Luke 20 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Luke 20
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,

(1-8) And it came to pass.—See Notes on Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33.

And preached the gospel.—The Greek verb (to evangelise) is one specially characteristic of St. Luke. Neither St. Mark nor St. John use it at all; St. Matthew once only (Matthew 11:5), in a passive sense; St. Luke ten times in the Gospel, fifteen times in the Acts. So in the Epistles, neither St. John nor St. James use it; St. Peter once; St. Paul twenty times. It, too, was clearly one of the words which the two friends and fellow-workers had in common.

Came upon him.—The Greek word, like the English, expresses something of a sudden, and, it might be, concerted movement.

And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
(2) Tell us, by what authority . . .?—The form of the question is nearly identical in the three Gospels.

And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:
The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.
(6) All the people will stone us.—St. Luke gives the more vivid utterance in place of the more general “we fear the people” in the other Gospels. As indicating the readiness of the people of Jerusalem to proceed to extremities of this kind, we may refer to their treatment of our Lord (John 8:59; John 10:31) and Stephen (Acts 7:58-59).

And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.
(9-19) Then began he to speak to the people.—See Notes on Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12. The presence of this, as well as of the last section, in the first three Gospels, with so little variation, indicates the impression which these facts and teaching made at the time, and probably also that they occupied a prominent place in the early records that served as the basis of our present Gospels.

A certain man planted a vineyard.—The absence of the fuller detail in St. Matthew and St. Mark shows that St. Luke’s report was not derived from them, but probably from a version, orally repeated, of that which they reported more fully. On the other hand, the addition of “for a long time” is peculiar to St. Luke, and reminds us of the like phrase in Matthew 25:19.

And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.
(10) Beat him, and sent him away empty.—The description agrees almost verbally with St. Mark.

And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.
(11) And sent him away empty.—The emphatic repetition of the words that had been used in the previous verse is peculiar to St. Luke.

And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.
(12) They wounded him also.—The verb is peculiar to St. Luke, and has a characteristic half-surgical ring in it. It is used by him again in Acts 19:16.

Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.
(13) It may be.—The doubt implied in the qualification is a feature peculiar to St. Luke’s report. The better MSS. omit the clause “when they see him.”

But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.
So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?
He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.
(16) He shall come and destroy these husbandmen.—St. Luke agrees with St. Mark in putting these words into our Lord’s lips, and not, as St. Matthew does, into those of the by-standers.

They said, God forbid.—No other English phrase could well be substituted for this, but it is worth remembering that the name of God does not appear in the original, and that the ejaculation is simply, as it were, a negative Amen, “So be it not.” Its insertion hero is peculiar to St. Luke, nor does it occur elsewhere in the Gospels. St. Paul uses it frequently, as in Romans 3:4; Romans 3:6; Romans 3:31; Romans 6:2; Romans 6:15, et al.

And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?
(17) And he beheld them.—Better, He looked on them. The Greek verb implies the gaze turned and fixed on its object, in addition to the mere act of beholding.

Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
(18) Whosoever shall fall upon that stone.—See Note on Matthew 21:44. The verse, which is omitted by many of the best MSS. in St. Matthew, is found in all MSS. of St. Luke. If we were to receive it, on this evidence, as belonging strictly to the latter Gospel only, the Greek word for “bruised” might take its place among those classical, or perhaps quasi-medical, terms characteristic of St. Luke. (See Note on Luke 20:12, and Introduction.)

And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
(20-26) And they watched him.—See Notes on Matthew 22:15-22 and Mark 12:13-17.

And sent forth spies.—The noun is, again, one of St. Luke’s characteristic words not used by any other New Testament writer. It expresses rather the act of those who lie in ambush, than that of “spies” in the strict sense of the words. St. Luke is, on the one hand, less definite as to the parties to the conspiracy than the other Gospels, and on the other hand more explicit as to its aim. They wanted materials for an accusation before Pilate, as well as for one before the Sanhedrin. On the omission of the name of the Herodians, see Note on Luke 6:11.

Power and authority.—We have again the characteristic combination of the two substantives. (See Note on Luke 12:11.)

And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:
(21) Neither acceptest thou the person of any.—To “accept the person” takes the place of “regarding” or “looking at” the person of Matthew 22:16, where see Note. The precise combination which St. Luke uses meets us again in Galatians 2:6.

Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?
But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?
(23) Their craftiness.—The Greek noun does not appear in the other Gospels, but is used four times by St. Paul, as in 2 Corinthians 4:2; Ephesians 4:14.

Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's.
And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.
And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.
(26) And they could not take hold of his words.—As St. Luke is fuller in his account of the plot of the questioners (Luke 20:20), so is he in that of its defeat.

They marvelled at his answer.—There is an interesting, though obviously undesigned, parallelism with the narrative of the incident in which the Lord Jesus was first brought face to face with the Rabbis of Jerusalem. Then also “they were astonished at His answers” (Luke 2:47). The childhood was, in this respect, a prophecy of the manhood.

Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
(27-39) Then came to him certain of the Sadducees.—See Notes on Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27.

Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.
And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.
And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.
Last of all the woman died also.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.
And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
(34) The children of this world marry.—The three reports of the question are all but absolutely identical. In the form of the answer there are slight variations. The contrast between “the children of this world “or “age,” those, i.e., who belong to it (see Note on Luke 16:8), and those of “that world” or “age,” is peculiar to St. Luke. In both cases the word rests primarily on the idea of time rather than place. It may be noted that no other writer in the New Testament uses the form of words, “that world,” the age or period that is there, not here, for the life of the eternal kingdom. The more common phrase is “the world to come” (Matthew 12:32; Matthew 19:30).

But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
(35) They which shall be accounted worthy.—Another word common to St. Luke and St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 1:5), and to them only in the New Testament.

Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
(36) Neither can they die any more.—The record of this teaching is peculiar to St. Luke. The implied thought is that death and marriage are correlative facts in God’s government of the world, the one filling up the gaps which are caused by the other. In the life eternal there is no need for an addition in this way to the number of the elect, and therefore there is no provision for it.

Equal unto the angels.—The one Greek word which answers to the English four is again peculiar to St. Luke.

The children of God, being the children of the resurrection.—It is obvious that here the resurrection is assumed to be unto life and to a share in the divine kingdom. The fact that men were counted worthy to obtain that resurrection was a proof that they were “children of God,” and as such on the same footing as those other “sons of God,” whom the language of Scripture (Job 1:6; Job 38:7, and possibly Genesis 6:12) identified with the angels.

Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
(37) Even Moses shewed at the bush.—The precise meaning of the verb is that of “indicating,” “pointing to,” rather than actually “shewing.” In his mode of reference to the words of Exodus 3:6, St. Luke agrees with St. Mark (Mark 12:26).

For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
(38) For all live unto him.—St. Luke alone adds the words. They are of value as developing the meaning of those that precede them. All life, in the truest, highest sense of that term, depends upon our relation to God. We live to Him, and in Him. And so when He reveals Himself as the God of those who have passed from earth, He witnesses that that relation continues still. They are not dead, but are still living unto Him. We may, perhaps, connect the thought thus expressed with St. Paul’s words, “in Him we live, and move, and have our being,” in his speech at Athens. (See Note on Acts 17:28.)

Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said.
(39) Master, thou hast well said.—The words came, it is obvious, from the better section of the Pharisees, who welcomed this new defence of the doctrine on which their faith rested.

And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.
(40) They durst not ask him any question at all.—The singular omission by St. Luke of the question which is recorded by St. Matthew (Matthew 22:34-40) and St. Mark (Mark 12:28-34), and which would have fallen m so well with the general scope and tenor of his Gospel, may take its place, though we cannot account for it except on the supposition that he did not know the facts, as one of the many proofs of his entire independence as a narrator.

And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David's son?
(41, 42) How say they that Christ is David’s son?—Better, that the Christ. See Notes on Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37. The implied subject of the verb is clearly, as in St. Mark, “the scribes.” St. Luke agrees with St. Mark in not giving the preliminary question, “What think ye of Christ? . . ,” which we find in St. Matthew.

And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?
Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples,
(45-47) Then in the audience of all the people.—Better, in the hearing. See Notes on Matthew 23, especially Luke 20:6-7, and Mark 12:38-40. St. Luke’s report agrees almost verbally with the latter.

Chief rooms.—Better, chief places.

Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
Which devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
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