December 20, 2019-Advent 20, Luke 20- The Authority of Jesus, Wicked Tenants, Taxes, the Resurrection, and the Son of David

Read Luke 20.

Jesus-and-the-pharisees

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  and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”  He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”  And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”  So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Luke 20:1-8 (ESV)

The establishment was never a big fan of Jesus. Jesus, Who taught with authority and healed the sick and raised the dead was a threat to their power over the people.

The baptism of John was for repentance, a preparation for the coming of the One Who came to wash away the sins of the world with His blood.  John was indeed a prophet, and his birth and his mission had long since been foretold- the one who was to prepare a highway in the wilderness for the coming of the Son of Man.

The religious authorities were blind to the fact that it was the Son of Man teaching them.

Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants.  The master sends one servant to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard and the tenants beat him and sent him away.  He sends another servant, who is also beaten and sent away, and then a third who is beaten and driven off.  Then the master sends his son, thinking that the tenants will respect his son.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 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.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 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’? (Psalm 118:22)

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Luke 20:13-18 (ESV)

 

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius.Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. Luke 20:19-26 (ESV)

Nobody likes to pay taxes.  The religious authorities were trying to trick Jesus into saying that it was OK not to pay tax so they could get him in trouble with the Roman authorities.  Jesus confounds them by telling them that yes, we should give the governing authorities their due.

The Sadducees tried to trick Jesus into denying the resurrection of the dead by posing a scenario where a woman is married to each one of seven brothers.  “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection,” they ask.

Jesus explains to them that the life after the resurrection isn’t like life on earth.

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.”For they no longer dared to ask him any question. Luke 20:34-40 (ESV)

Jesus warned about the corruption of the religious leadership on many occasions.

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “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,who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Luke 20:45-47 (ESV)

There is a good and useful place for authority, both spiritual and temporal.  But the abuse of authority is harmful to both temporal governance and promoting spiritual truth.  When those who are in authority abuse their authority or hide the truth, those in their care suffer.

Jesus is indeed the cornerstone on which all is built upon.

Lord, we know that when we fall on You we will be broken, but we trust that You will heal us and remake us in Your image.  We pray that we will not defy You and be crushed by your judgment, but that we would believe and trust in You, for You have the words of eternal life.

What is Truth? John 18:33-38, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Matthew 10:34

ascension

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:33-38 (ESV)

Pilate was not a Jew and had little to no understanding of Jewish laws and customs. He would not have known all the references in the Old Testament that speak of Jesus and of His kingdom. Pilate would not have been able to comprehend that as he was condemning the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 55 he was also condemning the Lord of Life, the I AM God.

Pilate did understand the power of Caesar- of tangible, absolute, military authority. However, Roman society was very tolerant of just about every type of religious belief or observance as long as it was understood that in practical and temporal applications, Caesar was “lord of all.”  As far as religious belief went, the attitude was, “I have my truth, you have yours.” Pantheism (the worship of many gods) was the norm in Roman society.  There were gods for everything from fertility, to the oceans, to the harvest. People were thought to be strange if they didn’t indulge in worshiping a pantheon of gods.

We can identify to some degree with Roman society in that there is a smorgasbord of philosophical, religious and spiritual beliefs out there. As Americans we hold the freedom of religious exercise in high esteem if for no other reason than we don’t want to face persecution for our own beliefs.  Political correctness blurs the line even further when we are shamed or made to feel uneducated because we speak up for the truth even when it offends some people.  Truth is never made false simply because it is unpopular.

Christianity is not compatible with the postmodern concept of relativism or with the pantheistic, hedonistic, anything goes idiom of ancient Rome. The message of Christianity has never been the nebulous “find your own truth” philosophy that is so prevalent and pervasive today. Pilate had a philosophical conundrum with “the truthiness of truth,” but reality is that truth is objective.

Truth is not based on feelings. Truth is not based on expediency. Sometimes truth is painful. The way of the Cross is the way of the truth even though it seems silly to the rest of the world.  The apostle Paul teaches us: “For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34 (ESV)

As the church year ends, we certainly are aware of the things are wrong with this world, and we groan right along with the rest of creation as it endures the weight of the curse of the Fall. We are bogged down in the world of now, and the promise of not-yet seems far away.

Truth is concrete. It is not flexible or subjective.  The truth is there is a Lord of All.  The truth is that the way to life is found only in the Way, the Truth and the Life- Jesus- the One Who went to the Cross to die to save us from sin, death and the power of evil.