Luke 20:20-40: Further Attempts to Discredit Jesus

20Keeping a close watch on him, they (i.e., the teachers of the law and the chief priests) sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

 23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24"Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"

 25"Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

 26They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

 27Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28"Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30The second 31and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32Finally, the woman died too. 33Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"

 34Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' 38He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

 39Some of the teachers of the law responded, "Well said, teacher!" 40And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (NIV)

Main Points

1. Many who oppose Christ don't easily give up trying to discredit Him.

"Keeping a close watch on him..."

Even though Jesus triumphed over the Jewish leaders already in 20:1-8 - during their first attempt to defame and expose him - they not only tried to do so again, but they resorted to the use of a tactic - sending out spies - that would have been completely beneath their morally upright stature. So desperate is Satan to destroy the work of Christ, that there is no limit to the twisted acts he can devise and have the people of the world carry out (regardless of how "religious" - or not - they think themselves to be).

Question for Reflection: Should it be any surprise to us if, today, after a best-selling book asserting lies about Jesus has been widely refuted, there should be another "new, bold, provocative" book released just months later, whose aim is to discredit him in the same way?

2. Many who oppose Christ may appear to admire Him.

"Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth...."

The company sent by the Jewish leaders tried to "butter up" the LORD by flattering him with words that they really didn't believe at all.

Most of what the Apostle Paul said about the "super-apostles" in 2 Corinthians could also be said of these spies: "For such men are....deceitful workmen..... And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." (2 Co 11:13-15)

Question for Reflection: When we hear people say nice things about Jesus, is it wise for us to assume that they are His disciples? If not, what kinds of things would provide evidence that they are genuine (even though we can't ultimately know their hearts)?

3. There are two different realms in which God's people must live in this life.

"give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's" - i.e., give that which is made in the image of Caesar to Caesar - namely, your coin (as representing taxes); and give that which is made in the image of God to God - namely, yourself. 

Rom 13:1-7 elaborates on the first part, while Rom 12:1 explains the second. 

While our ultimate allegiance is to God, He has given us the authority of the state, and He calls us - as citiizens - to submit to it, no matter how evil or good a particular government may be. This submission provides a test for us, as not only to whether we accept political authority, but also whether we accept God's authority (Rom 13:2). The Jewish leaders - represented by the spies - failed on both counts; their contempt of Caesar prompted their question about the taxes, and their hatred of Jesus revealed what they truly thought of God (cf. Jn 8:19).

Questions for Reflection: What does submission to government involve? What does it not involve? What does submission to God involve? What does it not involve?

4. Many who oppose a Christian doctrine often have misconceptions about what they refuse to believe.

"Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" By asking this question, and presenting the scenario that preceded it, the Saduccees showed how they misunderstood the resurrection, by thinking that it would lead to the same life as what people have known on earth (in Jewish life, in particular, it was expected that the brother of a deceased married man would marry the latter's widow if they had had no children - Gen 38:8, Deut 25:5, Ruth 4:1-12). 

But Jesus' first step in refuting the Sadduccees was not showing them how the resurrection must be true, but pointing out that their idea of resurrection is wrong to begin with. He does this by saying that the resurrection will not be like life as people have known it - not least because there will be no marriage.

In like manner, as we learn to "gently instruct" "those who oppose" us (2 Tim 2:24-26), let us aim first of all, as Jesus did, to remove whatever misconceptions they have to begin with. It may be that we do not remove obstacles to belief (like in the case of this passage, where the Saduccees were clearly set on opposing Jesus no matter what), but at least we magnify God's truth and leave our opponents without excuse.

5. There will be no marriage in the new heavens and earth. 

Rather, Jesus says that those are "worthy of" (likely meaning "fit for" rather than "deserving") the resurrection will be like angels. The Lord does not elaborate in just what respect they will be like angels - but the least we are to understand is that angels do not join together in matrimony and produce more angels.

"...when Jesus speaks of the end of marriage in heaven, it almost comes as a shock to our ears. But we must remember that the quality and purity of relationships will extend far beyond what marriage provides today. Sin will no longer cloud our relationships, and the quality of personal interaction in a world will be directed fully by the presence of God. The absence of evil and the presence of God make marriage as a supportive and protective institution superfluous. For those who hesitate at this remark because their marriage has been good, just remember: heaven will be even better" (Bock, NIV Application Commentary: Luke, p. 520).

6. Jesus uses Scripture to refute the idea that there is no resurrection. 

He uses Exodus 3:2-6 (part of the canon that the Sadduccees actually believed in - namely, the Pentateuch) to show them how God's Old Testament saints (particularly Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) are still living, and presumably anticipating the resurrection. 

So here we have an example of Jesus refuting falsehoods through the Written Word of God, just as He had done with Satan back in Lk 4:1-13. If the Living Word sought to use the Written Word as a weapon, how much more must we learn to (especially since we are called upon to do so in Eph 6:17)!