Each Gospel slightly differs the chronological order of the last week of Christ’s mortal life. I love Kent Browne’s summary of this section.
“The Savior’s complaint centers on the self-importance of authority and achievement that gives off the noxious odors of high handed, backroom dealings. The human characteristic of self-aggrandizement has no place in his kingdom. In its place stands humility, draped in the modest robes of hard, honest work, and perfumed by the disciplined yet reassuring aromas of integrity” (Luke, 928). Luke demonstrates the leaders attempt to accuse Jesus of a conspiracy but fail.
1. JESUS’ AUTHORITY IS CHALLENGED
LUKE 20: 1-8
(Matt 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; John 2:18-22)
Jesus is depicted in conflict with Jerusalem authorities. He is acting beyond a rabbi’s realm when cleansing the temple. This fulfills a Messianic role (see Jer 7:11, 15; Zech 14:21b; Mal 3:1-3). The parable assumes the owner’s rights to his rental fees.
Rather than pinning this day to the last week of Jesus’ life, Luke opens, “One day in the life of Jesus.” It is assumed the setting is the court of the women on the Temple grounds. The chief priests and scribes devise a scheme to discredit Jesus. Browne suggests they govern the Sanhedrin (or Jewish court). They ask Jesus a 2-fold question:
1) What authority do you have, and
2) who gave it to you?
Authoritative teaching was firmly established among the Jews. Legitimate academic background was tantamount. All teaching was traditional, so it must be approved by authority, and handed down from teacher to disciple. The ultimate appeal in cases of discussion was always to some great authority, whether an individual teacher or a decree by the Sanhedrin.
There was a regular ordination to the office of Rabbi, Elder, and Judge. This ordination gave them authority, and they kept “letters of orders.” (Edersheim. P.381) “These things” refers to the most recent signs of His Messiah-ship: riding on a white donkey, cleansing the Temple.
Instead of immediately answering, a debate begins. This type of discussion often followed questions. Jesus challenges them by questioning their authority (Fitzmyer, Anchor Bible: Luke). The tables are completely turned. Jesus whom they came to question becomes their examiner (James E. Talmage). Jesus uses the imperative tense verb—forming a command. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is always in charge. He will be our examiner too. He asks about John’s baptism which was similar to the Jewish mikvah cleansings (Naaman, etc.). Also, Luke’s readers know that John the Baptist was divinely foretold before he was conceived, he received the word “of God” in the wilderness, and baptized Jesus. Many saw him as a prophet. “Thus Jesus, even though he refuses to answer directly the question about his authority, actually supplies a response merely by pointing to John.”(Brown, 899).
Jesus will not tell them. We too must come to our own understanding through faith and the Spirit’s witness. Jesus answers their question in the following two parables.
2. PARABLE OF THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN
(Gospel of Thomas, 65; Matt 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9)
A husbandman or tenant farmer comes on the scene after all the planting has happened. They are only the temporary stewards, even though they are acting as if they were the owners. Allegorically, the Creator organized, prepared, planned it all to run smoothly first. The vineyard can be seen as the House of Israel (see Isaiah 5:1-2; Jacob 5). Luke 20:10-12 The farmer as the religious leaders of Israel at harvest time (JST adds more clear timing) beat, shame, wound the Lord’s servants and send them away empty (without fruit=converts, disciples, growth). The three can be witnesses or used to represent that over much time the Lord’s servants have been rejected by Israelites. Luke 20:13-14 The beloved son is sent—knowing that the previous servants were abused—still obeys His Father and goes. The son is “cast out” (i.e. outside the city for execution). The only other time “beloved” has been used so far is at the baptism where Jesus is introduced by the Father with that title. Luke 20:15-16 Do you see the ties with Jesus being “cast out” of the city after the trials for His crucifixion? The chief priests see that Jesus is talking about them in the parable and so the question is about their judgement. That is why they respond, “God forbid.” The rejection of the Son and God’s servants leads to a severe judgment.
3. THE REJECTED STONE
LUKE 20: 17-18
Jesus sees into their heart as looks at their face (Luke 22:61). He quotes Palms 118:22; which comes from the “writings” portion of the Jewish scripture. The cannon is not closed yet, so by references the Psalms, Jesus honors the “writings” portion of scripture to the authority of the Law and Prophets. Symbolically, Jesus is the stone that the Psalmist refers to here. Imagine Jesus reciting this in the Temple courtyard surrounded by newly hewn gigantic stones.
The use of stone images fits well with Jesus’ profession as a stone mason or builder / tekton. The head of the corner or cornerstone functioned as the capstone or keystone in an arch. It was crucial to the whole structure. (see Isaiah 8:14-15; Daniel 2:44-45). Jesus is also recognized as this stone in 1 Pt 2:4-6. The "crushing into powder" occurs when the enemies of God try to fight against Him. “The stone purposely falls on those who reject it” (Brown, 909). Jesus is also the “living rock” in the wilderness and our rock of foundation.
How do we collide with Jesus the Rock and potential become crushed?
The disciples don’t understand according to the JST of Matt 21, “So his disciples came to him ‘for an explanation, at the end of which they come to comprehend ‘the parable . . . that the Gentiles should be destroyed also when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard” (JST Matt 21:50, 56).
4. CHIEF PRIESTS AND SCRIBES AND SPIES ATTACK
Luke 20: 19-20
Since the majority of the people receive Jesus as a prophet (or the Messiah), the conspirators try to pull Rome in for a capital charge requiring crucifixion at their hands. They ask the teacher to correctly judge:
“We know” becomes self-incrimination of the spies. The “way of God” echoes back to the Temple and Garden of Eden where it reminds us of the way back to the Tree of Life and presence of God (Moses 5:4).
Luke shows Jesus’ omniscience—knowing their thoughts.
The penny of “denarius” was a day’s labor. Jesus “cuts through” the Roman political issue by willingly paying taxes to Tiberius Julius Caesar. More important to Him was paying God was and is His due. Humans are created in the image of God. (Gen 1:26-27) How do we give our due to God?
5. MARRIAGE AND RESURRECTION
(Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27)
This is the first time Sadducees are mentioned in Luke’s gospel. They only believed the Torah (or the first 5 books of the OT, all attributed Moses). They did not believe in the resurrection and wanted to have Jesus take a stance. This story shows the apostasy and loss of eternal truths on marriage.
Levirate marriage is found in Gen 38:8 and Duet 25:5-10. The question is of life after death.
Jesus elevates women’s choice in marriage (not as KJV reads), by including woman’s choice here.
Jesus hints at the answer by separating “children of this world” (20:34) as equal to angels, but “children of God” as those coming forth in the first resurrection. The Old Latin and Syriac versions read, “The children of this world marry and are given in marriage, beget and bear children.” A fuller restored truth is found in D&C 132:16-17. The restoration teaches some marriages to continue after life. Yet eternal marriages must be performed on earth, evidenced by vicarious sealings (Brown, Luke 921).
6. A Riddle: DAVID’S SON and LORD
(Matt 22:41-46; Mk 12:35-37)
Only after the resurrection does Jesus clearly use the title Messiah/Christ for himself (Luke 24:26). Jesus asks how an earthly Messiah descending from David can be David’s Lord and son. It should help them understand who Jesus is, but they miss it.
7. BEWARE of the SCRIBES
(Matt 23:1-36; Mark 12: 38-40)
Self-aggrandizement or worldly importance isn’t part of the Kingdom of God—rather humility, hard work, honesty, obedience, and sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit of God.