Luke 20:1-19 - The Authority of Jesus; The Parable of the Tenants

1One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2"Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?"

3He replied, "I will also ask you a question. Tell me, 4John's baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?" 5They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Why didn't you believe him?' 6But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet." 7So they answered, "We don't know where it was from." 8Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things." 9He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13"Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.' 14"But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When the people heard this, they said, "May this never be!" 17Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'? 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 19The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. (NIV)

Some Important Points

1. Jesus will not cater to those whose questions are driven by insincere, hypocritical motives; rather, he will reveal their folly. (vv. 1-8)

By asking his accusers about the origin of John's ministry, Jesus was not avoiding their question. He was actually backing them into a corner from which they could not escape. If they answered by saying that John came from heaven, they would have to admit that Jesus came from heaven, too, because John's whole purpose was to point to Christ as the Lamb of God who takes sin away from the world. The fact that they were unwilling to do this - even after hearing about the works Jesus had done, in fulfillment of what John said - reveals their stubborn refusal to believe in Christ.

On the other hand, if they said John came from man, they would succumb to fear over what the Jewish people would do to them, because they held John in high esteem as a prophet.

This incident provides one example of the truth spoken of in Proverbs 29:25 - "Fear of men will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."

In this incident we also see Jesus exemplifying something he commands his disciples to do in Matthew 7:6.

In light of all of the attempts made by self-appointed scholars in this day and age to discredit Jesus by creating lies about him in the name of "truth", we can be assured that their
foolishness will be shown for what it is, sooner or later.

2. Israel has had the promises of God taken away from her because she rejected the very One who is the foundation of those promises. (vv. 9-19)

In the parable of the tenants, Jesus likens God's promises to a vineyard; the owner to God the Father; the servants to the Old Testament prophets; and "the son", of course, to Christ Himself.

This is a parable that could be easily understood by the people, since many landowners tended to rent their land to tenants at that time.

What's especially notable in this parable is the patience shown by the landowner when the tenants refuse to pay Him what is His. This echoes the long-suffering love of God the Father in the Old Testament, even when His people are continually rejecting Him to His face. Ultimately, of course, he must be true to his Holiness by executing judgment.

"The stone the builders rejected..."- taken from Ps. 118:22. The Son who was rejected will become Head of the church (Ac 4:11, 1 Pe 2:7).

"Everyone who falls on that stone..."/"he on whom it falls..." - by giving this warning, Jesus is making strong allusions to Isa 8:13-15 and Dan 2:34, 44-45. Each of these passages describes how the Messiah will only bring devastation to those who reject Him.

"May this never be!"- it's easy to imagine that the praise heaped upon Jesus only a short time ago - as he was making his way into Jerusalem - is now beginning to give way to anger and hostility... (as Christ's representatives, we shouldn't expect that any positive reception we get will always necessarily remain, either.)

Reflection Question: Even though this parable is aimed squarely at Israel, do I see in myself a tendency - as Israel had - to presume upon God's favor, while at the same time, ignoring his call for me to be holy, or refusing to trust him, or to do what he says?