Luke 20


Reading Luke and Acts in 2020

Week 20  |  Luke 20

Luke 20 Reflections and Questions

By Rev. Sam Halverson

Jesus' journey to Jerusalem has drawn near its conclusion. Upon entering the city (in last week's scripture from Luke 19) Jesus goes to the Temple, not to worship or pay homage but to drive those selling sacrifices from its premises. Jesus then takes up residence there, teaching in the Temple, as Luke says, everyday, while his opponents seek the opportunity and means by which to kill him.

Luke has "set up" Jesus's teachings in the Temple, and so, prepared us for the lessons of Jesus in chapter 20. Throughout this chapter we are confronted with the issue of Jesus's authority in his teachings.
Luke 20:1-8 The Authority of Jesus
It is understandable that those who seemed to have authority in the Temple might ask Jesus by whose authority he was teaching. After all, the people were spellbound by what they were hearing. No doubt Jesus was attracting a crowd as he settled in each day to teach the good news.

And Jesus' teachings were different than what these people had heard before. Likewise, he did not often reference others' teachings, as we sometimes do today when giving references to "back up" our own claims. Most often, when Jesus would make a unique statement, he would use the words, "Truly, truly I say to you." By what authority - or using whose prior teachings - was Jesus speaking? Who gave him permission to teach these things? (The nerve and irony of them for asking, right?)

Jesus refuses to answer the question because those who ask are not willing to even speak what they believe about John the Baptist's authority. If they cannot proclaim what they do or do not believe about John, why would anything Jesus says convince them he has authority?

But Jesus's refusal to answer still begs the question for you and me, doesn't it? Simply in raising the question, Luke has brought it before the reader. You are about to discover teachings of Jesus, the Messiah. If you believe he has authority, these words will have meaning for you; if you are not willing to proclaim such authority, these teachings may provide very little.
Does Jesus have authority in your life? Why? How have you specifically, intentionally acknowledged Jesus's authority over your life? Who has lived or taught you in such a way to help you recognize Jesus's authority? Take a moment to acknowledge that person and thank God for the witness he or she has given to illuminate Jesus's authority for you. In what areas of your life this week do you need to be reminded of Jesus's authority?
Luke 20:9-19 The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
Jesus tells a provocative parable about a vineyard owner whose tenants try to violently take over the land and its harvest. Luke tells us the scribes and priests understood Jesus' parable was directed against them; they are the tenants - the ones who reject not only the owner's servants (God's messengers) but the very son of the vineyard owner (Jesus). Workers often tended absentee estates, and if the owner had no heirs the workers would have the first right to the land.

Notice the response of the Temple leaders to the parable - "Heaven forbid." They are struck by its violence and recognize the injustice. Perhaps their response is even at the recognition of themselves as the wicked tenants. "Heaven forbid we would do such a thing." Jesus's reply, though, is also to be noted. He asks what it means that "the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."

While Jesus's parable is directed at the religious leaders, Luke begs the question of us, as well: how will you receive the son of the vineyard owner - the stone which the builders rejected? If God has given Jesus authority, and if you recognize such authority, then how do we reject such an important stone in the building of our faith? Ask God to illuminate the ways you reject something significant in the building of your faith. Have you insisted on keeping control over certain fruits belonging to God? How might you replace the cornerstone more firmly in your faith?
Luke 20:20-26 The Question about Paying Taxes
Spies have been planted among Jesus's followers in the Temple, and they ask if it is wrong for them to pay taxes to the emperor - the one who not only has occupied God's holy city with an army of gentiles but who also proclaims himself as the "son of god." To pay taxes to the emperor could easily be seen by some as turning away from God's will; yet if Jesus says it is a sin, the Romans would have a reason to arrest him. Either answer Jesus gives could result in his arrest.

Jesus evades the trap by turning the question back at those who confront him. Asking whose image is on the coin, Jesus gives the convicting answer: "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and to God the things that are God's."

Whose image is impressed upon you? In whose image are you created? As a child of God, you are created in God's image (Genesis 1:26); you are also called to live out the image of Christ to others. Jesus has said, "...give to God the things that are God's." How much of your life have you given over to God? In what ways today will you give to God? What parts of your life do you most struggle with handing over to God? Why?
Luke 20:27-38 About Children of the Resurrection
Jesus is invited into another snare - this one with a question about the resurrection, and it is asked by some of the Sadducees - leaders in the Temple whose only authority was the first five books of our Bible - the Torah. This means they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (since it not mentioned in those Books of Moses). The question they ask about the marriage relationship after the resurrection, then, is intended to discredit the very idea of a resurrection - something they may have heard Jesus teaching about.

Jesus's answer explains how Moses himself is told, in Exodus (one of the Torah), that God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and not the God of the dead but of the living. Therefore, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob - all who have gone before - live with God.

What does the resurrection of the dead mean for you? Think about Jesus's statement, "For to him [God], all of them are alive." What do you think "resurrection of the dead" means for God? Being alive with God is happening for you right now. Certainly being a child of the resurrection means you have already started living in God's presence; you need not wait. You are already alive and with God - as you will always be. Are there things you are waiting to tell God after the resurrection of the dead? Why not tell God those things now? Are there areas of your life that seem dead? How might you invite God into those areas to make them more alive?
Luke 20:1-47 The Unique Answers/Questions of Jesus
Reread the entire chapter 20.
Throughout this chapter Jesus has avoided the traps of his questioners, answering so well that his opponents are silenced by the truth of his answers. God always answers us, and God's answers are always full of truth; but often God's answers are not what we expect nor are they usually as clear as we would like. Our own assumptions, our own short-sightedness, and our own biases cause us to "hear" what we want to hear or proclaim, "heaven forbid" if it sounds like we are being accused.

If Jesus does, in fact, have authority over your life, how do you respond when such authority seems to go against your own expectations? It is often said, "If you find yourself agreeing with everything you read in scripture, you may be reading it wrong." God's teachings convict; being confronted by God's truths brings us to our knees in repentance.

What bothers you most about the reading for this week? How might God be using that difficult passage or teaching to draw you more into God's truth? What can you read, study, or pray about to hear God's truth more clearly?

Rev. Sam Halverson is Associate Director of Congregational Excellence for Youth and Young Adult Ministries.