For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

20:1.  “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders.”

20:2.  “And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”

The Lord’s life was devoted to teaching and preaching the gospel, and every believer who would walk in His footsteps must do likewise, for His command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15, hasn’t been given to just a few, but to all believers.  It is because of this that His further command is also given, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2 Tim 2:15, “... be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you,” 1 Pe 3:15.

If we would be obedient we must do more than just read the Bible: we must study it daily and meditate upon what we have read.

Their question as to the authority by which Christ spoke and acted veils very thinly their anger that anyone should dare to teach or act without their authority.  Nor has time changed anything.  Organized religion still rejects and despises the ministry of those who are not subject to its control.

20:3.  “And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing: and answer me:”

The Lord was Master of every situation, and displayed His authority by demanding that they first answer Him.  Man may not question God.  The creature, on the contrary, must render account to the Creator.

20:4.  “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”

20:5.  “And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?”

The baptism of John signified repentance on the part of the one being baptized, that repentance being necessary before one could enter the millennial kingdom then being offered.  Many of these Jewish leaders had come to John’s baptism, but he had called them a “generation of vipers,” and in commanding them to “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance,” Mt 3:7-8, declared their professed repentance to be feigned, and they themselves hypocrites.  They had little reason to love John, but now they found themselves in a dilemma because of him: there was no way to escape his condemnation of them.

20:6.  “But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.”

Their refusal to repent in response to John’s indictment condemned them before God; but rejection of John as God’s messenger would now condemn them before men.  Every unbeliever will one day find himself in the same predicament: condemned for refusing to accept God’s indictment, and therefore seeing no need of trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

20:7.  “And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.”

In their hearts they thought it was from men, but they were shrewd enough to know that such an admission would result in their being stoned by the crowd, so they chose the lesser of two evils: being thought ignorant by that same multitude.  They will fare much worse on that day when their dissimulation is exposed at the great white throne, for following that judgment they will be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

20:8.  “And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

There is more to the Lord’s reply than meets the eye, for His “Neither tell I you” certifies that He knew what was in their hearts: it wasn’t that they couldn’t, but that they wouldn’t tell Him what they really believed about John because they feared the people, and He accordingly refused to tell them that He spoke and acted under the authority of God His Father.

20:9.  “Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.”

The “certain man” is the same as the “certain nobleman” of the previous parable recorded in chapter 19, i.e., the Lord Himself.

The vineyard is Israel, as it is written, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant,” Isa 5:7.  The husbandmen were the Jewish leaders; the “far country,” heaven; and the “long time,” the interval between His bringing the nation out of Egypt as a redeemed people, and His incarnation which brought Him into their midst in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

20:10.  “And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.”

20:11.  “And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.”

20:12.  “And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.”

The maltreated servants were the prophets, see Mt 23:29-39; and it may be that each of the three has reference to a particular prophet, but it is difficult to determine which.

20:13.  “Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be that they will reverence him when they see him.”

The son is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

20:14.  “But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.”

This is simply another assurance that the Lord was fully aware that the Jewish leaders would kill Him.

“... that the inheritance may be ours” declares the refusal of the Jewish leaders to submit to the lordship of Christ.  Having ruled for so long in rebellious independence of Him, they couldn’t bring themselves to relinquish the power that had been entrusted to them, and which they had so blatantly abused.  Leaving the place of obedient service, they had made themselves “lords over God’s heritage,” 1 Pe 5:3, the very same sin against which elders of the Church are warned.

In this desire to seize the inheritance for themselves we see the same pattern of evil as motivated Lucifer to seek to be as God; and as prompted Eve to heed the inducement of that same fallen evil spirit, “Ye shall be as gods,” Ge 3:5.  Rebellion against the authority of the Creator is the essence of all sin.

20:15.  “So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?”

Well might the Lord ask the question!

20:16.  “He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others.  And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.”

As noted already, the prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70.  The others to whom the vineyard has been given are the Gentiles, earthly Israel being replaced with spiritual Israel, the Church; but as it was with Israel, so is it with the professing church.  Within the professing mass of the nation was the small believing remnant, the true Israel; and within the professing mass of Christendom is the small believing remnant, the true Church.  And also as it was with Israel, so has it been with the Church: the husbandmen, the leaders to whose care the Church has been entrusted, have duplicated the conduct of the Jewish leaders: they have seized the vineyard, and replaced God’s order with their own.  Those attempting to teach truth have been expelled, their expulsion declaring all too plainly that the Master would receive the same treatment from them as did His Son from the Jewish husbandmen, were He to attempt to enter His Own vineyard.

The people understood the meaning of the parable, but failed to realize that what it depicted had happened already except for the murder of the Master’s Son, that final detail soon about to be fulfilled in their crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their failure to realize that it had already been fulfilled is declared in their pious protest, “God forbid.” 

Apostate Christendom is equally ignorant of the fact that they too have fulfilled the type, as they are also unaware that their judgment is also impending, that judgment coming in the Tribulation, first at the hand of the Roman beast ruler (Re 17:16-17), and then at the hand of Christ returning in power and glory to judge the nations, and establish His millennial kingdom.

God’s setting Israel aside, and His taking up the Gentiles, however, are not the end of the matter.  As we are assured in Ro 12:25-26 the setting aside of literal Israel is not to be for ever, as it is written, “... blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob....”  All of Romans 11 and 12 should be carefully studied here.  The terrible Tribulation judgments will bring a remnant of Israel to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that believing remnant becoming the new Israel of the millennial earth, inheritors of the blessings forfeited by the rebellion of the generation addressed by the Lord in the chapter now being examined.

20:17.  “And he beheld them, and said, what is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?”

The Lord here, by quoting Ps 118:22, sought to show them from the Scriptures, that the promotion of the Messiah, as foretold by the prophets, would be subsequent to His rejection.

20:18.  “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”

The first part of this verse is understood by some to apply to the brokenness of the repentant sinner, but the meaning of the word broken here lends little support to such a view, for it means to break or crush, to break in pieces, to shatter (Vine, Thayer).  The unbelieving Israel of Christ’s day were broken or destroyed because they “stumbled” over Him, failing to see Him as the living Stone come to be their Savior.

The second part of the verse relates to what will be on that day when the Lord returns in power and glory as the “stone cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet ... and brake them to pieces,” Dan 2:34, the reference being to the Lord’s destruction of Gentile power and of the living unbelievers at the end of the Tribulation.

20:19.  “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; but they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.”

It is a testimony to their spiritual blindness that they should have understood the parable to have been applicable to them, and yet have failed to see how true the Lord’s accusations were.  The failure of professing Christendom to even see that the parable applies also to them, testifies to even greater blindness on their part.  Blind as were the Jewish leaders, they could still perceive that the parable was directed against them, but the leaders of the apostate church don’t even have that much perception.

20:20.  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.”

Everything recorded of these Jewish leaders declares them to be simply shrewd, conniving men of the world, without an iota of spirituality; and sadly the great majority of the leaders of the professing church today are of the same caliber.  As has been noted already, in most churches today, those purporting to be elders, are for the most part successful business men, who give no evidence that they possess the spiritual endowment which alone makes a man an elder, see Eph 4:11.

Their own natural acumen presented the Scribes and Pharisees with a solution to their frustration: entrap the Lord into saying something they could use to accuse Him of treason against Caesar.

They would thus get rid of this hated Jesus without killing Him themselves, while they would appear in the eyes of the people as the champions of right and defenders of God’s honor.  Few things depict more clearly than this the innate hatred of the natural heart against God, but cleverly disguised by the cloak of religion as love for God.  Such is the unbelieving mass of Christendom today.

20:21.  “And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:”

Their honied words portray their evil spiritual master masquerading as an angel of light, and are similar to those addressed to Felix by Tertullus in his accusation of Paul in Ac 24:1-9.  It is in this guise that Satan is most to be feared.  The openly avowed enemy is less dangerous than the foe feigning friendship, for with the former we know at least to be on our guard.       

20:22.  “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?”

Under the pretext of seeking information having a bearing on their loyalty to God, they sought to disguise their true intent, which was to be able to accuse the Lord of treason should He say No, as they hoped He would.  It isn’t in the payment of taxes, however, (which God commands believers to pay, see Ro 13:6), that our loyalty to God is measured: it is in whether we are willing to die rather than yield to man what God has forbidden.

20:23.  “But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?”

What folly for man to imagine that he can deceive the One Who reads the thoughts and intents of the heart, the One from Whom nothing can be hidden!

20:24.  “Shew me a penny.  Whose image and superscription hath it?  They answered and said, Caesar’s.”

His having to borrow a penny reveals that the Lord had indeed become poor that we might be rich (2 Co 8:9): He obviously didn’t possess what was the equivalent of a laborer’s wages for one day.

20:25.  “And he said unto them, render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”

Man is responsible to obey rulers and those who are in authority, but only up to the point where that obedience would constitute disobedience of God, see Ro 13:1-8.  The fact that the Jews used this money was the acknowledgment that they were under Caesar’s dominion.

20:26.  “And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marveled at his answer, and held their peace.”

These evil Jewish leaders would put the Lord to death, but it would not be on the basis of any just accusation.  He would be led out to Calvary on the grounds of a false charge.

20:27.  “Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection: and they asked him,”

20:28.  “Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die, without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother,” Dt 25:5-10.

20:29.  “There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.”

20:30.  “And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.”

20:31.  “And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.”

20:32.  “Last of all the woman died also.”

20:33.  “Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.”

The Scribes and Pharisees having failed to entrap the Lord relative to temporal matters, it remained for the Sadducees to attempt to condemn Him in relation to things eternal: in this case, His doctrine concerning resurrection; they themselves maintaining that there is no resurrection.

20:34.  “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:”

20:35.  “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:”

The Lord adroitly nullified the force of their argument by declaring that marriage was ordained by God only for people in this world, but not in the world to come, i.e., in the eternal state.

As to anyone’s being accounted worthy to obtain or enter that other world (and clearly the Lord had heaven, not hell, in mind), Scripture makes it clear that only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior constitutes that worthiness. 

There is more to the Lord’s answer than is apparent at first glance, however, for the words “resurrection from the dead” are literally “out from among the dead,” and imply the removal of some (believers) from among others (unbelievers) still left in the state of death.  In other words He was declaring, though obliquely, that there are two resurrections: one of life; the other, of death; one of believers; the other, of unbelievers.

20:36.  “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

This continues to point to the dual character of the resurrection.  Those raised at the resurrection of life, will not die the second death; while those left in death at the time of that first resurrection, will eventually be raised at the resurrection of damnation, see Jn 5:28-29, but to die the second death, i.e., to be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death, see Re 20.

As to their being “equal unto the angels,” the equality relates only to the fact that they will never die, for Scripture makes it clear that the redeemed will be superior to the angels, see 1 Co 6:3, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”  And as to their being “the children of God,” it is their participation in the resurrection of life that will reveal them as those who on earth had trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, that faith bringing them into God’s family, making them His children.

20:37.  “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

20:38.  “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”

It is significant that the emphasis is all upon God’s being the God of the living, i.e., of believers, He being the God Who blesses His own.  Those who during their earthly lives refuse to have Him as that God, will have Him eternally as the God Who executes judgment.

The KJ version obscures the full propriety of the Lord’s words in verse 38 to the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection.

Better translations are: “to him, all are alive”; “from His point of view all men are living.”  The Lord was emphasizing that physical death doesn’t end everything.  Men will exist for ever, either in the bliss of heaven, or in the torment of the lake of fire.

20:39.  “Then certain of the scribes answering, said, Master, thou hast well said.”

There was no love lost between the Scribes and the Sadducees, just because of their different views on resurrection, and in the present instance it pleased the Scribes to see the Sadducees humiliated, even though He Who put them to shame was this hated Jesus.

20:40.  “And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.”

Their scheme having failed, and they themselves having been humiliated, they were left to seek another avenue by which to accomplish the Lord’s death.

20:41.  “And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son?”

20:42.  “And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”

20:43.  “Till I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

It is apparent since they expected the Messiah to be a descendant of David, that they didn’t realize He would be God in human form, and to enlighten them the Lord reminded them of what David had written concerning the superiority of this “son” (literally descendant).  He would be coequal with God for He would sit on the throne of heaven, and all His enemies would be made to acknowledge His lordship.

20:44.  “David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?”

The only possible answer is that this descendant of David is God Himself, as it is written of Christ that in Him “God was manifest in the flesh,” 1 Tim 3:16, and the fact is that until Israel recognized this they could not have the millennial kingdom they so eagerly expected; nor can any man enter heaven until he sees that truth, and trusts that same Christ as his personal Savior.  As to His humanity the Lord was descended from David, but as to His deity, He was David’s Creator and Lord.

20:45.  “Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples,”

20:46.  “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;”

The Lord wasn’t intimidated by the power and authority of the Jewish leaders, but publicly exposed the sin they sought to conceal under the cloak of self-righteousness.

Long robes were worn by the rich, and distinguished them from the common man whose manual labor required him to wear a shorter garment suited to the nature of his work.  The proud Jewish leaders loved such marks of distinction, as they did also the respectful greetings given them in public.  Their pride thrived also on their being given front seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets, etc.

Little has changed since then.  The same techniques still bolster pride, and serve to distinguish the rich and powerful from the common people.

20:47.  “Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.”

In spite of all the pretended piety, those hypocrites enriched themselves by seizing the property of widows whom they ought to have helped, and then sought to cover up their rapacious activity by offering long prayers in public.  The Lord’s assurance that they would receive “greater damnation,” just because of their hypocrisy, is the warning to all of the abhorrence with which God views such dissimulation.

In regard to their long prayers offered in public, the Lord has given instruction relative to prayer, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.... But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly,” Mt 6:5-6.  See also verses 7-8 of that same chapter, relative to the length and form of prayer.

[Luke 21]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough