Chapter 20 continues with Jesus teaching in the temple. As he was teaching,, He was confronted by the religious leaders. They asked what authority did he have to do the things he was doing. Jesus chooses to respond with a question rather than answering their questions directly. The leaders saw the trap that Jesus had laid before them. “They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” (Vv 5 – 6) So how do they respond? They tell him that they do not know. Jesus responds, then saying that if they can not answer his questions, then he does not need to answer their question. I think Jesus’ point is that if they are not willing to acknowledge the obvious truth, then they will never accept the truth of his answer.
Jesus turns to the people and tells them a parable about a man who planted a vineyard, rented it out, and then went out on a journey. When the harvest came about, he sent a slave to collect the rent, but the slave was beaten and sent back by the renters. This happened two more times. The landlord then thought he had a fool-proof plan. He would send his son. They would surely respect him. The renters, however, had another idea. They said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.” (v 14) And so they did. Jesus then explains to the people that the response of the landowner would be to destroy the renters and give the vineyard to someone else. He then explains that this is what was prophesied in Psalm 118:22, where it was written, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief cornerstone.” (v 17) I know these things are easier to grasp in hindsight, but each clearly is a reference to Jesus. The “stone, the builders, rejected,” and the son of the landlord were bothe Jesus.
The religious leaders became even more intent on getting Jesus after these events. They knew that the parable intended to portray them as renters who killed the son looking only for what they could get. They, however, could not because they feared what the response of the people would be. Instead, they came up with another plan. They sent people to spy on him and catch him in something they could bring before the rulers. They asked him if it was “lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (v 22) Jesus knew what they were doing and asked who’s picture was on the money. When they answered Ceaser, Jesus told them to give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser.
In the final account, the Sadducees attempt to turn the table with a “parable” of their own. They remind Jesus that under the law, if a married man dies without children, then his brother is to marry his widow and have children. Based on this, the parable presents a man who died, and then his six brothers, each consecutively married the widow but dies. Their question then is, “In the resurrection, therefore, which one’s wife will she be?” (v 33)
Now, first of all, Jesus quickly knew this was all a setup. One of the distinguishing theological positions of the Sadducees was that they did not believe in the resurrection. Therefore, they were asking about something they did not even believe in.
Jesus instead answers the question by pointing out that marriage is not something that applies to the resurrection. He says that they “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” (v 35) And that they “they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God.” (v 36)
Not leaving it there, Jesus goes on to address the reality of the resurrection. He points out that God “is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (v 38) He uses the words of Moses to make his point. Moses calls “calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (v 37) He uses the present tense to describe them.
This was enough to silence some of the religious leaders once and for all, They complimented his answer, and had o more questions because they lacked the courage to challenge him anymore. Jesus taps on one final note in this discussion by quoting Psalm 110:1 about the Messiah. He points out that even though the messiah is a descendant of David, David still calls him Lord.
Finally, Jesus gives a warning of the dangers of the scribes. He speaks of the threat of those who seek honor, and attention, and look to put on an appearance of holiness. They will face a more significant judgment. I think this is something that we still need to watch for today.
My takeaways from this chapter are: 1) We need to give people what they are owed. The landlord was owed his rent. When he did not get it, the people were destroyed, and the land given to others. Ceaser was owed taxes, so he even Jesus said to give to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s. And 2) God is a God of the living, and there is a resurrection from the dead.