Luke chapter 20

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What does Luke chapter 20 mean?

In Luke's account, Jesus has spent the last several chapters teaching the disciples about the kingdom of God (Luke 9:51—19:27). Then He entered Jerusalem like a king (Luke 19:28–40). At that time, He also lamented that His people will not accept Him (Luke 19:40–44). Jesus cleared the Court of the Gentiles so devout non-Jews who had come for the Passover could worship God at the temple, and He taught at the temple daily (Luke 19:45–48).

In this passage, Luke describes how Jerusalem's religious leaders fight with Jesus over His authority. Among these critics are scribes, priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees. The chapter has a subtle chiastic structure, meaning its themes are mirrored around a midpoint:
A. The religious leaders challenge Jesus' authority (Luke 20:1–8).
B. Jesus uses a parable to compare His authority to that of the religious leaders (Luke 20:9–18).
C. The scribes and chief priests use the Law to try to discredit Jesus (Luke 20:19–26).
C' The Sadducees use the Law to try to discredit Jesus (Luke 20:27–40).
B' Jesus uses Scripture to compare His authority to that of the King David (Luke 20:41–44).
A' Jesus challenges the religious leaders' authority (Luke 20:45–47).
A: A group of chief priests, elders, and scribes challenge Jesus' authority to alter their traditional religious practices. Jesus had cast merchants and money changers out from the temple courtyard (Luke 19:45–46). The chief priests and elders, who likely benefited from those merchants, bring lawyers to challenge Jesus' authority to do so. Jesus turns the challenge around; John the Baptist told them where His authority comes from; do they believe John? If they say yes, they validate Jesus. If they say no, the crowd, who still thinks John is a prophet, will stone them. Rather than having courage in their convictions, the religious leaders claim they don't know. Since they're insincere, Jesus has no reason to give them an answer (Luke 20:1–8).

B: Jesus compares His authority as the Son of God to the authority of the religious leaders. The message of the parable of the wicked tenants is clear. God gave religious leaders the authority to lead His people in worship to Him. When they failed, He sent prophets to get them back on track. But they beat and killed the prophets. Now, God sends His Son. They will kill Him, too. So, God will remove their authority, destroy them, and replace them with better leaders. Jesus' audience knows He is claiming to be the Son of God (Luke 20:9–18).

C: The scribes and chief priests challenge Jesus' authority to teach the Mosaic law. They plant spies to ask loaded questions, hoping to catch Jesus in a mistake. One of the spies asks Jesus whether Jews should pay the Roman tax. If Jesus says yes, He will seem to support the Romans over the Jews. If He says no, the Romans can arrest Him for insurrection. Jesus deftly points out that they need to pay Caesar what is due him, but they also need to give God what is due Him (Luke 20:19–26).

C': Sadducees use the Mosaic law to challenge Jesus' authority to teach doctrine. The Sadducee sect held to only the first five books of the Old Testament. They also rejected the idea of resurrection of the dead. Attempting to trip up Jesus, they present a puzzle about death and marriage. Jesus responds by saying there is no marriage in death, so their hypothetical situation doesn't apply. He then uses verb tenses in the Old Testament to show that the patriarchs still exist—they are still "alive"—and God is still their God. With that, the leaders stop challenging Him (Luke 20:27–40).

B': Jesus compares His authority as the Christ to the authority of Israel's kings, using a psalm of David. Again, the religious leaders know He's talking about Himself. In Psalm 110, David seems to speak of both God and someone who ranks above David but not above God; who is this mystery person? How can David call someone both his Lord and his son? Jesus uses this reference to show that there's nothing irrational about the concept of God's "Son" being associated with the Messiah. (Luke 20:41–44).

A': Jesus again challenges the authority of Jerusalem's scribes: experts in Old Testament law. They are vain, proud, and corrupt. They will be seriously judged. The people should beware of them (Luke 20:45–47).

The religious leaders' challenges have one purpose: to try to "catch [Jesus] in something he might say" (Luke 11:54). They hope for one of several outcomes. Perhaps they can justify arresting Jesus for breaking the Mosaic law. Or they might trick Him into breaking Roman law. At the very least, they want to humiliate Him in front of the crowds. They learn this is impossible (Luke 20:26). In the end, these enemies resort to false testimony and extortion to destroy Jesus (Mark 14:55–59; John 19:12).

The next chapter begins with a foil for the religious leaders: a faithful, poor, honorable widow (Luke 21:1–4). Then Jesus prepares His disciples for the future, both the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the end times. Luke chapter 22 covers the Last Supper, Jesus' arrest, and the first of His trials. Luke chapter 23 completes the trials—including one before Herod Antipas—and describes the crucifixion. In Luke chapter 24, the risen Christ stuns the disciples and ascends to heaven.
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