Luke 20

This devotional is written by Joanna Burkhart.

Luke 20

The authority of Jesus questioned
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 'Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,' they said. 'Who gave you this authority?'

3 He replied, 'I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John's baptism - was it from heaven, or of human origin?'

5 They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, "From heaven," he will ask, "Why didn't you believe him?" 6 But if we say, "Of human origin," all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.'

7 So they answered, 'We don't know where it was from.'

8 Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'

The parable of the tenants
9 He went on to tell the people this parable: 'A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 'Then the owner of the vineyard said, "What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him."

14 'But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. "This is the heir," they said. "Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

'What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.'

When the people heard this, they said, 'God forbid!'

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, 'Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

'"The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone"?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.'

19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Paying taxes to Caesar
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: 'Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 'Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?'

'Caesar's,' they replied.

25 He said to them, 'Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

The resurrection and marriage
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 'Teacher,' they said, 'Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?'

34 Jesus replied, 'The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord "the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob". 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.'

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, 'Well said, teacher!' 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Whose son is the Messiah?
41 Then Jesus said to them, 'Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:

'"The Lord said to my Lord:
'Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.'"

44 David calls him "Lord." How then can he be his son?'

Warning against the teachers of the law
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 'Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 47 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.'


I'm currently studying for an MA, having been out of education for years (decades)! It's a huge undertaking, alongside work and family life, but I'm enjoying the process. One benefit of age is that I find myself less intimidated by people 'performing cleverness' (I just made that up, I hope it makes sense). When I was first at university, those who used long words, in complicated sentences, made me feel inferior. This could be true of other students, but there were also teachers who sometimes seemed more interested in demonstrating their intelligence, than in communicating knowledge.

I give this context so you can appreciate what stood out for me in this passage, which is what a wonderfully wise teacher Jesus was. Although we know 'teacher' was used to describe Jesus, I think our focus can sometimes be on other aspects of his character, Jesus as healer, as counsellor, as deliverer. In this passage, we see his ability to teach. Jesus teaches with power, with compassion, with authority and purpose. He looks not to engage in debate, or to win an argument, but to provoke reflection, to help his 'students' find their own way toward the truth, if that is what they seek. The chapter heading may suggest 'Question Time', but Jesus answers a question with a question, not to manipulate but to separate those who wish to know the truth from those who want only to win an argument.

Jesus answers similar questions about his identity throughout the gospels. He uses different words, pictures, and metaphors, demonstrating a wonderful inclusiveness. Whoever you were, scholar or servant, something was sure to stick. This is no ordinary ability. We can aspire to be more like Jesus in our teaching, and in our learning, to question, to seek, to uncover the truth.

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