Study Guide for Luke 20 by David Guzik (2023)

Question and Answer with Jesus

"These answers of His were not the sharp retorts of smartness, but the final utterances of a wisdom which revealed the ignorance of the questions." (Morgan)

A. The religious leaders question the authority of Jesus.

1. (Luke 20:1-2) The religious and political leaders question Jesus.

Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”

a. The chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him: Jesus didn’t look for these great debates with the religious leaders. He wanted to teach the people and tell them about God’s good news. Yet the questioners came to Him, and He answered them with great wisdom and power.

b. Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Jesus showed great courage by boldly entering Jerusalem and driving out the corrupt merchants from the temple courts. Now the religious leaders wanted to know by what right Jesus did such things — especially because He did not have traditional rabbinical training.

i. This was not the beginning of the official suspicion of Jesus by the religious authorities. Yet, His cleansing of the temple and public teaching made Jesus of even greater concern to them. “Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and surely His cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:45-46), were viewed by the officials as highly controversial if not adversarial.” (Pate)

2. (Luke 20:3-8) Jesus answers their question with another question.

But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John; was it from heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it was from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

a. The baptism of John; was it from heaven or from men? By replying with this question, Jesus did not evade their question. Instead, He used the question to explain who He is and to expose the hypocrisy of the leaders. If John was from God, then he was right in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah — and if this was true, then Jesus had all authority.

i. "Since John, like Jesus, was not a rabbi, the authorities' response to the one would affect their response to the other." (Pate)

b. They answered that they did not know where it was from: This response showed they were not sincere seekers of truth. They cared more about winning the argument against Jesus than in knowing the truth.

i. “If you do not recognize authority when you see it, He said in effect, no amount of arguing will convince you of it.” (Geldenhuys)

c. Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things: When they showed themselves to be insincere seekers, Jesus refused to answer their question. Jesus had great care and compassion for the sincere seeker, but not for cynical critics and manipulators.

i. If we want answers from Jesus, we must deal rightly with the truth that has already been revealed. These men knew that John said Jesus was the Messiah, and were not willing to accept it.

B. The parable of the tenant farmers.

1. (Luke 20:9-16a) A parable about a landowner and his tenants.

Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.”

a. A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers: This sort of tenant farming arrangement was a common practice in Jesus’ day, especially in Galilee. Archaeologists have discovered records of this same sort of dispute between landowners and tenant farmers.

b. Planted a vineyard: This parable had more than a cultural connection; it was also rooted in the Old Testament. Jesus' first listeners would remember that the vineyard was used in the Old Testament as a picture of Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7). In this parable, the tenants (the vinedressers) represented the religious leaders among the Jewish people.

c. Leased it to vinedressers: The vinedressers didn’t buy the vineyard, and they did not make it. They were allowed to work it by a generous owner — yet they turned against the owner, and one day they would answer for their rebellion..

i. This parable tells us that God, the owner of all, that He is more patient with rebels than we would ever be, and that there will be a final day of reckoning.

d. What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: The owner of the vineyard repeatedly tried to receive what was rightfully His from the vineyard and those who worked it. They rejected each of the three servants he sent to receive what was due to him, so finally he sent his beloved son, thinking "Probably they will respect him."

e. This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours: The renters of the vineyard foolishly thought they could benefit from killing the son who had or would inherit the vineyard. They were seriously wrong in this foolish assumption.

i. "Jeremias surmises that the farmers may have assumed from the arrival of the son that the owner had died. So if they killed the sole heir, the vineyard would pass into their hands as first claimants." (Pate)

ii. “In a day when title was sometimes uncertain, anyone who had had the use of land for three years was presumed to own it in the absence of an alternative claim.” (Morris)

iii. This parable tells us that Jesus knew He was the Son — the Son of God — and that He knew that He would be killed soon.

2. (Luke 20:16b-19) Jesus applies the parable.

And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!” Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people; for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.

a. Certainly not! The religious leaders understood the parable immediately and objected that Jesus compared them to the rebellious and foolish tenants (they knew He had spoken this parable against them). In their blindness they thought, "This could never be us."

b. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone: Jesus taught them from Psalm 118, because this Psalm described the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem, and Jesus had been officially presented to Israel at the Triumphal Entry. The hostility of the Jewish leaders showed that this Messianic stone was being rejected, even if He was initially greeted with hosannas.

i. "Jesus' connection of the rejected son and the rejected stone seems to suggest that He is explaining the people's query about the treatment of the son." (Pate)

c. Stone... chief cornerstone: Jesus is often likened unto a stone or a rock in the Bible. He is the rock of provision that followed Israel in the desert (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is the stone of stumbling (1 Peter 2:8). He is the stone cut without hands that crushes the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 2:45).

i. The cornerstone, "designated in antiquity the stone used at the building's corner to bear the weight or the stress of the two walls. It would have functioned somewhat like a 'keystone' or 'capstone' in an arch or other architectural form. It was the stone which was essential or crucial to the whole structure." (Fitzmyer, cited in Pate)

d. Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder: Anyone who comes to Jesus will be broken of their pride and self-will, but those who refuse to come will be crushed by Christ in judgment.

C. God and Caesar.

1. (Luke 20:20-22) The Pharisees try to entrap Jesus.

So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

a. That they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor: Public opinion had kept them from stopping Jesus. Now the enemies of Christ tried to turn the tide of public opinion against Him by making Jesus appear to side with the Roman government.

i. Spies: The original has the idea, "I let down, to set in ambush. One who crouches in in some secret place to spy, listen, catch, or hurt…No doubt the persons mentioned in the text were men of the basest principles, and were hired by the malicious Pharisees to do what they attempted in vain to perform." (Clarke)

b. Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: This was an obvious and clumsy attempt to influence Jesus with flattery. They hoped Jesus was insecure or foolish enough to be impressed by their hollow praise.

i. “Here is a fair glove, drawn upon a foul hand.” (Trapp)

c. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Jesus’ dilemma with this question was simple. If He said that taxes should be paid, He could be accused of denying the sovereignty of God over Israel (making Himself unpopular with the Jewish people). If He said that taxes should not be paid, He made Himself an enemy of Rome.

i. Rome had long required the Jews of Palestine to pay taxes, and at least since A.D. 6 they were forced to pay taxes directly into the emperor’s treasury. Some Jewish patriots (such as the Zealots) refused, not wanting to recognize Roman rule as legitimate. Most others reluctantly paid it.

2. (Luke 20:23-26) Jesus answers their question.

But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.

a. Why do you test Me? If there was some exasperation in the voice of Jesus as He said this, it was not only on His own behalf. It is easy to imagine that Jesus thought, "Why do you keep testing Me when you always lose? How long will you try to get the best of Me?"

b. Whose image and inscription does it have? Essentially, Jesus said “You recognize Caesar’s civil authority when you use his coins, therefore you are obliged to pay him the taxes he asks for.”

i. "The denarii bore the head of Tiberius and the inscription TI. CAESAR DIVI AVG. F. AVGVSTVS (Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus). The image and inscriptions of ancient coins would have been understood as a property seal; the coins belonged to Caesar." (Pate)

ii. A spiritual lesson can be learned from what is inscribed on coins issued in the United States, because each phrase as an important association in the Christian life.

  • In God we Trust.
  • Liberty.
  • E. Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).

c. Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: Jesus affirmed that the government makes legitimate requests of us. We are responsible to God in all things, but we must be obedient to government in matters civil and national.

i. Peter said it like this: Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17) “Jesus is saying that we are citizens of heaven and earth at the same time.” (Morris)

ii. “Every Christian has a double citizenship. He is a citizen of the country in which he happens to live. To it he owes many things. He owes the safety against lawless men which only a settled government can give; he owes all public services.” (Barclay)

iii. In his commentary on Matthew 22, R.T. France notes: “Render generally means ‘give back’ (whereas the verb they had used in verse 17 was simple ‘give’). It is the verb for paying a bill or settling a debt; they owe it to him.”

d. And to God the things that are God’s: Everyone has the image of God impressed upon them. This means that we belong to God, not to Caesar, or not even to ourselves.

i. “It establishes the limits, regulates the rights, and distinguishes the jurisdiction of the two empires of heaven and earth. The image of princes stamped on their coin denotes that temporal things belong all to their government. The image of God stamped on the soul denotes that all its faculties and powers belong to the Most High, and should be employed in his service.” (Clarke)

ii. Had the Jews rendered unto God His due, they would have never had to render anything to Caesar. In New Testament times, they would never have endured the occupying oppression of the Roman Empire if they had been obedient to their covenant with God.

e. They could not catch Him in His words: Jesus gave a wise and appropriate answer to their question. Nevertheless, they took this perfect answer and twisted it into an accusation in Luke 23:2, when they accused Jesus of forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar — when He actually said just the opposite.

D. A question about the resurrection.

1. (Luke 20:27-33) The Sadducees ask Jesus a ridiculous question.

Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”

a. The Sadducees, who deny there is a resurrection: The Sadducees were the ancient version of the modern liberal theologians. They were anti-supernaturalistic, only accepting the first five books of Moses as authentic — and disregarding what was written in those books when it pleased them to do so. They did not believe in immortality, spirits or angels.

i. The name Sadducees came from the name of the priestly family Zadok (as in Ezekiel 44:15); it was something like saying, "Zadokites." It was the priestly faction or party. (Pate)

ii. “They were the conservative, aristocratic, high-priestly party, worldly minded and very ready to cooperate with the Romans, which, of course, enabled them to maintain their privileged position.” (Morris)

b. Now there were seven brothers: The Sadducees asked Jesus a hypothetical — and ridiculous — question, hoping to show that the idea of the resurrection was nonsense. Based on Deuteronomy 25:5-10, if a married man died childless, it was his brother’s responsibility to impregnate his brother’s widow and then count the child as the deceased husband’s descendant. The Sadducees imagined elaborate circumstances along these lines and raised the question, “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become?

i. This practice of a brother-in-law marrying the widow of his brother is known as levirate marriage. The term comes from the Latin “lavir,” meaning “brother-in-law.” This is the specific idea in the question.

ii. “Probably, this was one of the stock stories they were in the habit of telling in order to cast ridicule upon the resurrection.” (Spurgeon)

2. (Luke 20:34-36) Jesus corrects their misunderstanding of resurrection life by showing it is life of an entirely different order.

And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

a. Neither marry nor are given in marriage: First, Jesus reminded them that life in the resurrection is quite different from this life. It does not merely continue this world and its arrangements, but it is life of a completely different order.

i. This passage has made many wonder if marriage relationships will exist in heaven, or if those who are husband and wife on earth will have no special relationship in heaven. We are not told enough about life in the world beyond to answer in great detail, but we can understand a few principles.

  • Family relationships will still be known in life in the world beyond. The rich man Jesus described in the afterlife was aware of his family relationships (Luke 16:27-28).
  • The glory of heaven will be a relationship and connection with God that surpasses anything else, including present family relationships (Revelation 21:22-23).

ii. If it seems that life in the resurrection that Jesus spoke of here does not include some of the pleasures of life we know on earth, it is only because the enjoyments and satisfactions of heaven far surpass what we know on earth. We can’t be completely certain what life in glory beyond will be like, but we can know with certainty that no one will be disappointed with the arrangements (Revelation 22:1-5).

iii. This question is not merely theoretical. There will be many in heaven who have had more than one spouse, for any number of reasons. Jesus here told us that jealousy and exclusion will have no place in heaven.

iv. This Biblical understanding of heaven is dramatically different from the more sensual dreams of heaven, such as those found in Islamic and Mormon theology. “Mahomet, as he professed that himself had a special license given him by God to know what woman he would, and to put them away when he would; so he promised to all his votaries and adherents the like carnal pleasures at the resurrection.” (Trapp)

b. Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection: Second, Jesus reminded us that life in heaven is eternal and shares some characteristics of the existence that angels now experience — though they will be even greater than angels, being called sons of God and sons of the resurrection. These are titles not given to angelic beings in the New Testament.

i. If there is no death in the life to come, there is no need for procreation.

ii. The most obvious point must not be neglected: Jesus told the Sadducees that angels were real. “In fact, Jesus’ use of angels contains a double thrust since the Sadducees denied their existence.” (Carson)

3. (Luke 20:37-40) Jesus proves the resurrection from the Scriptures.

“But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” But after that they dared not question Him anymore.

a. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: Jesus demonstrated the reality of the resurrection using only the Torah; the five books of Moses, which were the only books the Sadducees accepted as authoritative. If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not live on in resurrection, then God could not say that He is the God of Abraham, and would instead say, “I was the God of Abraham.”

i. This emphatically tells us that those departed from this life in the Lord live.

  • They live personally — they are still individuals in the life to come.
  • They are mentioned by their names — they are known and not anonymous.
  • They are free from all sorrow, never to die and to live as sons of God.
  • They are not lost — we know where they are, and they also know.

ii. "Children of God, it is in the highest degree proper that you should think of things as your Father thinks of them; and he saith that 'all live unto God.' Let us correct our phraseology by that of Scripture, and speak of departed saints as inspiration speaks of them…in our family we shall number brothers, and sisters, and friends, whose bodies lie in the churchyard and shall speak of those who have crossed the border, and passed within the veil, as still our own." (Spurgeon)

b. He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him: This demonstrates that there is a resurrection, and life beyond, despite what the unbelieving and doubting Sadducees thought and taught. Jesus answered well, and both His friends and enemies recognized it.

i. "A living God is the God of living men; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive." (Spurgeon)

E. Using a question, Jesus warns the religious leaders.

1. (Luke 20:41-44) Jesus asks a question: how can the Messiah be both the Son of David and the Lord of David?

And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”

a. How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? When the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees questioned Jesus, they tried to make Him look bad or trap Him. Jesus didn’t do the same with His questions to them. Instead, He got to the heart of the matter: “do you really know who I am?”

i. Jesus tested their notion that they already knew all about the Messiah. He asked them to consider that they may not know everything about the Messiah, and may have something to learn.

b. Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son? Quoting Psalm 110:1, Jesus noted that King David called the Messiah his Lord. This means that the Messiah is not only the Son of David (a popular Messianic title), He is also the Lord of David. As Revelation 22:16 says, He is both the root and offspring of David.

2. (Luke 20:45-47) Jesus warns about the hypocrisy of the scribes.

Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

a. Who desire to go around in long robes: The scribes were men of leisure, who watched while others worked. Love greetings: They demanded recognition from others for their standing with God. The best seats: They demand the special benefits of status and privilege.

b. Devour widows’ houses: Perhaps the scribes pretended to help the widows, and instead used their position of trust to take from them. Perhaps they received gifts from well-meaning widows and mismanaged them. Perhaps they solicited gifts from widows with false promises.

i. In that day, a Jewish teacher could not be paid for teaching — but he could receive gifts. Apparently, many scribes used flattery and manipulation to get big gifts from those who could least afford to give them — such as widows.

ii. Many of Jews of Jesus’ day taught that teachers were to be respected almost as God; they said that they deserved more honor and respect than any other people in life did. They taught that the greatest act someone could do is give money to a teacher. Of course, it was the teachers themselves who taught this!

c. For a pretense make long prayers: The scribes thought they were more spiritual because of their long prayers. But Morgan rightly said that when a man is away from his wife, and the journey is short, the letters are short — but the farther he is from his wife, the longer the letters become. Morgan said that some people must be a long way from God because their prayers are so long!

d. These will receive greater condemnation: The scribes represent a complete contrast to the picture of how a disciple should live — as a servant, as a child, as one carrying a cross. Jesus said we should notice what they do, as well as what they say — and especially that we should notice their destiny.

i. The scribes were experts at projecting a religious image, but a religious image before men isn’t what God looks for in us. God is concerned about our religious reality, not the image.

©2018 David Guzik — No distribution beyond personal use without permission


  1. Barclay, William "The Gospel of Luke" (The New Daily Study Bible) (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975)
  2. Carson, D.A. "Matthew: The Expositor's Bible Commentary" Volume 8 (Matthew-Luke) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1984)
  3. Clarke, Adam "Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes" Volume 5 (Matthew-Acts) (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1832)
  4. France, R.T. "The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary" (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985)
  5. Geldenhuys, Norval "The Gospel of Luke" (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971)
  6. Morgan, G. Campbell "An Exposition of the Whole Bible" (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Revell, 1959)
  7. Morris, Leon L. "Luke: An Introduction and Commentary" (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988)
  8. Pate, C. Marvin "Luke: Moody Gospel Commentary" (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1995)
  9. Spurgeon, Charles Haddon "The New Park Street Pulpit" Volumes 1-6 and "The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit" Volumes 7-63 (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990)
  10. Trapp, John "A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments" Volume 5 (Matthew to Revelation) (Eureka, California: Tanski Publications, 1997)

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