Luke 20

Luke 20:1-8.296

Matt. 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33.

The Lord is now seen in contact with the various classes of officials and religious and political bodies among the Jews, who successively present themselves in the hope of perplexing and inveigling Him, but in effect to their own confusion. Essaying to judge Him, they expose themselves and are judged by the truth from His lips on their own evidence one after another.

“And it came to pass on one of the297 days494 as he was teaching the people in the temple and evangelizing, the chief298 priests and the scribes, with the elders, came up, and spoke to him, saying, Tell us by what authority thou doest these things; or who is it that has given thee this authority.”

It is ever apt to be thus in an evil day. Worldly religion assumes the sanction of God for that which exists, its permanence, and its future triumph. It was so in Israel; and it is so, in Christendom. Prophets then held up the fate of Shiloh to the religious chiefs who reasoned from the promises of guaranteed perpetuity for the temple, its ordinances, its ministers, its devotees, and its system in general; and those who warned like Jeremiah found bitter results in the taunts and persecutions of such as had the world’s ear. They denied God’s title to tell them the truth. And now a greater than Jeremiah was here; and those who stood on their successional office, and those who claimed special knowledge of the Scriptures, and those of leading influence in the counsels and conduct of the people, demanded His right to act as He did and its source. No wonder they felt the solemn testimony of approaching ruin to all that in which they had their importance; but there was no faith, no conscience toward God. They therefore turned away from the consideration of their own ways and responsibility to the question of His title.494a

The Lord meets them by putting, another question. “And he answering said to them, I also will ask you a [or, one299] word [thing], and tell me: The baptism of John, was it of heaven, or of men? And they reasoned among themselves, saying, If we should say, Of heaven, he will say, Why300 have ye not believed him? but if we should say, Of men, the whole people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered that they did not know whence [it was].”

The wisdom of the Lord’s procedure is worthy of all heed. He Who alone could have taken His stand on personal dignity, and the nearest relationship, and the highest mission, pleads none of these things. He probes their consciences; and, in their desire to escape from the consequences of answering truly, they are compelled to confess their incapacity both to guide others and even to act aright themselves in a matter of the deepest and most general concern to all Israel of that day. “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and at his mouth should they seek the law, for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, said Jehovah of hosts.” So said Malachi, (Mal. 2:7ff.) and so the Lord proved now. “And I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because ye have not kept my ways, but have respect of persons in the law.” They could not deny, yet refused to profit by, the moral power of John, Who bore witness to Jesus as Messiah and to Israel’s need of repentance. To own, therefore, the baptism of John, a new institution, as of Heaven, without the least appearance of traditional sanctity or claim of antiquity or connection with the priesthood or the temple, was of the most serious import to men who derived all their consequence from the regular course of the law and its ordinances. Besides, it at once decided the question of the Messiah, for John in the strongest and most solemn way declared that Jesus was the Christ. To disown John and his baptism would have been fatal to their credit, for all the people were persuaded that John was a prophet. It was to them a mere question of policy, and hence they shirked answering under cover of a lie. They could not afford to be truthful; they said they knew not whence John’s baptism was. They were as void of faith as the heathen.495 He who read their dark hearts wound up with the reply, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” It was useless to inform unbelief. Long before the Lord had forbidden His disciples to tell any man that He was the Christ; for He was going to suffer on the cross. “When ye shall have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am [be], and from myself I do nothing, but even as the Father taught me, these things I speak.” (John 8.)

Here we have no special application to the Jews in order to let them know that the most despised men and corrupt women go into the kingdom of God before the heads honoured by the people. This has its appropriate place in the Gospel of Matthew. But we have the parable of the vineyard let out to husbandmen in all three Synoptic accounts, each with its own special shades of truth.

Luke 20:9-19.496

Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12.

“And he began to speak to the people this parable: A301 man planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen, and left the country for a long time. And in the season he sent to the 3 husbandmen a bondman that they might give to him of the fruit of the vineyard; but the husbandmen having beaten him sent [him] away empty. And again he sent another bond. man; but they having beaten him also, and cast insult upon him sent [him] away empty. And again he sent a third, and they having wounded him also, cast [him] out. And the lord of the vineyard said, What shall I do.497 I will send my beloved son: perhaps when they see302 they will respect [him]. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir;303 let us kill him, that the inheritance may become ours. And having cast him forth out of the vineyard they killed [him]. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do to them? He will come498 and destroy those husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it they said, May it never be! But he looking at them said, What then is this that is written? The stone which they that builded rejected, this has become the corner stone. Every one falling on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall crush him to powder.”

On the truth common to all it is not needful to speak now. But the reader in comparing may notice the greater fullness of detail in Matthew and Mark than in Luke as to the dealings with Israel, as also the greater minuteness in Mark of the reception the servants and son received. So also observe on the other hand that Mark and Luke speak simply of giving the vineyard to others, Matthew on letting it out to other husbandmen such as shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Responsibility is thus most maintained in Matthew, grace in Luke, both being true and of capital moment. Again, in Matthew it is “he that falleth,” in Luke “Every one,” etc. There is breadth in judgment as in grace. Mark has not the verse at all, as not bearing on service, the theme of the Spirit by him.

“And the scribes and the chief priests that very hour sought to lay hands on him, and they feared the people; for they knew that he had spoken this parable of (against) them.” Again does the Holy Spirit notice their bad conscience, their hatred of Jesus, and their fear of the people. God was in none of their thoughts, else had they repented and believed in Jesus. What a comment on the parable was their desire to lay hands on Him! Thus were they soon to fulfil the voice of the prophets and the parable of the great Prophet Himself.

Luke 20:20-26.499

Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17.

And having watched [him] they sent suborned persons pretending to be righteous that they might lay hold of his language so as to deliver him to the power and the authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Teacher, we know that thou rightly sayest and teachest and acceptest no [man’s] person, but in truth teachest the way 500 of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not? But perceiving their deceit he said to them,304 Show me a denarius [penny].305500a Whose image and title has it? And answering they said, Caesar’s. And he said to them, Therefore render the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God.” The moral depravity of all concerned is here very marked, whether of suborners or suborned. Simplicity of purpose detects and exposes the crafty. Jesus sacrifices no duty.501 Let Caesar have what is his, and God His own. The world-panderers and the zealots were alike foiled, who set one duty against another, doing neither aright because each was seeking self. “And they were not able to lay hold of his word before the people, and wondering at his answer were silent.”

Luke 20:27-40.

Matt. 22:23-33, 46; Mark 12:18-27, 34.

And some of the Sadducees who deny that there is any resurrection502 came up, and demanded of him, saying, Teacher, Moses wrote503 to us, If any one’s brother having a wife die and he be306 childless, that his brother take the wife, and raise up seed to his brother. There were then seven brothers, and the first having taken a wife, died childless; and the second307 and the third, took her; and likewise also the seven left no children and died; and lastly the woman died. In the resurrection therefore, of which of them does the woman become wife? For the seven had her as wife. And Jesus308 said to them, The sons of this age 504 marry and are given in marriage; but those deemed worthy to obtain that age and the resurrection from among [the] dead 505 neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they can die no more, for they are equal to angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.506 But that the dead rise even Moses showed [in the section] on the bush when he called Jehovah the God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.507 But He is not God of dead but of living, for all live to Him.”508

We need not combat here men like Dr. Campbell, ably as he wrote on the Gospels, or Dwight, who contend that the point is a future life rather than the resurrection of the body. Not so. The proposed case could hardly have risen but as a difficulty in the ways of a risen body, though it is doubtless true that the Sadducees went further and denied angels and spirits.

Our Gospel, it is of interest to observe here, furnishes several distinct truths beyond what is found in Matthew and Mark. Resurrection from among the dead (not resurrection as such) has its own proper age, a time of special blessedness which the resurrection of the unjust cannot be said to be. It was after this resurrection the apostle longed so ardently, minding no sufferings if by any means he might attain to that. The resurrection of the wicked is for the second death. The resurrection from among the dead is for the righteous who die no more, being equal to angels and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. The resurrection of the unjust is the awful condition of eternal judgment, as they had rejected Christ and eternal life in Him. God is Abraham’s God and will raise the dead to enjoy the promises not yet fulfilled; He is not God of dead men but of living; for to Him all live, even before the resurrection comes as well as when it does come. Thus Luke above all the Evangelists gives us a full glimpse of the separate state, besides the certainty of resurrection and glory. “And some of the scribes answering said, Teacher, thou hast well said. For309 they did not dare any more to ask him anything.” We shall see that the Lord’s turn is come to question them.

Luke 20:41-44.509

Matt. 22:41-45; Mark 12:35-37.

As the various parties, the leaders of religions thought in Israel, did not dare any more to ask the Lord anything, He put the crucial question to them; not of course to tempt like them, but to convince them that the Pharisees had no more real faith than the Sadducees, and that the scribes had no more understanding of the Divine Word than the crowd who knew not the law. His, indeed, was a probe to conscience and an appeal to the Scriptures, if peradventure they might hear and live. Alas! they had ears but heard not, and their own Messiah’s highest glory they denied, to their own perdition and God’s dishonour. And this is no peculiarity of the Jews in that day; it applies as really now, and even more conspicuously among Protestants than among Papists. At bottom, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, earthly religion slights Christ: sometimes by open antagonism, as when His Deity is opposed and His sacrifice set aside; at other times by setting up rival mediators, the virgin, saints, angels, priests, etc., who usurp that which belongs exclusively to Him. To us, then, there is but one Lord, even Jesus Christ; and as we cannot serve two masters, so we cannot have two Saviours; but either men hate the one, and love the other, or else they hold to the one, and despise the other.

“And he said to them, How do they say that the Christ is David’s son; and David himself310 saith in the book of Psalms, Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put thine enemies [as] footstool of thy feet? David therefore calleth him Lord; and how is he his son?”

There is and could be but one answer. The Messiah, David’s son, must have been a Divine Person in order to be David’s Lord, the everlasting enigma of unbelief, now as then the stumbling-stone to the Jew. Yet is it as certainly if not as clearly and continually presented in the Old Testament as in the New; and as it is essential to His proper dignity and enhances incalculably the grace of God, so it is indispensable that there should be an irrefragable rock of salvation, whether for an Israelite or for any other. Without the Godhead of Jesus, however truly man as He is, Christianity is a delusion, an imposture, and an impossibility, as Judaism was an unmeaning child’s play. To Him, God and man in one person, do the law and the prophets bear their unequivocal witness, not more surely to God’s righteousness without law than to the Christ’s glory above law, however He might deign to be born of woman, born under law, in order to redeem those who were in this position. (Galatians 4.)

But man fears to face the truth till he is born anew. It annihilates his pride, it exposes his vanity in every sense, as well as his guilt and ruin; it makes God the only hope and Saviour. Man does not like what grinds his self-importance to powder, and, unless grace intervene savingly, will risk everlasting destruction rather than yield to the testimony of God. But the truth erects a judgment-seat in the conscience of each believer, who now owns himself lost that he may be saved, and saved exclusively by His grace Who will be the judge, to their endless misery and shame, of all who despise His glory and His mercy now.

To the believer no truth is simpler, none more precious, than the Christ a man yet God, son of David yet David’s Lord, the root and the offspring of David, Who came to die, but withal the living and eternal God. On the intrinsic dignity of His person hang the grace of His humiliation and the value of His atonement, and the glory to God of the kingdom He will take and display as Son of man. He is now the Centre to faith of all who are brought to God reconciled by the blood of His Cross; as He will be of all things that are in heaven and that are on earth reconciled by Him; but if not God, equally with the Father, such a place of centre in grace or glory must be a deadly blow at that honour which is due to the only God, because it would be giving to a creature, however exalted, the homage proper to Him alone. His Godhead therefore is essential to His character of the model man; the denial of it logically implies the horrible libel and lie that He is no better than the most fraudulent and successful of impostors. This may serve to prove what the guilt of discrediting the Son of God really is; this explains why whoever denies the Son has not the Father, while he who confesses the Son has the Father also. He who honours not the Son honours not the Father Who sent Him.

Therefore is judgment given only to the Son; because He alone in infinite love stooped to become a man and to die for men, yea for the guiltiest of sinners, who alas! repaid His love by the deepest dishonour, rejecting Him when He came in grace, as they reject Him preached in grace still, Who will judge them as Son of man in that nature because of the assumption of which they despised Him and denied His Godhead. Thus will God compel all, even the proudest unbeliever, to honour the Son as they honour the Father. But this will be to their judgment, not salvation. Eternal life is in hearing Christ’s Word now and believing Him Who sent His Son in love; otherwise nothing remains but a resurrection of judgment in vindication of His injured name, the rejection of the Father in the Son.

We need not dwell on other truths wrapped up in the citation from Psalm 110, though of the deepest interest and elsewhere applied in the New Testament. Here the object is as simple as it is fundamental, an inextricable riddle to the incredulous, Jews or Gentiles. But it is especially the former who have ever stopped short there, silenced but not subdued. As for such Gentiles as professed to receive the only solution in His person, the enemy finds other ways to nullify the truth wherever they are unrenewed by grace. False friends are no better than open enemies, but rather worse — ungodly men turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose judgment is just and sure, as we see in the solemn epistle of Jude.

Luke 20:45-47.

Matt. 23:1, 5-7, 14; Mark 12:38-40.

“And as all the people were listening, he said to the311 disciples: Beware of the scribes, who like to walk about in long robes, and love salutations in the market-places, and first seats in the synagogues and first places at the feasts,510 who devour the houses of widows, and as a pretext make long prayers. These shall receive more abundant (severer) judgment.”

The difference in the object of the Holy Spirit’s writing by Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, comes out here in a striking way. For the former devotes a considerable chapter to their position, their utter failure, and the stern judgment awaiting such hollow formalists from God. Mark and Luke touch the question only, the one as a falsifying of service, the other on moral ground, for the instruction of disciples. What is specially Jewish, either in title or in forms and habits, disappears; what Mark and Luke record is not loving service but selfishness and hypocrisy, the more fatal because of the profanation of God’s name.

296 Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 369-372.

297 The common addition of ἐκείνων, “those” [ACE, etc., 33, 69], seems to be a correction from not seeing the connection with Luke 19:47. BD and Q, at least ten cursives and most of the more ancient versions [Old Lat. Syrrcu pesch Memph.] give the shorter reading. (B.T.)

298 “Chief”: so most Edd., following BCDLMQR, 1, 33, 69. Tisch. reads “priests” with AEFG, etc.

299 “[One] word”: BLR, a few cursives [1, 33, 69] and versions [e.g., Memph.] omit ἕνα [ACDE, etc.], which may be imported from Mark. (B.T.). Revv.: “something” ( λόγον).

300 The weight of evidence [BEL, etc., 69, Memph.] seems clearly against “then” [ACD, etc., 1, 33, Amiat.]. (B.T.)

301 “A”: so Edd. with BCDEL, etc., 1, 33, Old Lat. Memph. A, 69, Syrr. have “a certain.”

302 “When they see”: so AR ΓΔΛΠ, later uncials, most cursives, Syrpesch. Edd. omit, following BCDLQ, 1, 33, Syrcu Memph. Arm.

303 CDLR, most cursives (33, 69), Syrrcu pesch Memph. add “come”. Edd. omit, as ABKMQ Π, 1, most Old Latt, Amiat., Goth. Arm.

304 ACD, etc., most cursives, Old Lat. add “Why do ye tempt me?” which Edd. reject, after BL, 1, Syrr. Memph. Goth. Arm. (from Mark).

305 After “denarius,” CL, 1, 33, 69, Memph., etc., add “and they showed it to Him and He said.” Syrsin has “and they showed it to Him” after the question. Edd., however, adhere to ABD, etc., most cursives and Old Lat., Syrcu and Goth.

306 “Be ( )”: so most Edd., according to BLP, 1, 33, Syrcu, most Old Lat. Memph. Arm. Aeth. Blass: “die” ( ἀποθάνῃ) after A ΓΔΛΠ, later uncials, nearly all cursives, Syrsin and Goth.

307 Blass retains here “took the woman and he died childless,” after AP ΔΛΠ, etc., most cursives (1, 33, 69), Syrrcu sin Old Lat. Amiat. Other Edd. omit the words, as BDL,

308 Before “said,” AE Δ, etc., have “answering,” which is rejected by Edd. with BDL, Old Lat. Memph.

309 The “and” of T.R. is in ADE, etc., 1, 69, Old Lat. Syrr., and is retained by Blass (as by Hahn and Godet in their expositions). Very ancient authorities (BLR) and a few cursives (1, 33) support γάρ, “for.” (B.T.) So W. H.

310 “And … himself”: so Blass, after Lachmann, with ADP, Syrr. Vulg. Goth. Others read “for,” with BLR, 33, etc.

311 “The”: so Edd. with BD. “His” is read in AL, etc., Syrsin.