Gen. 3:8); He can speak (cf. Gen. 3:9); He is a Spirit. Humanly speaking the right hand is an idiom of our strongest arm (most humans are right handed), therefore, it denotes power, authority, and pre-eminence .

Be careful of thinking that to be true, the Bible must be literal. The Bible describes spiritual reality in veiled ways (cf. 1 Cor. 13:9-12) because of our sin. God accommodates Himself to truthfully communicate to His creatures, but we must be content with limited knowledge in metaphorical language. God is described in the Bible by negation, analogy, and metaphor. Even the concept of God as Father is metaphor. God is not a male (or, for that matter, a female)!

20:44 The thrust of Jesus' question seems to be

1. the pre-existence (deity) of the Messiah (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11)

2. the human, Davidic descent of the Messiah (cf. Luke 1:32-33; 3:31)

No one expected the Messiah to be incarnate deity. They were expecting a divinely empowered human, like the Judges or Kings of Israel.

This very issue of the full humanity and deity of the Messiah becomes the theological issue of the Gnostic false teachers (cf. Colossians, Ephesians, 1 John, the Pastorals). 1 John 4:1-3 even asserts that to deny either aspect makes one an antichrist!

There are hints of this truth in the OT, especially Dan. 7:13, where a son of man (human being) comes before the Ancient of Days (YHWH) and receives the eternal kingdom. This dual aspect of "son of man" may be why Jesus used this title for Himself. Psalm 110 and Dan. 7:13 are linked in Jesus' response to the high priest in Luke 22:69 and Mark 14:62. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF MAN at Luke 5:24.

 45And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46"Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation."

20:46 "Beware of the scribes" This is a present active imperative of a compound Greek word from prous (for) and echo (I). Here it is followed by apo, which denotes "guard against" (cf. Matt. 6:1; 7:13).

Spiritual leaders (for "scribes" see Special Topic at Luke 5:21) must always be on guard for self-righteous, arrogant spirits. These were very sincere and highly motivated religious men, but they totally missed God because of their preconceived notions and self-centered attitudes (cf. Luke 6:39-40; Matt. 15:14; 23:16,24).

Jesus delineates some of their inappropriate actions:

1. They wear long religious robes to show everyone who they are, Luke 20:46.

2. They love to be greeted with respectful greeting and titles in public, Luke 20:46.

3. They want the best seats in the synagogue (i.e., on the raised platform near the scrolls), Luke 20:46.

4. They want the best seats at banquets next to the host at the head table, Luke 20:46.

5. They legally, but unethically, trick widows out of their homes and inheritances, Luke 20:47.

6. They pray long prayers so all will notice their wisdom and piety, Luke 20:47.

This sounds more like my day and its religious ethics than I feel comfortable admitting!

20:47 "These will receive greater condemnation" I personally believe in degrees of both heaven and hell based on knowledge and actions. Some of the Scriptures which seem to imply this are Matt. 11:22,24; Luke 12:47-48. See Special Topic: Degrees of Rewards and Punishments at Luke 10:12.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was the issue of the authority behind John's baptism so crucial to the question the Sanhedrin asked Jesus?

2. What is the central truth of the parable in Luke 20:9-16? To whom does it refer?

3. Why has so much been made of Luke 20:25 in America?

4. What implication does Luke 20:36 have for our view of heaven and sexuality?

5. Are there degrees of heaven and hell?


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