In the previous chapter, Jesus was zealous for the temple, driving out the animal-sellers with the rebuke that they were turning it into a den of thieves. Now the priests, teachers of the Law and elders (I’ve nicknamed them the ‘Religious trinity’) come to Him with a question. They want to challenge His authority, so they ask who gave Him the right to do these things (Luke 20:2). Jesus responds with a question of His own about His relative, John the Baptist. “Did John’s authority to baptise come from heaven, or was it merely human?” He already knows they’ll avoid answering, but His question makes them search their hearts. What do they believe about John, and therefore about Him?
Jesus then launches into one of His stories, this time about tenants looking after a vineyard. When the harvest was due, they attacked those who came to collect it on behalf of the owner. Finally they killed the owner’s son, who was heir to the estate. Jesus concludes with another question. “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do” (Luke 20:15)? He’s explaining the kingdom of God to them. God’s kingdom is the vineyard, but those leaders who are in charge of it will be displaced in favour of others because of their shameful treatment of Jesus. They’re well aware He’s using the story against them (Luke 20:19).
In their annoyance, the leaders send out undercover spies. Pretending to be honest, they ask about paying taxes to Caesar, but really they’re trying to trap Jesus so they can report Him to the Roman governor. He cleverly answers by holding up a coin with Caesar’s image on it. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” They’re stunned into silence.
Next, it’s the Sadducees’ turn to question Jesus. I learnt from “Birth of the Church” that Sadducees don’t subscribe to any of the Pharisaic traditions. They pin their faith solely on the writings of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy – the first five books of the Bible. Deuteronomy 25:5-6 states that if two brothers live together and one dies leaving his wife without children, the other should marry her, and their firstborn son be considered the son of the dead brother in order to carry on his name. That’s why in an attempt to disprove resurrection from the dead, the Sadducees take this to the extreme. If a woman marries seven brothers and all of them die, whose wife will she be at the resurrection? Jesus responds, and also proves from Moses’ writings that there really is a resurrection (Luke 20:34-38).
No one dares ask Him any more questions, but Jesus has one final puzzle. To get them thinking more deeply, He asks how the Christ can be David’s son when David refers to Him as Lord. “The LORD said to my lord, ‘Sit by Me at My right side until I put Your enemies under Your control’” (Psalm 110:1).
What’s behind the questions we ask? Are we challenging people? Trapping them? Trying to disprove something? Or do we have more positive motives?