Friday Study Ministries- The First Church on the Internet


Go to Home Page

The Gospel of Luke
Chapter 20


The Gospel of Luke Chapter Twenty
Commentary by Timothy H. Burdick

Let’s look at Luke 20:1-8 - "On 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, and 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?’ Jesus answered and said to them, 'I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?’ They reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Why did you not believe him? But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet. So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, 'Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”

It was the final week of the ministry of Jesus on this earth. It was also the week of the Passover, so pilgrims had come to Jerusalem from all over the world. Before we go on, let’s talk a little about what Passover meant, as many Christians are ignorant of how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament.

If you are not familiar with the story of the Passover, It simply goes like this: The Children of Israel lived among the Egyptians. The emperor Ramses II treated them very cruelly. God warned this ruler to repent a number of times through Moses and Aaron, but each time the Pharaoh would harden his heart to God’s message. Finally through a series of plagues, Ramses let the people go, but, it was not before the first born of both man and animals in Egypt were put to death. Before this final culmination, Pharaoh had falsely told Moses that he would let God’s people go. On the night when the first born of Egypt were to be put to death, God gave the Children of Israel these instructions: He told them to paint their doorposts with the blood of a lamb, and because of this, the angel of death would pass over their houses. To read the bulk of this story in its entirety, see the Book of Exodus, Chapters 5 through 14.

In the New Testament It tells us that Christ is our Passover. In that regard, please look at 1 Corinthians 5:7, where the writer Paul said, “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” Against this back drop, we see Christ teaching and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, in the temple. Please read Luke 19:47, where Luke tells us that Jesus taught in the Temple on a daily basis.

That text in Luke 19 also tells us that while He was teaching, He was confronted by the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. In other words, three divergent sects which formed the ruling body of the Jews, united against Christ. They “sought to destroy Him. It is that way in our world today, for men of every persuasion align themselves against God’s Anointed. But in the end, the Bible tells us that Christ will be victorious. Please look at, Philippians 2:10-11, where Scripture promises “that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…”

All of His miracles had been followed by the climactic event of the final cleansing of the temple. The religious leaders hated Him with a passion, for this was affecting not only their prestige, but their economic status as well. In order to see the attitude which prevailed among the Pharisees, who were apparently the ring leaders, look at Luke 11:43, where Jesus said of them, “You love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”

So as they all ganged-up on Him, the question that they asked Him regarding His authority wasn’t new. In fact they had been asking it in differing ways all throughout the Gospel accounts of His three years in public ministry. For one example of this, please look with me at Mark 2:7, where the scribes wondered, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins, but God?”

In Luke 20:3, we see Jesus responding to the leaders by responding to them in true rabbinic style, in which He would ask them a question. In doing so, Jesus was trying to get these hard-hearted men to think. Jesus wept internally, as these were the same religious leaders who had rejected John the Baptist from the outset of his ministry. To see one example of this rejection, please look at Luke 7:29-30 - the Pharisees and lawyers had refused the baptism of repentance offered by John the Baptist.

After Jesus did ask them the question challenging them as to what they thought about John’s authority in Luke 20:4, I can see the religious leaders forming a council to talk the question out. One man might have said something like this: “I think we have objected long enough, after seeing what it says in the Scriptures, I say that John’s baptism came from heaven.” But before anyone else could get a word in edgewise, another man might have spoken up and said, “Are you crazy? John’s baptism is of man beyond a shadow of a doubt!” A third man might have said, “Let’s just play it safe and say that we don’t know. After all, you know what that Teacher will say. If we conclude it was from heaven He will say, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say he was of man, all the people will put us to death. Who do you say that Jesus is?

Thinking that they had hit upon a solution, the religious leaders might have triumphantly marched out to Jesus saying in a unified voice, “We don’t know where this man came from.” But Jesus had told them so many times before where his authority came from, that He refused to repeat it. Even God can ultimately be turned away through man’s continual rejection of Him. Please look up Genesis 6:3, where the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever.”

Now, let’s draw some applications from these verses in Luke. As we said above, the idea of men who question Christ’s authority is nothing new. All you have to do to hear these questions being raised is to listen to what unbelieving scholars have said, and are still saying about Jesus. Furthermore, this unbelief usually allows modern liberal scholars to reach the same conclusion as the rulers of Christ’s day did. They do not believe, therefore they do not understand who He is.

They simply don’t know where His authority comes from. Also as you look at what Luke has recorded in Verses 1-8 of Chapter 20, you can see that there is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to Christ. For example, many today say that Christ was a good man with a wonderful philosophy. But there is one problem with limiting Him in that manner. The Bible states that He is The Son of God in places like John 3:16, and you cannot have it both ways. What do YOU think of Jesus?

Parable of the Vine-growers in Luke 20:9-18 -

"And 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. At 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. And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. "The owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But 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.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard it, they said, ‘May it never be!’ But 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? "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.’"

In the parable, the vineyard represents the nation of Israel. God the Father sublet it out and entrusted Israel to bear witness of His Name. It was a common practice among the Jews to sublet vineyards, so the people would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about. To see the passage that Jesus was making reference to, please look at Isaiah 5:7 – “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.” The servants who God sent to the nation of Israel were the prophets. And as the Bible records, they were treated with contempt, and in some cases were put to death. Please cross-reference this with Hebrews 11:32-40, where the fate of many of the prophets of Israel is revealed.

Jesus talked about His own death, starting with Luke 20:14 - “This is the heir, come let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours,” reflecting the Father’s sending of the Son into the world. The leaders knew that Jesus was talking about them, as seen in Luke 20:19, and they testified against themselves by saying that they hoped that what Jesus spoke about would never come to pass. Please cross-reference this with Luke 19 22, where Jesus said, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you…”

Jesus talked about how the Jews as a nation would be destroyed and the “vineyard” given to another in Luke 20:16. Since Israel had turned its back on God, the Gentiles have been given their place until the blindness of the Jews comes to an end. Please look at Romans 11:11, which asks of Israel, “have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” In light of the vineyard here in the Gospel of Luke, look at what Jesus says about Himself in John 15:1-4, where Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in My and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” How does this apply to your life?

Then Jesus looked at the leaders, asking them a question. What does it mean when it says in Psalm 118:22 that the stone that was rejected became the head of the corner? Please read that Scripture in Psalms. Jesus didn’t ask this question to trick them, but rather to point them once more to Him. The leaders already knew that Jesus was making an analogy to Himself as the stone that was being rejected by them, but Jesus was asking them in so many words to really THINK about it and all that the concept meant.

Sometimes I think we forget in our zeal, that Jesus loved these religious leaders as-well-as the common people. In what may have been His final plea to the leaders He says that, if they will fall on the stone (Him) they will be humbled, but if the stone (Jesus) falls on them they will be ground to powder. Although this may sound harsh, Jesus is actually showing mercy by speaking words of judgment, in order that unbelievers will repent. Please look at Daniel 2:45, another possible reference to Jesus’ words.

Have you fallen on that stone in belief? Please look at John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” You can do this by asking Christ into your life right now. In your own words tell Him that you want to turn from your sins to find new life. Please don’t put it off - let that “stone” fall on you so that you will be saved.

The Tribute to Caesar in Luke 20:19-26

"The 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. So 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. They 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. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But He detected their trickery and said to them, ‘Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?’ They said, 'Caesar's.' And He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.’ And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.’”

First of all, we see that the questions that the leaders brought to Jesus were not sincere. We also see that at the last, they were so amazed with the response of Jesus, that they couldn’t talk. What this says to me is that there is tremendous power in words. In order to see what I mean, please look up Proverbs 18:21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” How can you apply this to your life?

Looking at this section of Scripture more closely, we see Jesus again answering a question with a question as they handed Him a coin worth about a days wages. In Verse 19, we see the chief priests and the scribes about to lay hands on Jesus. They were frustrated. The only thing that constrained them from killing Him was a fear of the people.

So they came up with what they thought would be a clever trap. They sent plain clothes spies, a kind of religious secret police, to catch Jesus in His own words. They were watching Him every second to find a way to deliver Him to the Roman government.

There was a party known as the Zealots, who hated the rule of the Romans and objected to the paying of taxes. They were looking for the descendant of David to set up His royal throne and over through the Roman oppressors of Israel.

On the other hand, the Romans were ruthless when it came to taxes, making everyone pay at least something for the privilege of just being ruled by Rome. The religious leaders thought that they had tricked Jesus with a black-and-white question. So instead of answering in a way that would take sides on the issue of taxes, Jesus showed how we have a dual responsibility both to the kingdom of this world, and to the Kingdom of God.

There have been some who have taught that we should not have much to do with this present world system. Jesus’ teaching shows how we must try and maintain a balance between the two, shining our light in every corner that we can. In other words, you can’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good, but you can’t be so earthly minded that you’re no good to heaven either. Please cross reference this with Romans 13:1 – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” That Scripture continues in Romans 13:7, by telling us to pay our taxes.

Is There a Resurrection? – Luke 20:27-47.

"Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), and 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. Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; and the second and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. Finally the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,’ but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But 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 of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.’ Some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’ For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything. Then He said to them, 'How is it that they say the Christ is David's son?’ For David himself says in the book of Psalms, 'The Lord said to my Lord, 'sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet. Therefore David calls Him 'Lord,' and how is He his son?’ And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, ‘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, who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.’”

The Sadducees were a sect who didn’t believe in the supernatural, let alone the resurrection. Unlike the scribes who are later mentioned in Luke 20:39, the Sadducees only accepted the first five Books of Moses as Scripture. Since the scribes had never been able to prove the resurrection from these books to the satisfaction of the Sadducees, the Sadducees thought they to could trap Jesus. So they were emboldened to go to Him with a story that made the resurrection look ludicrous.

What Jesus said about marriage has troubled some people, so I would like to give you my thoughts on the subject. When Jesus talks about there being no marriage in eternity, you can be sure that He did not mean that we will be unable to recognize our loved ones. Please cross reference this with 1 Corinthians 13:12 – “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known.”

I believe that we will have an even closer union in eternity with our loved ones than we have on this earth. It is a union that we can’t fully perceive of now because we will be living in another dimension. On earth at the present time, I believe that Christian marriage has three main purposes: 1) God graciously saw the need for man and woman to each have one another. Please look at Genesis 2:18, where God recognized that Adam needed a true companion. 2) Marriage is the only vehicle approved by God for procreation. Please look at Genesis 1:26-28, where God took the husband and wife, Adam and Eve and encouraged them to have children together. 3) Through selfless actions I believe that Christian marriage conforms us more and more into the image of Christ. Please look at Ephesians 5:25-27 – “Husbands love your wives,” which is calling for husbands to perform the selfless action of truly LOVING their wives!

In heaven, we won’t be alone, for we shall no longer be separated from God. We shall shall see Him face-to-face and be with Him forever. Please read Romans6 23 – “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Also there will be no need for procreation as we know it now, for the human race will be complete and there will be no more death. Please read Revelation 21:4. Thirdly, while I am sure that we will all be growing in various ways, in Christ, we will all enjoy perfection eternally. Please look at Revelation 22:5, which says we shall “reign (together) forever and ever.”

Jesus continued by affirming that God was not a God of the dead, but of the living. He showed from the Pentateuch (the first five books of Moses) how God was the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, who presently lived with God. It is likely that Jesus was referring to Exodus 4:5, where God spoke to Moses and referred to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. By referring the Sadducees back to the Second book of Moses (Exodus), Jesus was making the statement that God is alive and His people live after death.

The scribes who thought that they knew everything when it came to the Scriptures, we forced to commend Jesus for giving the Sadducees an answer that they could not respond to. Because of His wisdom, Jesus had silenced these leaders.

The authority in that culture was patriarchal and the son would show respect to his father by giving him a title of honor, but never the father the son. Jesus shows that the tables are turned, however, and now that these leaders are quiet, He asks them a question. If Christ is David’s son, (descendant) how is it that David calls him Lord? (Please read Psalm 110:1 – “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand…”)

I can imagine that a hush fell over the crowd, as the text indicates that the people were hanging on His every word. He told His disciples that they should watch out for the scribes, as they had all of the outward trappings of religion, but their hearts weren’t right toward God. Please look at Matthew 16:6, where Jesus said to His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees…” which he later defined as their doctrines in Matthew 16:12.

The Bible indicates that we will be judged according to the light that we have. Jesus said in Luke 20:47 that because these religious leaders had full access to the Old Testament and yet rejected Him, that they would receive “greater condemnation.” There are still today, self righteous leaders among us that we should be leery of. Please look with me at Matthew 7:16, where Jesus said of such people, “You will know them by their fruits.” Thank you for reading this, and please join me for Luke 21.

Friday Study Ministries
The First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

To Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the weekly e-mailings of Sermons and Bible Studies from Friday Study Ministries, write to

Return to the Gospel of Luke
Return to Weekly Bulletin