Summary: The challenge to Jesus' authority in Luke 20:1-18 shows us that Jesus' authority comes from God.
The final section in The Gospel of Luke begins at Luke 19:28.
Luke described Jesus’ final week on earth, and began with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (19:28-40). As Jesus drew near the city of Jerusalem he burst into tears and wept over the city because of the coming judgment on people who refused to repent of their sin and believe in him (19:41-44). The following day, Monday, Jesus returned to the temple and physically drove out the merchants who were selling their wares and obscuring people’s access to God (19:45-48). Jesus’ action enraged the religious rulers, who challenged his authority to do what he did.
Let’s read about the challenge to Jesus’ authority in Luke 20:1-18:
1 One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2 and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 3 He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, 4 was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 5 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:1-18)
When I was a student at the University of Cape Town several friends and I went on a summer vacation from Cape Town to Durban, a distance of about 1,500 miles. Most travelers avoided driving through a province known as the Transkei because it was dangerous. There were no fences around properties, and animals would roam onto the highways. That was not what one wanted to see while driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour! Moreover, the locals took to policing the roads themselves. At one point my friends and I were stopped at a check point by several heavily armed men. The problem was that they were wearing civilian clothes, and we had no idea whether they were rogues or legitimate authorities. We wanted to know by what authority they were stopping us.
As Jesus’ ministry and mission was coming to its climactic end in Jerusalem, the religious rulers did not believe that Jesus was sent by God. They thought that he was a rogue masquerading as a spokesman for God. And so they challenged his authority to speak for God.
The challenge to Jesus’ authority in Luke 20:1-18 shows us that Jesus’ authority comes from God.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Ensnaring Question of the Rulers (20:1-2)
2. The Counter Question of Jesus (20:3-4)
3. The Dishonest Answer of the Rulers (20:5-7)
4. The Concluding Response of Jesus (20:8)
5. The Pointed Parable of Jesus (20:9-18)
I. The Ensnaring Question of the Rulers (20:1-2)
First, note the ensnaring question of the rulers.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus probably drove the merchants out of the temple precincts on Monday. Luke’s note in verse 1a that one day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, probably refers to Tuesday. Jesus went back to the temple to teach the people and, while he was doing so, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority” (20:1b-2).