The City of Jerusalem
The City of Jerusalem plays a crucial but ambivalent role throughout Luke and Acts. On the one hand, Jerusalem was the city of God, the great King — His presence dwelt there in His Temple. God would accomplish salvation in Jerusalem and the Good News would go out from there. At the same time Jerusalem symbolically represented God’s rebellious people Israel, who had persecuted God’s Prophets in the past and were now rejecting His Son, the Messiah. This rejection would result in judgment against Jerusalem and its utter destruction by the Romans in AD 70.
Jerusalem plays a key geographical role in the structure of Luke-Acts. The Gospel narrative begins in the Temple at the heart of Jerusalem, the most sacred place in the world, and Jesus’ ministry culminated with His death and resurrection in Jerusalem. All this confirms that salvation emerged from Israel, fulfilling the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament. The Church then moved outward, taking the message of salvation from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Questions and Answers
The Temple was the setting for crucial events in the early days of Jesus’ life. The Temple was also the setting for important events of His last days. After cleansing the Temple, Jesus “was teaching daily in the Temple,” Luke 20:1 to Luke 21:38 records some of the teaching He did in the Temple. There were a variety of subjects including the destruction of the Temple.
Most of the teaching is in the form of questions and answers. The enemies of Jesus tried to trap Him with a series of questions. He answered them, in some cases with questions of His own.
Who Gave You the Right 1-8
Jesus was not only teaching in the Temple but He was preaching the Good News of His Kingdom. While Jesus was doing this the scribes and Pharisees asked Him by what authority He was doing this. This question was part of their plan to destroy Him. They had hoped that His answer would get Him into trouble with the Roman authorities. If Jesus had stated that He was the Messiah they could accuse Him of revolutionary activities.
Jesus did not take the bait. Instead He asked them a question, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” The scribes and Pharisees immediately found themselves on the defensive. If they answered to please the crowd that John the Baptist was from God, the people would have asked why then they did not believe him when he was alive. If they had spoken what they believed that John was not a true prophet of God the people might have stoned the scribes and Pharisees. John the Baptist was very popular with the people. The scribes and Pharisees were forced to an embarrassing answer that they did not know if John was from God. As a result Jesus refused to answer their question.
Jesus was not avoiding the question as the people knew that He and John were close in relationship. It was Jesus that had acclaimed John to be a prophet of God to set into motion the ministry of Jesus. Therefore, the people knew that Jesus and John believed that they acted upon the divine authority of God. By Jesus asking His question to the scribes and Pharisees about John, Jesus was indirectly answering their question about the authority that He taught under. When they had refused to acknowledge the divine authority of John, they showed that they were not willing to listen to an honest answer to their question.
Parable of the Vine Growers 9-16
Jesus then turned to the people and told them this parable while the scribes and Pharisees were listening. In this parable Jesus spoke to two themes from the previous verses. Jesus was pointing to the Jewish leaders the end result of their refusal to recognize the work of God in their midst. And, Jesus also claimed the divine Sonship.
The parable itself is an allegory. The tenets in the parable are the people of Israel. God is the owner of the vineyard and the servants that He sent are the prophets. One after the other the servants were mistreated and sent away. Finally the owner of the vineyard sent his son but the tenets killed him. Jesus was saying to the people that He had come from God as had the prophets. Jesus was the divine Son of God. Jesus was also saying that the people would reject Him as their fathers had rejected the prophets. They would also treat Him worse than they had treated the prophets.
This parable does not make clear the point that the tenets believed that they would receive the inheritance if they killed the son. Perhaps they thought the father was dead or had given the vineyard to the son and they could claim squatter’s rights to the vineyard.
The usage of the verbs come, destroy, and give show what the owner would do now that his son had been killed. The Father himself would come and bring judgment upon the tenets. But he would not destroy the vineyard but would give it to others.
This parable is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, (Mark 12:1-12; Matthew 21:33-46) Only Luke records the response of the people, “God forbid!” They understood the meaning of Jesus’ parable. The death of the son was disturbing to the people. The Jewish leaders who were plotting to kill Jesus were disturbed that the vineyard would be given to others, the Gentiles.
A Rejected Stone 17-18
Jesus now quoted Scripture from Psalm 118:22. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” Jesus is the rejected stone but God will make Him the keystone in a new building. In verse 18 we see the judgment that will come to those who reject the stone. Israel rejecting Jesus their Messiah was a tragic but it did not stop the purposes of God. God will build a new Israel with Jesus as the cornerstone.
What About Taxes 19-26
The scribes and Pharisees knew that the parable was directed against them. They wanted to arrest Jesus on the spot but they feared the people as Jesus was too popular with them. So they decided to send spies to try and trap Jesus into saying something that was incriminating. The spies asked, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
This question would cause much controversy. When the Romans had first levied a poll tax the Jews were very unhappy and continued to dislike living under the tax. One group of extremist, the Zealots, regarded paying this tax an infidelity to God. As a result they advocated an armed rebellion against Rome. Many of the people did not believe in armed rebellion but they still resented the tax. The enemies of Jesus hoped that He would express sympathy with this popular feeling. This would give the excuse to “deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.” Later when they did deliver Jesus this was one of the false charges against Him.
Jesus clearly rejected the position of the Zealots. Jesus affirmed the right of the government of Caesar to levy taxes. Someone in the crowd had a Roman coin with Caesar’s image on it. The Jews believed that if the government had the right to issue coins they also had the right to rule. If Caesar performed that God-given role of government he had the right to levy taxes. (Romans 13:1-7)
Jesus affirmed the ultimate claim of God on what was His. As Caesar’s image was on the coin God had placed His image on those whom He had created. We owe our taxes to the state and we owe our allegiance to God, we must be true to God.
A Question from the Sadducees 27-33
The Sadducees are mentioned several times in the bool of Acts. (Acts 4:1; Acts 5:17; Acts 23:6-8) Here is there only mention in the Gospel of Luke. The Chief Priest were Sadducees. Politically they collaborated with Rime. Religiously, the differed from the Pharisees. For example, the Pharisees believed in a resurrection and the Sadducees did not.
The concept of resurrection for the Pharisees was stated in earthly terms. Their expectation was that of eternal bliss which was a heightening of normal human functions. The question that they asked Jesus was probably the same as they had asked the Pharisees to confound them. The situation comes for a levirate law of marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Levir means brother and a brother was commanded to marry the widow of his brother. The Sadducees were trying to make Jesus look as flustered as they had made the Pharisees with this question.
The nature of the Afterlife 34-36
The Sadducees had heard that Jesus believed in the resurrection. But their error was that they believed that Jesus had the same belief of a literalistic resurrection that the Pharisees had. Jesus affirmed of a resurrected life but that is was a different mode of existence from life here on earth. The resurrected life is an existence that has no death, so there is no need for procreation. Because of this the relationships of the resurrected life are formed upon a different bases than that of a husband and wife. Relationships in the resurrected life are like those of the angels. Their fellowship is with God and one another and is not formed on a biological bases.
The Resurrected Life is Eternal 37-28
Jesus gave a challenge to the Sadducees with Scripture from Moses. The Lord told Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The patriarchs had been dead for centuries but God speaks of them in the present sense. Jesus drew from that point, “Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”
The Old Testament is not as clear about resurrection as the New Testament. However, it is clearly taught in both Testaments, fellowship with the eternal God is eternal. Man was created to fellowship with God. If we live a life of fellowship with God, then we will continue to walk with Him beyond death.
Questions Silenced 39-40
The scribes, who were mostly Pharisees, were in an awkward position of commending Jesus for His answer. Jesus had avoided the traps that had been laid for Him by the Sadducees, the scribes, and the Pharisees. His questioners had the tables turned upon them and none of them dared to ask another question.
What About the Messiah 41-44
Jesus then asked them a question. It was a question to challenge their concept of the Messiah. One of the favorite titles of the Messiah was the Son of David. This was an accurate title for the Messiah as the Messiah was the anointed one of King David’s line and who would establish the eternal Kingdom. The contemporaries of Jesus’ day used the title to refer to one who would restore the glory of Israel at the expense of the Gentiles. Jesus was the true son of David, but He rejected the nationalistic concept of His mission.
In His question Jesus quoted the Scripture from Psalm 110:1 to show that David referred to the Messiah as Lord. “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” Jesus was the son of David but He was also the Lord.
The Scribes Hypocrisy 45:47
These verses show us religion at its worse. The scribes used religion to advance their own personal ambitions and as a food source for their pride. They stood before the people and offered long prayers, but only for the effect.
They were the devourers of the widow’s houses. Widows and orphans were the most helpless of the day. The Old Testament teaches that these groups of people are to be helped. (Deuteronomy 24:17, 20; Exodus 22:22-23; Psalm 146:9) In the book of James this is one of the marks of true religion. (James 1:27) As the religious leaders of the day the scribes were to set the example of caring for these groups of people. But the scribes did not help the widows but actually preyed upon them. They used their positions of trust to take advantage of the helpless.