Luke 20 The Turning Point Begins.
Luke 20:1-8 Jesus’ Authority Questioned.
“Now it happened on one of those days,” that is, when “all the people were very attentive to hear Him” (20:1a; 19:48b). To these folks Jesus continued to teach “in the temple and preached the gospel” (v.1b). Continuing along with this was the activity of the apostate Jewish leadership confronting him (v.1c). Once again they ask Him by what authority He was doing what He was doing, and who gave it to Him (v.2). This no doubt included the cleansing of the temple (19:45-48). He presented them with a challenge, if they could answer from whence came the baptism of John-from heaven or men, then He would answer their question. Of course, if they answered from men the people would rise up against them. If they answered from heaven, they would have their answer concerning Himself, since John testified that Jesus was the promised Messiah (vv.3-8 Cf. Mt. 21:25-27; Mk. 11:31-33; Jn. 1:25-34). Jesus could have referred to any number of scriptural passages or events, but instead He went back to the very inauguration of His ministry. If the leadership really were concerned about Jesus’ authority they should have raised this issue at the very beginning, but by their actions concerning John they showed their bias from the very beginning.
Luke 20:9-19 The Parable Of The Wicked Vinedressers.
This parable of the wicked vinedressers speaks to the apostate Jewish leadership which culminated in those who stood before Jesus, and who were increasingly intent on His death (Cf. Mt. 21:33-46; Mk. 12:1-12). From the garden, man was given the responsibility to be a steward of God’s creation, furthermore the nation of Israel were given further stewardship responsibilities based on redemption. The Lord sent His servants to these stewards to look for fruit, but instead of finding a return on His investment, these wicked squatters killed those sent. This is what the apostate leadership did to the prophets of the law-word of the covenant sent by the LORD (vv. 9-12 Cf. II Kgs. 17:13-15). Finally, the Father sent His beloved Son and they plotted to murder Him also (vv. 13-14), doing so with their own self-malediction (Cf. Mt. 27:25). The irony is that these people thought that they would somehow obtain the inheritance by this death.
What would actually happen is that the LORD will bring on them the curses of the covenant and bequeath the inheritance to others (vv. 15-16a). The apostate leadership knew what He was saying, and they denied that this would be the case (v. 16b). However, it is clear that their rejection of their promised Messiah who stood before them, was the great divide and turning point of this history (vv. 17-18 Cf. Ps. 118:22; Is. 8:14-15; Mt. 21:42-44; Acts 2:22-23; 7:52; I Th. 2:15). Only the then present fear of the people kept them from immediately fulfilling their desire for His death (v. 19). This is also the significance of the judgment which was destined for Jerusalem and the temple of which Jesus would soon fully detail (21:5-33), like the earlier fall of the city under the Babylonian captivity (II Chr. 36:15ff.). The bottom line here is this-there can be no covenantal inheritance for those who reject the heir, which is what the apostate leadership and their followers did.
Luke 20:20-26 Seizing On Jesus’ Words.
Given that the apostate Jewish leadership knew that Jesus was speaking against them, and the fear they had of the crowds, they set about to try and lay a trap for Jesus. Others seized on Jesus’ words as words for hope, but these apostates seized upon His words that they might catch Him saying something which they might use against Him before the political authorities (v. 20). These were men who argued for their own religious independence from Rome, yet they sought to bring in that political power to satisfy their religious disagreement with Jesus. They and their “spies” pretended to have integrity when they asked their question regarding the domain of the Caesar (v. 21). Many of their followers chafed at the idea of paying taxes to Caesar, so their question is not surprising (v. 22).
They must have thought themselves to be so crafty, and yet Jesus knew their thoughts, and no one is hidden from Him today either (v. 23). They didn’t dispute His charge that they were simply trying to test Him. Clearly Caesar has the charge for economic interchange, which the coin with His inscription signified. Taxes to the political establishment was part of that which was their due for the role they played in society (vv. 24-25). Of course, His opponents understood this, and they themselves would not dare give Caesar or his representatives any excuse to come after them. In fact, Mathew and Mark record that they were in fact conspiring together with the Herodians, hence the charge of hypocrisy (22:15-22; 12:13-17).*
Thus they had no answer and were silenced in their devious plan (v. 26). However, this gives all who read this account the occasion to understand some basic points. Firstly, not all those who claim to want to heed the word are sincere. Some want to catch God’s people, especially ministers of the word, in a trap that will set them in needless opposition to others, including the State. Secondly, God’s word does have something to say in the arena of politics. In this particular passage we are to understand that there is a rightful place for civil government and taxes to support that governance. Finally, it should not be missed that we must render to God the things that are God’s. If these men heeded this, then they would have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.
* “The alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodians re-emerges (Mk. 3:6). This alliance was possible because both parties accepted the Roman occupation, the former as divine punishment, the latter for political advantage” (NGSB, p. 1586).