Targeting Jesus in Jerusalem
Scholars ganging up on Jesus1 One day Jesus was teaching in the Temple and telling people the Good News. Some Jewish leaders approached him. They were some of the top priests, along with elders and some scholars known as scribes. 2 They asked him, “What makes you think you have a right to do this? Who gave you permission?”
3 Jesus answered them, “I have a question for you, too. 4 Where did John the Baptist get his permission to baptize? Did it come from God in heaven or from humans on earth?”
5 The Jewish leaders talked about this among themselves. They said to each other, “If we say John got his permission from heaven, Jesus will ask us why we didn’t believe him. 6 But if we say John got his permission from humans, this crowd of people will stone us to death because they are absolutely convinced John was a prophet.” 7 So they simply told Jesus they didn’t know where John got the authority to baptize people.
8 Jesus said, “Well, then I won’t tell you where I get my authority from either.”
Tale of farmers who murdered their boss’s son9 After that, Jesus launched into a parable. “A farmer planted a vineyard and then leased it to sharecroppers who would take care of the vineyard and share the crop with the landowner. The landowner left the area for a while.
10 When it came time for the autumn harvest, the landowner sent one of his slaves to meet with the sharecroppers and collect his share of the grapes. The sharecroppers beat him up and chased him off without giving him any of the harvest. 11 The landowner sent another slave. The sharecroppers beat him up, too. They humiliated him as well, and sent him back with nothing.
12 The landowner sent a third slave. The sharecroppers hurt him and threw him out. 13 This man who owned the vineyard said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’m going to send my son. They’ll know I love him. So maybe they’ll show him the respect he deserves.’
14 When the sharecroppers saw him, they talked with each other about what to do. They said ‘He’s the one who will inherit this vineyard. If we kill him, there’s no one to inherit it. So we’ll get to keep it.’
15 That’s what they did. They killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What do you think the man who owns the vineyard will do to these people? 16 He will come to them. And he will kill them. Then he will give the vineyard to other farmers.” The people who heard this parable said, “No way. This could never happen.”
17 But Jesus looked the people right in the eyes and said, “If this could never happen then could you explain this Scripture to me?
The stone that the builders said wasn’t good enough to use
Trick question about taxes20 So they planted moles in the crowd—spies who pretended to be good souls, interested in what he had to say. But they were there only to catch him saying something illegal so they could arrest him and take him to the governor. 21 They asked him a question: “Teacher, we know that you tell it like it is—true, fair, and balanced. You say what God wants you to say. 22 Is it legal to pay taxes to Caesar? What does our law say about that?”
23 Jesus knew what they were up to. He told them, 24 “Show me a coin. Now tell me this. Whose picture and name are engraved on it?” They said, “Caesar’s.”
25 “Well then,” Jesus answered, “give Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give God what belongs to God.”
26 The Jews couldn’t trap him as he taught the people. In fact, they marveled at his answer, which left them speechless.
Too many husbands in heaven?27 Some Sadducees came up to ask him a question. They were Jews who taught there was no such thing as a resurrection.
28 “Teacher,” they asked, “Moses wrote that if a married man dies without leaving his wife any children, the dead man’s brother is supposed to marry the widow, give her children, and raise the kids as his brother’s. 29 There was a family of seven brothers. The first one got married, but died without giving his wife any children. 30 The second brother married her. 31 Then the third. Eventually, all seven married her. Every one of them died, without leaving her any children. 32 Later, the woman died. 33 So tell us this, in the life to come after the resurrection, which of the seven men will be the woman’s husband? After all, she had been married to all seven of them."
34 Jesus told them, “Folks in this world get married. 35 But people judged worthy enough to make it into the next world don’t get married after they rise from the dead. 36 They don’t die anymore, either. In that way, they’re like the angels. They’re the people of God, the people of the resurrection. 37 There is a resurrection. Moses made that clear when he wrote about meeting God at the burning bush. He calls the LORD, ‘the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ 38 The Lord is not the God of the dead. He’s the God of the living. Everyone is alive to him.”
39 Some Jewish scholars known as scribes said, “Teacher, you nailed that answer.” 40 After that, none of the people trying to trap him dared to match wits with him. They stopped asking questions.
Is the Messiah really the son of David?41 So Jesus asked the question. “Why do people say the Messiah will be a son of David, one of his descendants? 42 After all, David says in the book of Psalms,
‘The LORD God told the lord king,
Sit here at my right side
Into a footstool so you can kick back and relax' 44 David actually calls this Messiah king ‘lord.’ So how could the Messiah be his son if the Messiah is his lord and master?”
Warning about religion scholars45 While everyone was still listening to him, Jesus turned to his disciples and said: 46 “Watch out for those religion scholars called scribes. They like to wear their formal robes. They love it when people greet them respectfully out in public. And they sure do like those reserved seats in the synagogues and at the feasts. 47 But doggone if they don’t cheat helpless widows out of their houses. And they pray long prayers out in public—but it’s just a show. Condemnation is going to get kicked up a notch for those people.”
Jesus is referring to Psalm 118:22.
The coin was a denarius. That’s a day’s wage for a common worker.
See Deuteronomy 25:5-6. This made sure the dead man’s widow was taken care of and that his estate was inherited by his widow’s children.
Exodus 3:6. It’s not that the LORD was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s that he is the God of these men. They are alive.
Jews debated whether or not there was a resurrection. Sadducees argued there was no such thing. Pharisees and other scholars insisted that people do rise from the dead.
More literally, “the Lord said to my lord.”
Jesus doesn’t say how the scribes cheat the widows. Women were not allowed to inherit property. So one possibility is that the scholars acted as guardians of the estate, and pilfered the property by charging fees that the widows couldn’t pay over the long haul.
What “Good News” (20:1) would you guess Jesus was talking about when he taught at the Temple?
When Jesus started teaching in the Temple, some of the Jewish leaders asked him for his credentials: “Who gave you permission?” (20:2). He wasn’t a fresh face with a hopeful message. He was a threat. Why do you think they saw him as a threat?
Jesus refused to tell Jewish leaders that his authority came from God (20:8). Why not just tell them?
In the tale of farmers who murdered their boss’s son, identify the characters you think Jesus might be portraying. Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who are the sharecroppers? The slaves sent as messengers? The son?
Jesus seems to compare himself to a stone rejected by the builders, yet later chosen as “the cornerstone” (20:17). Who do you think he’s talking about when he says the builders rejected him? And in what way did he or will he become the most important stone in the building?
What do you think it says about Jesus when the top religion leaders desperately wanted to arrest him but they didn’t because they “were afraid of what the crowd would do to them” (20:19)? This is the home turf for the religion leaders, the courtyard of the only Jewish Temple in the world. But they don’t seem to have the home-court advantage. It seems to belong to Jesus.
The Jews who asked Jesus the trick question about taxes (20:22) thought he could answer it only one of two ways. (1) Tell the Jews to pay their taxes, supporting Rome. (2) Tell the Jews they didn’t need to use their money to fund a godless Empire. How do you think Jesus could have gotten in trouble with either one of those answers?
How do you react to the following statement Jesus made? “People judged worthy enough to make it into the next world don’t get married after they rise from the dead” (20:35). What do you think this suggests will happen to people not “judged worthy”?
Jesus argues that Moses at least hinted at the resurrection when he said the LORD is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (20:37). Not was the God of these men. Respectfully, given that Jesus identifies himself as the Son of God, do you think he might have stretched the grammar a little too much?
What do you make of that line that Jesus gave referring to God: “Everyone is alive to him” (20:38)? What “everyone” do you think he’s talking about?
What point do you think Jesus was trying to make by suggesting the Messiah does not need to be the son of David (20:41-44)?
LIFE APPLICATION. People who are not affiliated with any religion often argue that churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship should have to pay taxes like all other institutions that are not publicly owned by city, state, or federal government. Should religion organizations give to Caesar their fair share rather than ask everyone else to pitch in and pay the extra required to run the government?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus criticizes the religion scholars of his day for loving to dress up in their religious clothes, get greeted politely in public, getting reserved seats, and praying long prayers out in public (20:45-47). If Jesus gave warnings about religion leaders today, what do you think he would say? And for heaven sake, don’t mention anyone’s name.