Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:41-21:4 – Authentic Faith

Grace For The Journey

We are looking today at the final verses of Luke chapter 20 and the first four verses of chapter 21.  We will begin our study today at verse 41.  Remember the original Greek manuscripts do not have chapters, divisions, and verse numbers so we are going to roll right into the first four verses of chapter 21 as this seems to be the next logical break.

Jesus has been asked a couple of hostile questions.  Now it is His turn to do the questioning.  As you read this passage, listen for what Jesus teaches about authentic Christian faith.

I do not usually watch “Antiques Roadshow.”  One Sunday afternoon, during halftime of an NFL football game, I watched a segment of an episode where there was this lady who had this necklace of gold, diamonds, and turquoise.  She said she bought it 25 years ago as a gift to herself.  The guy she bought it from gave her a paper certifying that it was made in 1905 and that it contained authentic Turkish turquoise.  When asked what she paid for it 25 years ago she said she paid $20,000.

Now when I heard that, I just kind of had that feeling, you know.  Like, $20,000?!  The appraiser tells her, “Well, I have good news for you and I have bad news for you.”  That is not something you want to hear at the Antiques Roadshow!  The appraiser goes on a bit trying to cushion the blow by telling her how wonderful the necklace looks – which is the good news; and you know he is soften what he will say next, and you can see the woman bracing for the bad news.  Finally, the appraiser says, “It is not quite as old as you were led to believe.”  The appraiser tells the woman the necklace was made in the 60s and says a few more things before saying, “I would give it a current auction estimate in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $12,000.” The woman’s eyes bulge out like, “What?!”  The appraiser says, this “is somewhat less than you paid for it,” and the woman responds, “Significantly less!”  This poor woman had paid $20,000 for something 25 years ago that is today only worth $8000 to maybe $12,000.  She had been led to believe that she had this authentic piece of jewelry with Turkish turquoise, but she had something that was not authentic at all – looked like the real deal but was inauthentic.

It is always disappointing when what you think is real turns out to be false.  Everything looked so convincing, but those who are “in the know” expose the flaws and the inconsistencies.  We certainly would not think of Jesus as an appraiser nor would we think of the religious leaders of His day as people of some kind of intrinsic worth whose value was to be appraised.  But if we were looking for an example of those who present themselves as a people who seemed to be authentic but are not, then we have a found such a people in the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  Jesus exposes their utter hypocrisy by revealing to others who they really were.  In this exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders we learn a few things about what authentic faith should look like.

Let me pose this as a general question to guide our teaching this morning . . . 

What does authentic faith look like?

Our text suggests three marks of authentic Christian faith.  First, to possess authentic faith:

I.  We Understand Christ’s Identity – Verses 41-44.

More important than any question we will ever answer is the question, “Who is Jesus Christ” and then the accompanying follow-up question, “And what now will you do with Jesus?”  Who is Jesus Christ and what will you do with Him?  These are questions we must visit again and again as families who are interested in growing and being discipled.  Dads, moms, ask these questions today of your family. 

Verse 41 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David?’”  Jesus is talking about the coming Messiah.  Remember that the word “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name!  It is the Greek word for Messiah.  The Jews were looking forward to a coming Messiah or Savior.  In this question in verse 41 Jesus is building on the common, general view that the coming Messiah and Savior would be David’s son, that is, a descendant of David.  This was the accepted conventional wisdom and there, of course, was biblical support for this.  But Jesus asks, “How can that be?  How can the Christ be the Son of David?” and His point is to stress the identity of Christ.  Jesus says in verses 42 through 44, “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?”

Jesus’ point is to teach and stress the identity of Christ.  Jesus quotes from one of the psalms that David wrote.  David was, of course, was the second king of Israel.  His descendants reigned on the throne of Judah until 587 BC when Jerusalem fell to Babylon.  David wrote over seventy of the Psalms, including this psalm from which Jesus is quoting, Psalm 110, a psalm about the Messiah.  Psalm 110 opens in verse 1 with, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” 

So, Jesus is asking, “What in the world is David talking about here? I mean he wrote this psalm a thousand years earlier and he says, “The LORD said to my Lord sit at my right hand.”  By the way, the “right hand” is the place of honor.  David is writing about the “LORD.”  Notice the word is in all caps.  When you see this word in all caps it is a reference to YHWH, the One True God of the Bible.  In the Old Testament the covenant name for God is YHWH.  What is God saying?  He says to David’s Lord – (Lower case letters here signify a particular person to be esteemed worthy of respect).  It was not unusual, for example, in Bible days for a son to address his father as Lord.  David is referring to someone higher than himself.  David writes, “The LORD said to my Lord” and Jesus is like, “To whom is David speaking?”

The answer is implied: David is speaking of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who, while a descendant of David is also David’s Lord.  This indicates that David’s future offspring has more authority than David.  And this statement about “sitting at the right hand” is a way of saying that this Messiah will share YHWH’s rule and reign.  Remember that angel Gabriel had said to Mary in the opening chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 1:32-33, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  What is Gabriel’s point? 

Jesus Christ IS the Son of David,

But He is much, much more. 

He is also David’s Lord.

Who is Jesus for you?  How do you identify Him?  To have authentic faith we must understand Christ’s identity.  Is Jesus identified by you as merely a good man, a good teacher?  This is how many in Jesus’ day identified Him.  Many of the religious leaders identified Jesus as merely a teacher.  Who is the Christ?  Is He God-in-the-flesh, the Messiah, Savior, Son of David, SON OF GOD who is CO-EQUAL and CO-REIGNS with God the Father in heaven?  That is how the Bible identifies Jesus.  He is God-in-the flesh who came to us to die for our sins, was buried for our transgressions, and raised the third day that we may be justified – declared righteous.  You cannot be a Christian without believing this.  You must properly “ID” Christ.  And by the way, no other spiritual question you may ask really matters until you answer this question first.

Authentic faith means we understand Christ’s identity.  Secondly, authentic faith means:

II. We Avoid Ungodly Hypocrisy – Verses 45-47.

These religious leaders of Jesus’ day really wanted to look good in the eyes of others.  They always seemed to focus on the external rather than the internal.  Jesus warns His disciples about them.  Verse 45 says, “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.”  The word is “ostentatious.”  These guys loved to be seen by others.  They were like clowns in a parade.  They loved it when people watched them parade by.  They loved the long greetings folks gave them: “Why hello, most holy, reverend, highest, most-blessed, Father so-and-so

Jesus continues to describe their hypocrisy in verse 47, “Who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”  This last phrase is a reminder that we all will face a judgement, described here by Jesus with the word “condemnation.”  There is a judgment and there are degrees of judgment.  That Jesus says some will receive a “greater” condemnation means that others will receive a “lesser” one, but all will be judged.  Just as there are degrees of glory and reward in heaven, so are there degrees of loss of reward and condemnation in hell. 

Jesus says in verse 47 that these hypocritical teachers were “devouring widows houses” which probably means that they were cheating widows of their estates while they served as executors of their properties.  Unbelievable, isn’t it?!

In verse 47 Jesus says they also, “for a pretense make long prayers.”  It is not the long prayers that are the problem, it is the “pretense” of the long prayers.  The idea is that, for a show make lengthy prayers.  These guys were all about appearance and perception.  They looked really religious and devout, and they sounded really religious and devout.  Too many, they looked and sounded like the real thing.  But Jesus “appraises” their religiosity here and exposes their utter hypocrisy.  He had done this before.  He had laid bare their hypocritical hearts more than once before in Luke 16:15, “You (Pharisees) are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is and abomination in the sight of God.”  Men may look at you and say, “Wow, what a spiritual giant!”  But God knows your heart.  Sit is not how you look on the outside or even how you sound on the outside.  It is who you are on the inside.

Why is Jesus saying this here in verses 46-47?  Does He wish to just slam these scribes?  No, He mentions this as a warning.  Who is Jesus warning here?  Verse 45 tells us – the disciples.   

Authentic faith means we understand Christ’s identity . . . Authentic faith means we avoid ungodly hypocrisy and, final . . . 

III.  We Are Known For Great Generosity – 21:1-4.

Verse one says, “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.”  Remember Jesus and the disciples are there at the temple.  Jesus is watching folks put their money into the temple treasury.  There were 13 collection chests or boxes in the Jewish temple.  These chests had trumpet-like openings.  Seven of the chests were for the temple tax and the remaining six were for freewill offerings.  Jesus is watching folks put their money in the chests.  The money made noises as they clanged down through the openings of the chests and often you could tell the greatness of the size of the gift by the greatness of the sound it made.  Everyone knew approximately who was giving what.  They did not write secret checks, nor was there a website where they could click to “give online.”  They gave publicly and everyone heard the size of your gift. 

Verse 2 tells us, “And He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.”  This coin was the lepton; the plural is lepta.  The lepton was the smallest coin used among the Jews in Jesus’ day.  The word “lepton” means “small or thin.”  The lepton was an extremely thin bronze or copper coin worth next to nothing, worth a very small fraction of a denarius.  We have learned about the denarius before in Luke’s Gospel as recently as verses 20-26 where Jesus calls for a denarius and asks whose image is on it and so forth.  A denarius represented about one day’s wages.  A lepton was worth about 1/128th of a denarius.

Jesus is watching as this poor widow puts into the temple treasure two small coins worth practically nothing.  He says in verse 3, “. . . Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all.”  We are like, “What?!  How can Jesus say that?!   Clearly this woman put in less than everyone else!”  But remember?  Jesus says, “It is not what everyone sees on the outside, it is what is going on on the inside.”  Just as Jesus could see and expose the heart of the hypocritical religious leaders so Jesus can see and expose the heart of this poor godly widow.  Jesus goes on in verse 4 and tells us what He means, “For all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

What do authentic Christians do?  They give sacrificially.  They give selflessly.  They give from the heart, a heart that loves and beats hard for Jesus Christ, the Lover of their souls.  It is not the amount this woman gave that is important.  It is highly unlikely anyone could even have heard the two coins as she dropped them into the chest.   These were paper thin coins worth basically nothing.  She dropped them into the chest and they did not clang, they floated and whispered.  It is not the amount.  It is the fact that she gave sacrificially, selflessly, from her heart, great generosity.

The main point appears to be that

God measures the gifts of his people

Not on the basis of their size but on

The basis of how much remains.

We must never forget that God owns everything.  He owns all of our stuff, all of our possessions, and all of our money.  He owns it all.  Lordship means we recognize and agree that He is Lord of everything.

When it comes to Christian stewardship and giving, our common statements are, unfortunately, not always helpful.   Someone says, “Tithing means you give God 10% and you get to keep 90%.”  So, the thought is 10% is His and 90% is yours.  But that is not what the Bible teaches – It actually teaches that 100% is God’s.  If we recognize this truth, then tithing – the biblical practice of returning to God from the top, the firstfruits – for the Christian is merely a place to begin in Christian giving.  You begin with returning 10% and then you grow to give more and more.

This woman did something very impractical: she sis not gave 10%, but 100%.  Everyone is bracing for, “Now you go and do likewise.”  Is that the point here?  Is that what we’re to do?  No, the principle is . . .

God measures the gifts of His people

Not on the basis of their size but

On the basis of how much remains.

Do you give sacrificially?  Are you known as a person of great generosity because nothing excites your heart more than Jesus?

What are you doing with your money?  Does it own you, possess you?  Are you always concerned about giving too much or not having enough?  It may be that money is your god and you do not even realize it.  It has got you in bondage.  Money can be your god whether you are rich or poor.

Authentic faith means we understand Christ’s identity, we avoid ungodly hypocrisy, and we are known for great generosity.  No other question matters more than what you think of Jesus and what you will do with that information.

This Is God Word’s

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:27-40 – Do You Know The God of the Living?

Grace For The Journey

We have this morning the third of three questions asked by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day . .

  • The first was, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things” (Luke 20:2)?
  • The second question was an attempt by the Pharisees to trap Jesus, back in Luke 20:22, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 
  • The question we will look at today is the second of two attempts to trap Jesus, this time by the Sadducees. 

The Pharisees had had their shot, so perhaps the Sadducees – not willing to be outdone in this contest of revealing one’s ignorance and ineptitude before Jesus – decide that they will have a go at it.

Maybe you have been questioned about your Christian faith by an unbelieving skeptic.  You have been asked something like, “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?” Or, “If God is sovereign and knows all things and does according to the counsel of His will, then why pray?”  “Does prayer change God’s mind?” and so forth.  Asking questions is good if one really wants to know the answer, but sometimes people ask questions merely to get a reaction out of someone.  They do not really want an answer, they are just trying to make sport of someone and to trip them up in their response.  That certainly was the case with the Pharisees and now the Sadducees of Jesus’ day.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther who was known for his abrupt way in answering critics.  Luther was taking questions from skeptics and one skeptic – in an attempt to trip up Luther – said, “You say God created everything, so what was God doing before He created everything?” Luther replied, “He was thinking about creating hell for people like you who ask stupid questions!”

Let’s first study this question of the Sadducees and then I will leave you with a question or two of my own as we apply this truth to our lives.

Verse 27 says, Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him.”  As we consider this verse, I think is it important to mention a thing or two about the Sadducees.  We have looked at questions from the Pharisees, identified in chapter 20 by the phrase, “Chief priests and the scribes” (Luke 20:1; Luke 20:19).  These were religious leaders in Jesus’ day known as the Pharisees.  We are introduced here to another religious group known as the Sadducees, mentioned only here in Luke’s Gospel.

Luke tells us in verse 27 that one of the differences between these two groups is that the Sadducees, verse 27, “deny that there is a resurrection.”  The Sadducees did not believe in life beyond the grave.  This is why some remember them by the humorous phrase, “This is why they’re ‘Sad,’ you see.”

The Sadducees claimed to descend from Zadok, the high priest under King David (1 Kings 1:26).  In Jesus’ day the Sadducees were like this inner circle of wealthy, and smug aristocrats.  They did not get along with the Pharisees.  The two religious parties were bitter rivals and enemies.  The Sadducees are no longer around.  They died out sometime after the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70.  The Pharisees are no longer around, either, at least not in the sense of being a religious group of Jews separate from everyone else.  Pharisaism in Jesus’ day eventually became rabbinic Judaism, which ultimately produced traditional Judaism of today.

Luke reminds us in verse 27 that the Sadducees “deny that there is a resurrection.”   They also denied any kind of life after death.  The Jewish historian Josephus says that the Sadducees believed that the soul perished along with the body (Antiquities).  They also denied the existence of angels and demons.  In fact, Luke, writing in the Book of Acts, writes of the differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees in Acts 23:8 where he says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection – and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.”  The Sadducees also did not practice the teachings of anything in the Old Testament beyond the Pentateuch or the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.

I said there were no Sadducees today, but I mean the specific group of people that existed in Jesus’ day.  Because, there are “modern Sadducees” today, aren’t there?  Anyone who believes, “once you’re dead, you’re dead,” and by that they mean there is no life after death, this person is a modern Sadducee.  This is the belief system of the nihilist and of the atheistic existentialist. This is the way of anyone who denies the resurrection or the continuation of the soul at death.

I think it is very important for us as believers when we come up against this sort of thinking that we challenge folks to consider upon what authority they accept the idea of no resurrection or no life after death.  In other words, if our friend says to us, “Well, I just believe once you are dead, you are dead,” we then need to follow that up with the loving question, “And upon what authority to you believe that?  Did you learn it from reading a book or watching a movie?  Are you prepared to bank your eternity on a writer’s conjecturing?  Are you willing to stake your eternity on one man’s ideas?”  Then we take them lovingly to the Bible, our final authority.  We take them to Jesus.

Jesus believed in the resurrection.  You may remember in Luke 14:13-14 where Jesus says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Jesus believed in a conscious life immediately after death, remember the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31?  How about Luke 23:39-43 where we will hear Jesus say to the thief on the cross, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Verses 28 to 40 tell us about the hypothetical situation the Sadducees create for Jesus.  In verse 28 they begin by saying, “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.”  This is true.  You can read it in Deuteronomy 25:5-6.  The purpose of this custom was to protect the family, to keep the name of the family alive and to maintain the family wealth, security, and honor.  The book of Ruth includes this custom in the telling of the history of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1:11-13; 4:1-22).

In verse 29 the Sadducees continue, “Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children.”  The Sadducees are posing to Jesus a hypothetical question.  They are saying, “Let’s just say for the sake of argument that there is a resurrection.”  There were seven brothers.  The first marries, but dies without children.  They continue in verses 30 through 33, “And the second (brother) 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.”  This is really crazy, isn’t it?!  To what great lengths the Sadducees have gone to try to trap Jesus in some silly hypothetical situation.  They really do not care about Jesus’ answer because they do not even believe in the resurrection.  They had worked-out this question ahead of time, probably meeting in somebody’s basement, and plotting the whole thing and they just cannot wait to catch Jesus stumbling and stuttering in His reply.

You get the logic of their question, right?  They are like, “If there really is a resurrection, or if there really is a heaven, what do you do with a woman who has been married several times – 7 to be exact – and then she dies and goes to heaven – who will be her husband in heaven; she cannot be equally the wife of all seven, can she?”  The Sadducees believe this hypothetical situation refuted belief in the resurrection.  But you cannot “trip up” the Son of God.  Verse 34 tells us, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.’”  “The sons of this age” simply means, “Human beings in this present earthly life,” people living today in this world, people like you and me.  We are the people of “this age.”  You and I marry and are given in marriage.  Jesus continues in verse 35 by saying, “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  Jesus says, “this age” and “that age” are quite different!  He may as well have said, “You guys go wrong at the point you begin to equate ‘this age’ with ‘that age.’  They are very different.  There is no death in the age to come so there is no need to procreate through marriage.  People in “that age,” people in the future state of heaven don’t need to procreate.  Genesis 1:28 is no longer necessary where God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” 

Jesus goes on in verse 36 and says, “Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”  The people of “that age,” the people of heaven and of the final state do not “die anymore.”   Jesus says “the are equal to the angels,” or “like the angels” in this sense that they are immortal.  They do not die.  This does not mean that people become angels!  Please dismiss any notion of that from your thinking!  We do not become angels, getting wings, and so forth!  We will always be people, people with glorified bodies, but people!  Jesus is talking about the fact that we will no longer need to procreate, the primary point of marriage.

The people of “that age” do not die, they live forever and are “sons of God,” being “sons of the resurrection.”  The Christian’s “sonship” or adoption is completed at the resurrection (Romans 8:23) when we receive a glorified body like the Lord’s.  Let me encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 as a refresher and read about the resurrection body that we will one day receive.  The Bible teaches that when the Christian dies, his soul immediately goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), absent from the body and present with the Lord.  Our soul immediately goes to heaven.  When Christ returns, He will raise up our mortal body and change it into a body like His, a glorified body that our soul will then inhabit forever and ever.

The way, the phrase that we will “neither marry nor be given in marriage” does not mean that we will not know our spouses in heaven or that we will not be able to be together.  This is an encouragement to most of us who are married – we will know one another in heaven! 

Jesus calls people by name when referring to the future state of heaven.  He says in Matthew 8:11, “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  We will know one another in heaven (see also Luke 9:30 and Luke 9:33).  And we will love our spouse more.  In fact, we will have a perfect love for our spouse and for all people.

Who will go to heaven?  Jesus tells us in verse 35, “those who are counted worthy to attain that age.”  How is one “counted worthy” to attain that age?  God saves him through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.  Those who enter into the Kingdom to Come (Luke 11:2) are those who have been saved by the power of the Gospel.

Now watch Jesus use the Scriptures to drive home the truth about heaven and about the One True God.  Verse 37 says, “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.’”  There was no chapter and verse in Jesus’ day like we have in our English Bibles.  When Jesus says, “In the burning bush” He is literally saying “at the bush.”  The burning bush passage is in Exodus 3:5-6.  God says to Moses, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  The passage goes on to tell us that Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Jesus quotes from the part of the Old Testament with which the Sadducees would have been familiar, Exodus 3, and He points out that God says, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”  He does not say, “I was the God of Abraham,” but, “I am the God of Abraham.”  And then Jesus drives home His point in verse 38, when He says “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”  God is still their God, He is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because only living people can have a God.  He is not the God of the dead but of the living.  Jesus’ point . . . THERE IS A RESURRECTION.

Verses 39 and 40 tell us that the Pharisees are delighted to have Jesus on their side here, “Then some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’   But after that they dared not question Him anymore.”  Both group now have been silenced and this should have led them to be open to the teachings of Christ.

 Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we should consider more carefully what Jesus is teaching . . .

1) Am I Ready For “That Day?”

Remember from verse 35, we asked, “How is one counted worthy to attain that age?”  The answer is:

By receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,

Which means we repent from our sin and

We receive Christ as KING of our lives. 

He is number one and we live for Him.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  Are you ready for “that day?”  Have you made preparation for that day?  Theologian Charles Hodge, “It is important that when we come to die, we have nothing to do but die.” 

Are you ready?  If so, you will enter a place where you are equal to the angels, equal in the sense that you will be immortal, you will never die.  Of those in heaven, the Bible says in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

2) Do I Truly Live For “That Day And For The “God Of The Living?”

Or, to put it another way, “Am I living a Christ-focused life?”  Does the way I live each day demonstrate that I am living for that day?  Is it reflected in the choices I make each day, in my job, at school, with my friends?  Am I truly living with eternity in view?  Remember, “this age” and “that age” are not equal!  That was the mistake in the Sadducees’ thinking.  So ask: “Am I more in love with “this age” than I am with “that age?”  “Do I truly live for ‘that age?” and for the “God of the Living?”

Adoniram Judson, Baptist missionary who labored for almost forty years in Burma, now known as Myanmar, lived for “that age.”  He looked forward to “that day” and “that age.”  He said, “When Christ calls me home I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.”  I can relate to that, can’t you?  I looked forward to school being out each day – except for the day we got our “Progress Reports!”  That day, as one person has said, “We would either take the short way home, the long way home, or we don’t go home at all.”  but most of the days like Adoniram Judson I bounded away from school heading home as quickly as possible!  Living for “That Age.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:20-26 – Giving Ourselves to God

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  We left off last time at verse 19 and so we will pick up right there at verse 20 and then go through verse 26.  The background here is this escalating tension between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day.  The religious leaders – who are not believers in Christ, who do not accept that He is the Messiah – these leaders are threatened by Christ and convicted by His teachings.

We looked last time at their questioning Jesus about His authority.  They did not like the way Jesus had “come into town,” so to speak, riding on a donkey, cleansing the temple, and teaching with authority.  They asked Him about His authority and Jesus tells a parable in verses 9-18 about the wicked vinedressers.  In the telling of the parable Jesus, in essence says, “My authority comes from the Heavenly Father, the One Who sent Me and refers to Me as, “The Beloved Son of God.”  Jesus goes on in the parable and pronounces a judgment upon those who reject Him, those like the religious leaders.

We left off at verse 19 where Luke writes that the chief priests and scribes connect the dots and figure out that Jesus “had spoken the parable against them.”  They are royally ticked off and they are going to do whatever they can to get Jesus out of the picture, to get Him arrested, to get Him carried away, to get Him killed.

This business of the chief priests and the scribes is a devilish attempt.  Luke tells us in verse 20 that they “watched” Jesus and they “sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words,” that is, that they might trap Jesus, get Him to say something incriminating in order to turn Him over to the authorities.  They are trying to get Jesus to trip over His words.   

Have you ever tripped over your words?  If you have ever been in a high-pressured situation, like testifying in court, you know how easy it is to get your words mixed up.  Sometimes it is the questioners themselves who hope to get you all mixed up.  You are asked a loaded question like the infamously classic, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”  Well, how are you going to answer that?!  It is a loaded question.  Like loaded dice, the question comes with a predictable outcome.  The questions assume a premise.  In this case, the premise is, “You have been in the practice of beating your wife.”   The question, “Have you stopped beating your wife” is a trap.  If you say, “Yes” or “No,” you admit to beating your wife.

Other examples of loaded questions:

  • “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes?”  What does that question assume?  You have been cheating.
  • “Do you enjoy taking advantage of your position as supervisor?”
  • A guy interviewing you for a job says, “Can you appreciate this wonderful opportunity we are making available to you?”
  • A teacher says, “Aren’t you ashamed of the little effort you are making in this class?”
  • A borderline loaded question comes from the cult classic film, “Napoleon Dynamite,” where Napoleon, referring to Deb’s milk at school says, “I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that ’cause you think you’re fat? ‘Cause you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.” 

That question doesn’t have anything to do with this, I just wanted to share it cause I like that movie and have a weird sense of humor.

On what was probably Tuesday or Wednesday of the week leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and Herodians and asked a question about one of the most controversial issues of the day.  You see how these religious leaders were “out to get” Jesus? They set out to trap Him, to “seize on His words,” to catch Him.  Again, they realized that Jesus had spoken the parable of the wicked vinedressers “against them” (verse 19), so they now attempt to trap Jesus in His words so they can turn Him over to the authority of the governor, the governor being Pontius Pilate.

That is the background for these few short verses in our study today.  The religious leaders ask Jesus something of a loaded question, a question that cannot really be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and we will study that question this morning.  We will make our way through these verses and then I will give you a few take-home principles for to learn and live by.

Verse 21 says, “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.”  Such pretense!  Such flattery!  They are acting like they really appreciate Jesus.  What they say is true.  They speak truth here.  That Jesus spoke and taught truth is a true statement.  Jesus did, in fact, “teach rightly.”  In fact, the Greek word there is the word “orthos,” the Greek prefix for “straight,” as in “orthodontics (straightening the teeth).”  It is teaching that which is “straight” and “right.”  The other thing they said in verse 21 that was also true is the statement: “You do not show personal favoritism.”  Again, true!  The idea is, “You do not act one way to one person and another way to another person.  You treat everyone the same.”

But this is all a sham.  They are flattering Jesus.  This is flattery, pure and simple.  I think it is true, what has been said . . .

If gossip is saying behind a person’s back

What you would never say to his face,

Then flattery is saying to a person’s face

What you would never say behind his back.

The Bible says in Proverbs 29:5, “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.”  Here comes the net, a loaded question, in verse 22, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar (Tiberius) or not?”

They want a “yes” or “no.”  If Jesus said, “No, it is not lawful,” then the religious leaders could accuse Jesus of sedition and could get Him into big-time trouble with the Roman authorities.  He would be arrested and carried away.  On the other hand, if Jesus says, “Yes, of course it is well and good to pay taxes to Caesar,” the religious leaders know that Jesus’ followers will not take too kindly to that response because they hated this poll tax that had been unfairly imposed upon them by the Romans.  This was an annual tax on their houses and land, other possessions.  The Jews despised the idea of having to pay tribute to their ungodly, pagan Roman oppressors.

They had hoped to trap Jesus by forcing Him to answer “yes” or “no.”  Now look: They cannot outsmart the Son of God!  In verse 23 it tells us, “But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, ‘Why do you test Me?’”  The word for “craftiness” here is the same word used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to describe Satan’s “craftiness” in deceiving Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus may have asked, “Why are you guys acting like Satan?!”  Jesus knew their thoughts (see also Luke 5:22 and Luke 6:8; also compare Luke 7:39-40).  Jesus knows all things.  He is God-in-the-flesh.

Now, watch this classic response – He is not going to answer with a quick “yes” or “no.”  What does He do?  Verse 24 tells us Jesus says, “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” ¶ They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s.’”  The denarius was the common Roman coin in Jesus’ day.  One denarius was the usual pay for one day’s work.  On one side of the denarius is the image of Caesar.  In Jesus’ day the Caesar was Tiberius.  Tiberius’s image was on the coin and on that same side of the coin is a phrase that reads, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” To have one of these coins in the pocket was like having a small idol in the pocket.

Jesus has them get out a coin. That they had one in their pockets or pouches showed that they were not opposed to carrying such a thing around, even if it had this blasphemous inscription on it.  It is pretty obvious that they needed the coin to buy, sell, and so forth.  Jesus is doing the questioning now.  Verses 25-26 tells us, “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.”  In our day the value of a person’s entire political career often hinges on a hastily spoken soundbite absurdly taken out of context and replayed endlessly at full volume.  But this “soundbite” of Jesus is just perfect.  It cannot be improved upon! 

Jesus says, “Look, the coin represents the tribute that you are to give to Caesar.  It is a reasonable expectation of his that you give.  You live here, after all, and you benefit from the Roman government, so Caesar is right in demanding this tax from you.”  Jesus does not explain why Caesar has this authority.  Paul and Peter will do this later . . .

Romans 13:1-7 – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?  Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  For he is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

1 Peter 2:13-17 – “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.  Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

We are to obey the governing authorities.  We are not to disobey unless we are being forced to do something against Scripture, such was the case with Peter in Acts 5:29 when they were told to stop telling people about Jesus, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

The last part of verse 26 tells us, “But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.”   There is a break in the conversation now as these religious leaders marveled at His answer and kept silent.  The one who is wiser than Solomon (Luke 11:31) has again silenced the opposition!

Now, let’s look a little more closely at this statement of our Lord’s in verse 25, “Render (or Give) therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  The denarius belonged to Caesar because it bore his image.   We belong to God because we bear HIS image (Genesis 1:27).  While what Jesus says is important insofar as rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, He gives a much more important command in saying that every one of us – we who bear God’s image and likeness – must give ourselves go God.  Caesar and God are not equals.  What we give to God is more important than what we give to Caesar.  Yet so many Christians live their lives as though Caesar is more important than God!

With that thought, here are take-home principles for us to live by . . .

There are three lessons I immediately see from this passage which are applicable to us today.

Let’s examine each of these . . .

1) Awareness.

Jesus knew what the Herodians and Pharisees were up to.  Luke tells us that Jesus perceived their wickedness, and Matthew says Jesus called them “hypocrites,” (Matthew 22:18) and in a tone of rebuke, publicly challenged them to explain why they were tempting him.  When confronted with a challenge, including (and perhaps especially) when people attack us or try to “trap” us (as the Herodians and Pharisees were trying to do with Jesus), it is important that we have the awareness to know what’s going on.

Too often, we react emotionally rather than respond thoughtfully.  Awareness begins with a strong prayer life and a sensitivity to the spiritual aspects of life. We are, as the Bible tells us, engaged in spiritual warfare, wrestling “not against flesh and blood,” but rather against Satan and his forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).  It is important that we understand the Enemy will use circumstances and people to trip us up, slow us down, discourage us, or defeat us.  We must also be aware of the people around us and the context in which we live and operate.

This is what Jesus was getting at when He said to His disciples: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)  This need for awareness is also bolstered by repeated biblical admonitions toward wisdom and discernment in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

In Jesus’ case, He knew that, while the Pharisees and Herodians had little in common, one of the things they did have in common was they saw Him as a threat. As the old saying goes: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  To be clear, the Herodians and Pharisees were cultural and political enemies.  The Pharisees were strict adherents of Jewish laws and traditions, and bristled at both the Herodian dynasty as well as Roman occupation.

The Herodians were members or supporters of King Herod’s family and dynasty. Herod was of course not a Jew, but an Edomite who owed his rule to Rome.  He was a merciless, wicked, and paranoid king responsible for great suffering in the kingdom. While Herod himself was dead by the time of Jesus, his descendants still ruled the region.  The Herodians were those Jews aligned with Herod’s family and who compromised and curried favor with Rome and were tied to and benefited from the political, social, and economic interests of the region.  This is why Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites.” They were casting aside their principles in order to gang up on Him.

Jesus was also aware that a straightforward “yes” or “no” answer to their question would simply play into their hands.  If He affirmed paying taxes to Caesar, then He would lose favor with the people and be associated with their Roman occupiers and the corrupt Herodians. On the other hand, if He said “no,” He would be subject to arrest by Roman authorities for sedition.

Quite often, Christians find themselves in similar no-win dilemmas today – in politics, in business, on social media, at family gatherings, and in everyday conversations.  Like Jesus, we need to strive to RISE ABOVE the fray.

This leads us to the second lesson . . .

2) Altitude.

Jesus’ answer lifts the very nature of the conversation to a whole new level.  He does not play their game.  He refuses to answer on their terms.  He refuses to let Himself be a pawn on their board or to easily play into their trap.  Note that the Pharisees and Herodians initiate this conversation.  They do so with a challenge.  Jesus responds by making clear He know what they’re up to by asking why they are tempting Him. And then.

Jesus establishes Himself as the leader in this exchange by getting them to respond to His question – a question that was obviously rhetorical, since Jesus (even in His incarnate humanity) would have known Roman coinage bears the image of the Roman emperor.  Getting them to say “Caesar” also sets up the statement that Jesus wants to make. They are now responding to Him and waiting on His answer. What is more, they have now said the name “Caesar” themselves, which trained teachers and public speakers know, will further “impact” what Jesus will say.  When a teacher, speaker, counselor, or coach echoes back the same words used by the student or listener, it sharpens the connection and primes the brain for deeper learning.

In case you’re missing my point about mirroring back words for greater impact, had the Pharisees and Herodians said “Tiberius” (who was the Roman Emperor at the time), Jesus would have almost certainly said, “Give to Tiberius what belongs to Tiberius and give to God what belongs to God.”  Jesus is the Master Teacher.  Looking through the Gospels, we can learn a great deal of how Jesus connected with His audiences – and how we can learn a thing or two from His example. Jesus’ answer worked, because rather than score a victory, His accusers “marveled at His answer and kept silent” (Luke 20:26). 

Our goal in human interaction, especially when we feel cornered or trapped, should be to provoke thought. Leave your readers or listeners with something to think on, to mull over, and to reflect on. Jesus did this routinely and masterfully.

Most importantly . . .

By answering them at a higher level,

Jesus transformed an attempt to trap Him

Into a teaching point that has stood

For 2000 years as part of recorded Scripture.

He took a question about taxes and answered with a principle much broader in scope.

And that leads us to the final lesson, which is from the teaching itself . . .

3) Attitude.

Jesus tells us the exact ATTITUDE we are supposed to have when it comes to our interactions with civil authorities.   It is the same attitude we should have when it comes to our interaction with God.  It is just that God’s scope is so much greater than anything on this earth and in this life.

But before we get to what we owe God (everything), let’s look at what we owe Caesar.  If you buy a house, you cannot get mad when the mortgage comes due. You need to honor that mortgage.  Same with buying a car.  You need to pay for that car – either with one big check or with payments over time.  If you go to work for XYZ, Inc, you need to work the hours you agreed to work, fulfill the duties you agreed to take on, and cooperate with company management.   

Likewise, if a first century citizen of Jerusalem chose to remain living in Jerusalem, and thus take advantage of all the benefits and privileges of living under the governing structure of that day, then such a citizen – to be consistent with his choice – should not begrudge paying taxes or cooperating with the civil authorities.  This is what Peter is getting at when he says we should “submit to every ordinance of man” (1 Peter 2:13) and “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). It is what Paul means when he tells us to “subject unto the higher powers” (Romans 13:1), and “pay tribute” (Romans 13:6).  Paul really drives it home when he writes: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7)

Jesus, Peter, and Paul would all agree with the following statement . . .

If you’re going to live under Roman rule,

Then willingly cooperate with

Roman laws, taxes, and customs.

The only times we are allowed or expected to disobey or rebel against civil authorities is when God tells us to do so (Exodus 1-2, Acts 5:29, Daniel 2:21, Daniel 3, Daniel 6).

Civil government plays a role in this fallen world, and we as God’s people are expected to cooperate with that role.

As I write this, I am sitting in my office at church.  My children and grandchildren attend public schools. I am protected and served by the local police and fire departments. If a medical emergency happened, I can call 911, and an ambulance would come my way. The roads I drive on are maintained at taxpayer expense. The country in which I live is protected by an intelligence network, by national security measures, and by the men and women of our armed forces.  I can go on.  The fact is, I live in a stable, peaceful, family-friendly community in the freest, most prosperous nation in world history.  It is not too much to ask that I be a respectful, tax-paying, and law-abiding citizen.

I realize the United States is not perfect, and frankly I believe God did call upon many of His followers to engage in civil disobedience during some of the civil rights struggles in our nation’s history.  But, as a general rule, we should cooperate willingly with the society in which we live.  That is Jesus’ lesson in Matthew 22:21.

Of course, Jesus does not leave it there.  He does not stop with Caesar.  He adds that we should “give to God what belongs to God.” Well, what belongs to God?

Answer . . . Everything

God is sovereign over this entire universe.   Everything is under His authority and power. And that includes you and me.  Caesar Tiberius had his image inscribed on Roman coinage to assert his authority over the Roman economy.  When anyone transacted business in Rome, it was a reminder that they were conducting business in Caesar’s empire. (Caesar was the state).

Well, whose inscription is on us?  Answer: God Himself.  We are made in the image of God, and therefore we are God’s.  God owns this entire cosmos, and He owns Heaven. And He owns you and me.  He owns everyone and everything, and He is entitled to everyone and everything.

There are some things to which Caesar is not entitled – like, for example, worship.  But God is entitled to everything.  We owe Him our gratitude, our full allegiance, and our very lives.   By giving these things to Him willingly, we show Him our love.

And this is the crux of the lesson . . .

Whatever life may throw at us – whenever enemies may come against us – we must always remember that we are here to serve God.  And everything we do or say should be to advance His kingdom and to bring honor and glory to Him.  He alone is worthy of all that we have.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:1-19 – The Need To Accept Jesus As Savior

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series of studies, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  I believe the best way to studying and preaching is to go through Books of the Bible.  That is the best way to learn what Paul called “the whole counsel of God,” studying each passage carefully in context, and unfolding the meaning and application of the passage.  I believe God has a word for us each time we look into the Scriptures.

We have noted in recent weeks that as Jesus has made His way into Jerusalem He is coming up against a group of religious leaders who bristle at His authority.  He has been making His way steadfastly since Luke 9:51 on a straight course to Jerusalem and He has now arrived in the city, riding on a donkey which symbolizes His authority as king, and then He cleanses the temple of the profiteers and this, too, is an exercise of His authority to rule and reign and so this little band of insecure religious leaders is now going to do something about it.

If you have ever watched brick masons work you will notice how they do not just lay the bricks but examine them very carefully before they put them in place.  They have these pallets full of bricks and they will pick up the brick in one hand and chop at it with their trowel in the other hand, chipping off pieces so the bricks would fit properly in the structure, really an art form these guys have down.  Sometimes I have watched them, and they would pick up a brick or a stone and they would look it over and toss it aside, rejecting it for present use.  They might pick it up again later, but for the immediate task it was rejected.

This is a significant illustration because later on in our passage Jesus will refer to Himself as the Chief cornerstone.  Those of you who build things know about the importance of the cornerstone or the capstone of a building.  The cornerstone is the main stone that bears the weight and stress of two walls that are built upon it.  Without this key cornerstone the two walls collapse and come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Jesus is the key or chief cornerstone upon which everything is built.  Without Jesus, God’s building of the church collapses.  But the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were blind to Christ’s authority as King, were blind to the church He was building, and so they rejected Him the way a brick mason rejects a stone, tossing it aside or throwing it away as useless.

Now we will come back to this picture as we make our way through the passage, a passage I have broken down into two main considerations. 

First . . .

I.  Consider The Authority And Rule Of Christ.

In verses 1-8, Luke provides for our consideration Christ’s authority and rule.  We read in the opening two verses, “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?’”

Remember that Jesus had come into Jerusalem riding a donkey, symbolically indicating His authority as King.  We also read in our last study of Jesus’ cleansing the temple like a man of authority.  Luke tells us in verse 1 that our Lord is teaching again in the temple, “He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel,” and you will remember how we read earlier in Luke’s Gospel that the people said Jesus taught like a man who had authority (Luke 4:32), so the chief priests and the scribes and the elders – people who were used to being in authority themselves – are like, “Hey, where do you get the authority to act this way?”

So, Jesus says in verses 3-4, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John – was it from heaven (that is, from God) or from men?”  Jesus is so good at answering questions with questions!  This is a great question because the Bible tells us that the entire ministry and message of John the Baptist was, in essence, “I am a voice heralding, a finger pointing, pointing to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That was his message, so if the Jewish leaders could answer this question about John’s authority correctly, then they would have the answer to the other question, too.

Verses 5 and 6 tell us their response, “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.’”  The picture is that of a football team in the huddle, whispering among themselves, trying to come up with a game plan.  Verse 7 tells us, “So they answered that they did not know where it was from.”  We may counter that they knew where John’s authority was from, they just did not want to believe.  In any case, verse 8 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”

Facing their hostility and exposing their ignorance Jesus is like, “Well, since you could not answer that question and you are all just standing around looking at one another, let Me tell you a parable that may help you out a little,” and then we have a parable in verses 9-19 as we come to the second main heading for our consideration today.


 II.  Consider The Abandonment And Rejection Of Christ.

Verse 9 tells us, “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.”

This is the last parable recorded in Luke’s Gospel, a parable that is found in all 3 synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This parable is like a short history of Israel, the history of Israel in a nutshell.  The parable describes God’s sending of prophets throughout the Old Testament period to turn the hearts of the people back to faithfulness to the One True God and how the rebellious people of Israel continually punished the prophets and, in the main, rejected their message.

Verse 9 describes Israel as a vineyard.  The vineyard symbolizes Israel’s blessings of being the chosen, privileged people of God (Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1-4; Psalm 80:8-13).  The vineyard is “leased to vinedressers” (or stewards of the vineyard), this would be the Jewish people in the main, but largely the religious leaders.  Then we read that the “certain man” … “went into a far country for a far time,” which means that God the Father entrusted the Jewish people and leaders with the blessings of being God’s chosen people, and that He blessed them with this special privilege for many, many years.

Verse 10 says, “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.”  The servant represents the Old Testament prophets.  The beating symbolizes Israel’s abuse of the Old Testament prophets.

Verse 11 and 12 tell us, “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.”  We see that this parable pictures the way the people of God mistreated God’s messengers: beating them, casting them out, and ignoring their message.  Certain prophets come to mind from our reading through the Old Testament:

  • The people wanted to stone David back in 1 Samuel 30:6.
  • They stoned Adoram in 1 Kings 12:18
  • Naboth was stoned to death in 1 Kings 21:13
  • Zechariah was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 24:21
  • John the Baptist, also a prophet of God, was beheaded in Matthew 14;1-12.
  • The writer of Hebrews summarizes the abuse of the Old Testament prophets in Hebrews 11:37-38. 

The rejection of God’s prophets continues in large measure even today.  In one sense we could say that God sends one prophet after another after another and yet, in the main, their message is rejected.  Preachers come and preachers go, preaching the eternal truths of the Gospel and yet, society remains woefully unchanged.  Churches remain – at least in current Western culture – largely unchanged.

Jesus says in verse 13, “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.’”  The phrase, “My beloved Son” recalls the words spoken by the Father to Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:22; cf. Matt. 3:17) and identifies Jesus Christ as providentially sent by God the Father to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to Israel, yet they rejected Him (John 1:9-11).

In a sense Jesus is saying, “Here is my authority.  I am not all these other prophets.  I am like them in one sense: I am a prophet, but I am unlike them in another sense: I am THE prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), I am the LAST prophet, I am the Son of God.”  The Jewish leaders had rejected and abandoned one prophet after another.  They refused to listen to one prophet after another after another.  Now here comes Jesus saying, “You asked about My authority earlier.  Do you see how I am unlike these previous prophets?   I am the beloved Son of God.”

Incidentally, this parable reminds us why people are comfortable with your Christian faith so long as you will go along with the ecumenical spirit of the so-called “interfaith community,” everyone just trying to improve their moral condition and improve the world situation – “Let’s all join hands and pray to our Higher Power, you pray to yours and I’ll pray to mine.”  But should you respectfully raise your hand and say, “But I believe Jesus Christ is the only way, He is the beloved Son of God,” and it’s “Game Over.”  Now you are branded an intolerant, fundamentalist, troublemaker.

It is the same reason Islam is comfortable with your Christianity so long as you think of Jesus merely as an Old Testament prophet.  They are fine with Jesus as a prophet.  They are NOT fine with Jesus’ being the beloved Son of God and LAST prophet.  You cannot say Jesus is the last prophet.  Oh, no!  Muslims believe Mohammad – who came 650 years later – is the last prophet, and the implication is, “So he is much more important!”  Without going into all of the inaccuracies of that statement and the historical problems of Islam and biblical inconsistencies ad infinitum, this parable of Jesus hits the target, doesn’t it?

Writing of the Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, the writer of Hebrews says in his opening words, Hebrews 1:1-2. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  Jesus Christ is the last prophet.  He is the last prophet because He is more than a prophet.  Jesus Christ is the beloved Son of God.  But what do the vinedressers do to the owner’s son, the beloved son?  Verse 14 tells us, “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.”

It is important to go from the parable to the truth being illustrated.  What do the vinedressers – the Jewish religious leaders – do with Jesus, the beloved Son?  They “cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”  He is condemned in Jerusalem and cast out of the city and crucified on a hill at Golgotha.  Verses 15 and 16 state, “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.”  And when they heard it they said, ‘Certainly not!’”

The common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37), the Jews who believed in Christ and received the Gospel were shocked to hear that the privileged position of stewardship of the things of God would be taken away and given to others and that the vinedressers would be destroyed.  This is why they gasp at the end of verse 16, “Certainly not!”  But of course, this is exactly what would happen.  That the owner would “destroy the vinedressers” picks up on what Jesus had said previously about the destruction of Jerusalem back in Luke 19:43-44, the destruction of the temple fulfilled in AD 70 by Roman Emperor Titus.  The vineyard, then, is given to others, the vineyard of the “Kingdom of God” is now offered to the Gentiles.  You may read about this in greater detail in Acts 13:44-47.

 But this casting out of the beloved Son and judgment of God upon Israel in AD 70 finds a fuller sense of fulfillment at the final judgment.  Verse 17declares, “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?’”  The builders here are Israel’s leaders and they continually reject this stone because they do not even know what they are building!  And the rejected stone, the beloved Son of God, becomes the chief cornerstone, the Head of the church (Psalm 118:22; also Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:7). 

Verse 18 says, “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”  The phrase in verse 18, “Whoever falls on that stone” (Isaiah 8:14–15;1 Peter 2:8) means everyone who stumbles at this stone, rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah and King.  Whoever falls on that stone will be broken.  And the phrase, “On whomever it falls” refers to Christ’s coming again, coming back in judgment.  He will come again and fall on those who reject Him, grinding him to powder.  That is certain judgment.

Now if there is any question about the interpretation of the parable in the way we have interpreted it, make no mistake: the Jewish leaders interpreted it the same way as the final verse indicates.  Verse 19 states, “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.”  This verse shows us that the religious leaders “knew He had spoken this parable against them.”  I i’s fascinating, isn’t it?  They knew Jesus had spoken this parable against them, yet they refused to repent.

I often pray before I preach or teach, “Show us our sin, show us ourselves, and show us our Savior.”  Can you back up a few steps, backing away from the chief priests and the scribes and ask yourself, “Have I repented?  Am I submitting to the rule and reign of King Jesus?  Do I bow before His authority?”

 Here are a few take-home principles for you to ponder and live by this week . . .

  1. We Will Be Held Accountable For Having Heard The Preaching And Teaching Of The Word Of God.

Prophet after prophet after prophet was sent to the people of God to proclaim His message.  One messenger after another, down through the ages, each one coming to preach the message given by God.  The fact that God judges those for what they have heard is a stark reminder to us that God expects us to follow through with the preaching and teaching we receive every time we come together as the church to worship.

In one sense, going to a Bible teaching church is a dangerous endeavor.  In a Word-saturated church every time you hear the Word, God expects you and me to align ourselves under its teaching.  This is a clear principle surfacing from the parable.  God will hold accountable those who have heard the message of the prophets, the preachers, the teachers of the Word.  Secondly:

2) God’s Love Is Illustrated In His Patience.

The loving character of God is seen in this parable – a God who is willing to delay His judgment upon a people who deserved judgment ages ago.  Despite the ill-mannered treatment of His prophets, God just continues sending one prophet after another.  Why? The Bible reminds us in 2 Peter 3:9, the Lord “is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

 God is a loving God and a patient God.  However, this leads to principle 3 . . .

 3) We Must Not Mistake God’s Patience For Indifference.

God will judge.  God will execute His wrath.  God will demonstrate His anger upon a people who are rebellious of heart.  If that sounds unusual to you, just imagine a human analogy.  Imagine having a friend who never got angry at anything.  You say at first, “Well, that sounds like quite a friend.  I’d like a friend like that!”  Here is what I mean: he never gets angry at anything.  He is never angry when he turns on the TV and watches a documentary about social injustice across the world, atrocities in Sudan, killings in Afghanistan, the senseless tragedies and sudden deaths that happen to people in automobile accidents or the collapsing of a building that kills thousands of people.  Your friend just smiles and says, “Oh, that is terrible, but that is life!”  What kind of a friend is that who knows nothing of injustice and whose heart is cold to the incongruities of peace, war, hunger, famine, freedom, and oppression, a friend who winks at sin.

Thankfully our God is not that way.  He is a loving God, a patient God, but we must not mistake God’s patience for indifference.  In the mysterious workings of His grace, providence, sovereignty, and our freedom, God has demonstrated His righteous wrath by imputing all of the sin and injustices of a fallen world upon His own beloved Son on Calvary’s cross.  God has made a way for sinful humanity to be saved from future judgment.  We need only receive Christ.  Will we receive Him or reject Him? 

This leads to the final principle . . .

4) Ultimate Rejection Of Christ Means Ultimate Separation From Christ.

If you reject Christ as Lord and King of your life today, casting him aside like a stone that just does not work for you right now in the building of your life, then know you will be separated from Him forever and ever.  The Bible says in Paul 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9,  “… When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

Ultimate rejection of Christ means ultimate separation from Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”