Luke 20:45-21:4 is a comparison between false and true piety, one of which is condemned and the other praised.
The episode begins as Jesus issues yet another warning to His disciples regarding the Jewish leadership. In the presence of all the people, He tells His disciples to avoid becoming prideful like the scribes, who wear long robes, love to be greeted in the marketplace, and always have the best seats at the synagogues and feasts (vv.45-46).
Moreover, despite their outward appearance, these men took advantage of the weak—widows; and made lengthy prayers for show. Such men, Jesus warns, will be punished more severely (v.47).
Pious men like the scribes were to serve widows, and apparently some of them took it upon themselves to manage the affairs of widows, but in so doing took a large cut for themselves. Their long and pretentious prayers only exacerbated their wrongdoing; thus, the serious warning issued by Jesus.
God will punish those who claim to teach His ways but misuse their authority.
By contrast, God honors those who depend on Him in humility, such as a poor widow who gives everything she has into the offering box at the temple (Luke 21:1-3). Unlike the religious leaders, this woman is not looking for recognition. She only wants to serve God in reliance upon his grace.
Though the widow’s offering is small—maybe equal to 10 minutes of work at minimum wage—Jesus commends her gift, for she has given everything she has, while what the others have given will never be noticed, for they gave out of their pride and abundance.
Give God Everything
Luke is juxtaposing two spiritual realities that remain in our midst today. There is the false religiosity of the scribes that is prideful and preys on the weaknesses of others; and then there is the true piety of the widow who seeks no recognition and gives everything she has to God. One form of spirituality is condemned, while the other is praised.
False piety is condemned (20:45-47)
Jesus’ description of the scribes sounds eerily familiar to the actions of modern television evangelists who appear spiritual and in tune with God, but who also prey on people’s weaknesses by demanding their money while promising that God will bless them financially in return.
Such people appear holy on the outside, but are spiritually and morally bankrupt on the inside.
Much of what these men and women teach sounds biblical at first glance. That’s why they are able to take so much from people who have so little. These men and women teach the “Prosperity Gospel,” which, in my view, is wholly unbiblical.
Jesus warned His disciples about such people, and promised that false teachers will face a special kind of punishment. We should likewise be on guard against false religiosity in our midst. That means we should avoid following personalities who teach a form of prosperity gospel, such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and the like.
Many people prefer to stay home and watch these men on television. If this is you, please hear Jesus’ warning in this text: Such men are on the road to perdition—don’t follow in their footsteps.
True piety is praised (21:1-4)
Not all of us are required to give all of our money to God; that is not the point here (cf. Luke 19:1-10). Although, like the scribes, there are many today who could afford to increase their financial gifts to the church.
More to the point, however, is the contrast between the false spirituality of the scribes and the poor widow. She sought no recognition from her fellow man. All she desired was to give God everything she had, expecting nothing in return. Here was a woman who trusted God with her life.
Likewise, we ought to serve God in all humility, willing to serve with a spirit of joy without any recognition or desire for applause. We ought to be willing to get off the couch each Sunday (and every day for that matter) and give God everything we have in service to Him and others. We can’t do that if we stay at home, hear a shallow sermon on the television, and send our favorite personality a few bucks.
We serve God with everything we have by joining a local church, serving in some capacity there, and by supporting the mission and ministries of that church financially on a regular basis.
That is the type of service and piety that Jesus will praise. Is that you, Christian?
Luke 20:41-44 is a short, yet important, episode that reveals something about Jesus’ identity. Jesus is more than a man—He is the Lord of Lords.
This episode begins as Jesus turns and asks the scribes a question of his own, one that also raises a theological dilemma similar to how the Sadducees posed a dilemma to Jesus in the previous section (Luke 20:27-40). This dilemma concerns one of the favorite identifications of the Messiah: “Son of David” (v.41-42). Jesus is testing that descriptor, not as wrong, but as incomplete.
Jesus raises the dilemma by quoting from Psalm 110:1, a regal Psalm that pictures Israel’s ideal king. This is not an ordinary king, He is the Lord—the promised One of Israel who will rule the nations. Jesus wants to know how the title “Son of David” can be the best title for Messiah, since David has addressed this figure as “Lord” (v.44).
The dilemma is drawn from the cultural practice of respect for patriarchs—a father would not bow to a son. So Jesus questions why David shows the Messiah such respect and submits to him if the Messiah is David’s descendent.
The text ends with no answer. As Luke often does, it is left for the reader to ponder. The issue is Jesus’ identity—He is the Son of David, but He is more than that. He is also Lord, a title that expresses the sovereignty and power that he possesses as God’s Promised One.
Ultimately Jesus’ point is this: If David demonstrated such respect for the promised King, so too should the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus is supplying the answer to the question posed in Luke 20:2. It is by God’s authority that he works and teaches, an authority recognized by David.
Jesus: Lord of Lords
As with many texts in Luke, this one zeros in on Jesus’ identity. In no uncertain terms, Jesus ascribes to Himself the sovereign title “Lord,” and suggests that His title demands a certain response. Like David, we should be in awe of Jesus’ supreme power and submit to His authority.
Jesus’ Lordship requires submission
It seems here that Jesus is correcting faulty behavior which is the result of an incomplete view of Jesus’ identity. The Jewish leadership, perhaps, were unwilling to submit to Jesus’ authority because they only thought of Him as the Son of David—another human being—rather than the sovereign and divine Son of God.
This view of Jesus is rampant in the modern West, where many see Jesus as a great religious teacher, but one of human origin. It’s no accident that when people miss the mark on Jesus’ divine Lordship, they also miss the mark in crucial areas of doctrine and morality. Many people honor Jesus with their lips, but do not all honor Him as Lord of the Universe.
What does it mean to honor Christ as the Lord of Lords? It means to honor Him with our allegiance. It means submitting to His authority in our lives by living according to His Word. It entails a fundamental understanding that as Lord, Jesus will one day judge all humanity. It means recognizing that Jesus does not require committees or human approval to act, for He has been given special power by God to rule and reign over the earth.
Therefore, it means we should live with an understanding that we are not equals. Jesus is not my copilot or my best friend. Thus, our responsibility to Him surpasses all other authorities, for He alone stands at the right hand of God. In the end, it means that when we rightly understand who Jesus is, we will stand before Him in recognition that we are His subjects, and He is our Lord (Rom. 1:1).
Luke 20:27-40 is Jesus’ only encounter with the Sadducees in Luke’s Gospel, an encounter in which the Sadducees quiz Jesus on the doctrine of the resurrection.
The episode begins as a group of Sadducees approach Jesus with a dilemma concerning levirate marriage and the resurrection. The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection and only accepted the first five book of the Old Testament as authoritative, propose a dilemma consisting of the seven marriages—each ending childless upon the death of each husband—of a particular woman, who marries the six brothers of her first husband (vv.27-30). The dilemma, according to the Sadducees, is this: Whose wife will she be in the resurrection (v.31)?
To the Sadducees, the dilemma demonstrates the lack of logic in the doctrine of the resurrection. Jesus’ reply is twofold. First, he notes that life after the resurrection is not like this one, for there will be no need for marriage and producing children to fill the earth because there will be no more death (vv.34-36). Thus, she will be no one’s wife in heaven.
Secondly, Jesus demonstrates why the Sadducees’ view of the resurrection is wrong by noting how God told Moses that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v.37; cf. Exodus 3:2-6). If God is still the God of these men long after their earthly deaths, they must still be alive, for God is not a God of the dead but of the living (v.38).
Thus, their seemingly full-proof trap has been exposed as folly. More importantly, he has demonstrated from the Torah why the Sadducees are wrong, adding to their shame.
Jesus’ enemies are no match for him.
Sons of the Resurrection
The central focus of this unit is the doctrine of the resurrection. Here, Jesus makes two fundamental points about how the resurrection informs our lives today: (1) We live in light of the judgment to come; (2) We live victoriously in the hope of the resurrection.
The Resurrection implies judgment
In verse 35, Jesus implies that not everyone will participate in the resurrection that leads to eternal life. Others (Those deemed unworthy), he suggests, will be resurrected unto judgment. Elsewhere, Scripture completes this view by making it clear that all who live will one day be resurrected and stand before God (Rev. 20). Some will then spend eternity in eternal bliss, while others will spend eternity separated from God in eternal anguish (Rev. 20-21).
Many people today reject both the doctrine of resurrection and judgment, as did the Sadducees. For most in this camp, this life is all there is and all there ever will be. As a result, many who hold this view live life without any thought of judgment before God; “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” is their mantra, whether explicitly stated or not.
However, Jesus has another view of life that should cause each of us to pause and consider our choices. There will be a resurrection at the end of the age, which means that there is something beyond the grave. If that is true, then we will be judged in the next life according to what we did in this life.
There is no second chance beyond the grave. What is sowed in this life will be reaped in the next. Jesus calls everyone to sow a life of faith directed at him as the Son of God who died for your sins and rose to life on the third day. All who believe will be considered “sons of the resurrection” (v.36).
Are you a child of the resurrection? If not, this text is prompting you to consider your decision in this area wisely.
The resurrection implies change
Like many moderns in our day, the Sadducees were skeptical of the notion of a resurrection. But Jesus went right to the part of Scripture they deemed authoritative to demonstrate the truth of this doctrine. The resurrection, then, was not a new concept for the Jews. This was their hope—even if some had missed it.
Likewise, it is our hope as well—a hope that promises us change in the future and fuels a change in the present. The promise of the resurrection fuels our confidence that a day is coming when tears, pain, suffering, and death will cease.
If we truly believe in the resurrection we should be transformed to meet every situation in this life with a spirit of joy and confidence, knowing that no matter what comes our way, one day we will stand face-to-face with our Risen Savior in our own resurrected body.
If you are a Christian, this is your destiny. Believe it with all your heart and let it transform you in the same way it did Paul, who said under incredibly difficult circumstances, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Luke 20:20-26 is a short episode that focuses on the rights of secular and divine rule.
The episode begins as the Jewish leadership assigns spies to watch Jesus’ every move. Further, these spies pretend to be sincere, hoping to catch Jesus saying something that will result in his arrest by the Roman authorities (v.20). This would be in the best interest for the leadership, for if the Romans imprisoned and killed Jesus, the Jewish leadership would be absolved of blame.
So the spies ask Jesus a seemingly brilliant question: Is it right for Jews to pay taxes to Caesar (vv.21-22)? If Jesus supports Rome his allegiance to Israel will be in doubt. But if he sides with the Jews then the Roman authorities will have reason to arrest him.
Jesus is aware of their duplicity, so He calls for a coin and asks whose inscription is on the coin (vv.23-24). The coin’s inscription likely read “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus son of the divine Augustus.” Jews lived under Roman sovereignty and were carrying these coins on their person—they had little choice but to live under the Roman authorities and participate in their commerce.
Jesus’ reply is brilliant and short. He says to give to Caesar what belongs to him and gives to God that which belongs to God (v.25). Jesus’ point is that government has the right to exists and collect taxes, but government never supersedes one’s allegiance to God (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Jesus does not step in the trap set for Him. Thus the spies can only remain silent (v.26).
Render to Caesar and to God
The spies wanted Jesus to champion political allegiance to one country over another. But Jesus would have no part in that. Instead, Jesus demonstrates that secular governments have a right to exist. As such, He expects His followers to submit to the governing authorities, but never at the expense of God’s rule over their lives.
Believers have a duty to secular rule
The Bible teaches that God ordains secular governments; thus they have a right to exist (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Therefore, we should be mindful that our governing authorities have been appointed to their duty by none other than God (Romans 13:2).
This means that when we disrespect the governing authorities, we also indirectly disrespect God.
Not long ago Christians were passing around the internet prompts to pray for President Obama based on Psalm 109:8. While Scripture does command us to pray for our governing authorities (1 Tim. 2:1-4), Psalm 109 is the opposite of what we are commanded to pray, for that Psalm is an imprecatory Psalm of David who was praying for the death of his enemy.
This text reminds us that we should never pray that way towards those whom God has allowed to rule. The first Christians did not pray that way toward the evil Caesars of their time and we certainly have no right to do so in the modern West. Instead, we should submit to their authority by obeying the law, paying taxes and being good citizens. Above all, we should pray earnestly for our political leaders, especially that they would govern with equity and wisdom.
Believers have a duty to God’s rule
Though believers have a duty to secular government, our final authority is God. This has several implications.
First, when secular authorities command us to do something that is obviously against God’s law, we have the right to resist (Acts 4:18-19). Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the governing authorities in Nazi Germany is one such example.
Second, believers should never side with any particular political ideology over their commitment to God. I know a number of Christians who find it difficult to separate their commitment to God from their commitment to a political party. This is a shame for neither political party speaks for God. When we become more concerned with the advancement of political ideologies rather than the advancement of God’s Kingdom, then it may be time to examine the depth of our faith and commitment to God.
Finally, believers should recognize that God is building a Kingdom that transcends all national borders. This means that there is no such thing as a “Christian” nation—not even the United States. Thus, Christians should strive to see the gospel go forth to the ends of the earth in fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
That is, after all, the marching orders that we have been given by our King.
Luke 20:9-19 is a parable Jesus tells in response to the previous episode. This parable answers the question concerning the origin of Jesus’ authority (Luke 20:1-8). Jesus is the only Son of God.
The parable concerns a vineyard, its owner, and its tenants. The parable can be interpreted one of two ways. (1) The vineyard can be seen as “the promise,” and the tenants can refer to Israel, specifically the religious leaders; (2) or the vineyard can be seen as Israel and the tenants as the leadership. Either way, the point of the parable is the same: The nation will lose its blessing for rejecting Jesus—the one authorized by God.
The parable begins as the vineyard owner leases the vineyard to tenants as he travels to another country for a “long while” (v.9). In real life, an owner would expect to collect proceeds upon his return—even if he were gone a long time.
When the time for harvest arrives, he sends a servant to collect, but the tenants beat the servant and sent him away empty handed (v.10). The owner sends two more servants, each suffering the same fate as the first (vv.11-12). All of the owner’s attempts to collect what is rightfully his are turned away with force. This detail represents the nation’s long history of unfaithfulness and lack of response to the prophets.
The owner then decides to send his “beloved son”—perhaps they will respect him (v.13). When the tenants see the son approaching, they devise a plan to kill him. They reason that if they kill the heir they will receive the vineyard, and so they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him (vv.13-15a). While it was not unusual for the land to pass to the tenants if there was no heir, the tenant’s logic in this case is misguided. Killing the heir will not end well for them. This detail shows the depravity of the leadership and points to Jesus’ coming execution.
Jesus then asks the crowd how the owner would respond (v.15b). Answer: He will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others (v.16a). The nation will be excluded from blessing.
The crowd understands the implication and exclaims “surely not” (v.16b). They could not bear the thought of such judgment on the nation.
Jesus then turns to Scripture, citing Psalm 118 to prove his point. The one rejected by the people will be exalted by God—he will become the cornerstone (v.17). Since God will exalt the stone into a key foundational role, it is risky to oppose it. Indeed, those who fall on the stone will be dashed to pieces, and those on whom the stone falls will be crushed (v.18).
The leadership realize that the parable was directed at them, and so they want to arrest him, but Jesus’ popularity with the crowds prevent his arrest once again (v.19).
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants: God is Patient
Lost in the certainty of judgment in this passage is the great patience in which God deals with man prior to judgment. Here, we see that God’s wrath is not impulsive. He rejects people only after a long effort of reaching out to them in an effort to gain a response of repentance leading to faith.
God’s patience desires repentance
For hundreds of years God sent His prophets to the nation of Israel. One-by-one the prophets were rejected until God finally sent his own son. Sadly, the nation rejected him, too. Now they face certain judgment because they failed to repent and responded in faith.
Many reject the Christian faith because of the doctrine of divine judgment. Many people believe a god exists, but such a god would never condemn people to eternal judgment, so the reasoning goes. But this misses the point. God is benevolent and He takes no pleasure in bringing judgment to mankind. That’s why we see Jesus weeping upon entering Jerusalem and upon His declaration of judgment on the city (Luke 19:41-44). The Scriptures remind us that God is patient. He gives man ample time to see his identity and turn to him in repentance (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).
However, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that God’s patience is an acceptance of who we are. Many live in sin and do so without any noticeable effects (that they can detect). So they presume that their choices are okay with God.
This text is a clear warning for those who would presume upon God’s benevolence. Those who desire to escape God’s judgment must be ready to hand over the fruit of their lives when He comes to collect. Are you ready for that day? God may give you many opportunities in this life to respond, but there will come a day when a decision to reject God will no longer go unpunished. God’s patience shows that He loves you and desires you to come to repentance. So why not repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ today?
Luke 19:45-20:8 is the opening pericope of the final section of Luke’s Gospel (19:45-24:53), in which Luke presents the “passion” of Jesus.
Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus swiftly drives out “those who sold” from the temple, for they had turned the temple into a “den of robbers” (vv.45-46).
Jesus’ rebuke (v.46) includes the combination of two Old Testament texts (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11). With the support of the prophets behind him, Jesus forcefully condemns the idolatry in the temple complex.
In the temple area, items necessary for sacrifices were sold such as animals, wine, oil, salt. In addition, Roman currency was exchanged for Hebrew shekels, which had a built-in surcharge. For Jesus, the temple had become a place of business, rather than a place of worship. Jesus’ action also raises the issue of His authority (Luke 20:1-8), since the temple was the most sacred site in Judaism.
Luke then notes that as Jesus taught in the temple daily, the priests and scribes were searching for ways to destroy him, but Jesus’ popularity with the public would not allow it (vv.47-48). Their idolatry is leading them toward a destructive path.
As Jesus is teaching in the temple on another day, the priests and scribes ask him by what authority he drives out the temple merchants (Luke 20:1-2). The question is, in effect, “What right do you have to tell the priests how to run the temple?” It’s a fair question since Jesus is an outsider and he has no formal training.
Jesus responds by asking the leaders a question of his own: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (vv.3-4). The question is brilliant since John also had no formal training and was an outsider, and yet John was accepted by the people as a prophet. The leaders now have a dilemma.
And so they huddled together and debated how to answer (vv.5-6). If they confess John’s ministry as from heaven, they will look foolish for having rejected his ministry (v.5). If they say John’s ministry was from man they invoke the wrath of the people for saying an acknowledged prophet is not one at all (v.6). Their deliberation is focused on their credibility rather than a search for the truth.
In the end, they claim ignorance, saying they do not know where John’s authority came from (v.7). Their evasive answer allows Jesus the opportunity to refrain from revealing his authority (v.8).
The answer should be obvious. Jesus has already provided plenty of evidence as to the source of his authority (Luke 5:24; 11:20). The time for debate is over.
The progression of sin: Bad to Worse
There’s a subtle progression of sin in this text that begins with a corruption of worship, which then leads to plans for murder and a rejection of truth. This text illustrates a fundamental truth about sin—left unchecked, sin will progress from bad to worse.
Sin corrupts our view of worship (vv.45-46)
Jesus makes clear that worship is a sacred act where commerce has no place. There was a time when it was common for influential people in the community to attend church for the sole purpose of making connections for economic reasons. I’m sure this still exists today, but I pray that this practice is in decline.
This text is a helpful reminder of how seriously Jesus takes our worship of Him, and the central purpose of the church—to worship Him. A more common problem today is for churches to celebrate and worship political and social causes, rather than exalt the Lord Jesus Christ through the proper preaching of His Word and gospel-centered worship.
We were created to worship God, but from the time when sin crept into humanity we have been battling the desire to worship idols instead of the God who created us. We all miss the mark from time-to-time, as did the religious leaders. But where they failed we must learn—let us be ever mindful of how sin corrupts our worship and let that remind us to worship God alone.
Sin corrupts our view of ethics (vv.47-48)
Sin begets more sin. And in this case the unchecked sin of religious commercialism is growing into a fervent desire to murder Jesus. There is irony here, too. The priests, whose main concern was the temple, were contemplating destroying the true temple (John 2:19-22).
The priests may have defended their actions on the basis of keeping worship orderly. True, God does desire our worship to be orderly and purposeful. But worship is also a place for self-examination that leads to the purging of sin. The leaders failed on this account, and it led to additional sin—to the point that their morals have been compromised.
It’s not unlike the sin of pornography that many men deal with. In many cases it starts off as a seemingly innocent peek—a sinful act for sure—that if left unchecked will bloom into severe addiction, and possibly extramarital affairs. It often leads a man down a path that will compromise his morals and values.
Sin is powerful and if it is left unattended it will devour us whole. It will leave us helpless and vulnerable, leading to a corruption of our ethics. If you have a sin in your life that is unchecked, get some help. Go see your pastor or a trusted friend for godly counsel. Above all, repent and turn to Christ for healing.
Sin corrupts our view of truth (20:1-8)
The leader’s deliberation over Jesus’ question reveals that they were willing to cover the truth to avoid appearing in the wrong. They were caught in their own trap and yet they continued to suppress the truth of Jesus in their hearts.
Sin is a vicious trap.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry there was ample evidence as to who Jesus was and by whose authority He was acting but the multiplying force of sin prevents them from admitting the truth of the matter.
Sin is so strong and powerful that its effects linger, sometimes for generations, and even for those who have found forgiveness of their sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. The fact is, when we get angry as the religious leaders do in this text, we hide the truth of a matter and try to lay blame elsewhere instead of first examining our own hearts and admitting where we are wrong. But as we cover our sin, it only grows worse and begins to spread its tentacles further than we can ever imagine.
The point is this: find a way to nail your sin to the cross of Christ so that future generations may be spared.