It’s only a matter of time. Luke 20 opens with Jesus teaching in Jerusalem, the crowds going wild over Him, and the town leaders feeling the pressure to eliminate this threat.
They start with an outright challenge: where do you get Your authority? Jesus threw one right back at them: was John’s baptism from heaven or from man? John prophesied about a coming Messiah, and started a baptism of repentance. Was that legitimate? If it was, then he also said that I am the Messiah.
They declined to answer, so He started telling a story. A landowner leases his field and expects to get some return on his investment. Instead, his messengers are insulted, and even his son is killed outside of the vineyard. The tenants would be destroyed (see chapter 19, where Jesus just talked about Jerusalem’s pending doom) and the vineyard would be leased to other tenants. This was pretty obvious to them: Jesus was saying that God had sent many messengers and they were about to be destroyed. Notice that Jesus predicted the son’s death outside of the city…but they didn’t seem to notice. The stone that the builders rejected would be the large, solid foundation piece that held two walls together (see this definition of “cornerstone”). Jesus was at the crossroads of time, and His life was the hinge of the covenant God made with the Jews and the new covenant He made with the world.
This was waaaaaay too much for the religious leaders. How would they take Jesus out? Easiest way is to have Him get too cocky and say something dumb, potentially deadly.
The Pharisees were first with a question about taxes (it was a touchy subject back then, too). Jesus answered them with firm rebuttal: if it has Caesar’s face image stamped on it, give Caesar his rightful things. But if it has God’s image stamped on it (see Genesis 1:27), give it to Him.
The Pharisees were stumped, but the Sadducees were ready. What about marriage after resurrection? Jesus’ answer was matter-of-fact. They don’t marry, but yes, they do raise from the dead: God is the God of the living.
Jesus knew they were out of questions, so He posed one of His own. What about David calling his coming male descendant “Lord,” like a reference to God? They pleaded the fifth.
Jesus answered from Scripture. He was not cowed by the leaders, and He gave them multiple opportunities to see the obvious and repent. For me, this is a good reminder that God’s truth does not have to worry about getting tested. It can stand up under pressure, I just need God’s wisdom to use it well.
All this makes me pretty impressed by Jesus, and pretty condemning of the leaders. Who did they think they were? But then Jesus ends with this:
45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Am I like these guys? I love to wear an outfit to church that is just as top-notch as anyone else. I love to be recognized for what I do, although not in the spotlight for long. Do I care about the most vulnerable members of society? I am not exploiting them, but do I snub them as lesser? That’s so wrong! And prayers. Do I talk to God as my Creator, Master, King, General, or do I report for duty with a wish-list a mile long every time? The list is not the problem, but my prioritizing the list and monopolizing my prayers with my bucket of concerns is the fastest way to stop interacting with God in a caring relationship, and merely create a business interaction.
Thank You, God, for Your patience with me. Thank You for Jesus’ confrontation of the Pharisees which shows me that Your truth prevails, and my own inner-Pharisee can be stymied by Your words. Please give me a heart that reflects You better. The battle did not stop in Jerusalem. It continues daily.