The Gospel of Luke - Part 84
The Authority of Jesus — Luke 20:9-19

June 17, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


The last lesson in Luke, we were just getting into Luke Chapter 20 which I told you was about questions and answers about Authority.

Remember that Chapter 20 is after the final Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus rode into the City on a donkey colt and did a through house cleaning of the Temple. After that He was teaching in the Temple when the religious leaders challenged Him about His authority to be teaching.

Let’s reset the stage on where we are now in the timeline of the last weeks of the life of Jesus.

Saturday & Sunday - Jesus in Bethany
Sunday - triumphal entry by Jesus into Jerusalem
Monday - Jesus’ cleansing of the temple
Tuesday - confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders
Wednesday - Jesus teaching His followers

Let’s recap from Luke:

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
Remember the attitudes of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They didn't really want to know what Jesus taught. They weren't even really interested in the truth. They were just looking for a way to trip Jesus up so they could publicly condemn Him.

We have broken Luke 20 into four sections:

Accept the Authority of Jesus:

In Luke 20, we see the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders escalating. Jesus is being more assertive concerning who He is and more critical of these leaders. The Jewish leaders are becoming more aggressive in seeking to discredit Him. This is where we stopped at the end of the last Luke lesson. Jesus refused to give the Pharisees and scribes the ammunition that they were trying to draw out.  He did answer the question, but it was in His often used style of a parable.

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 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’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 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. —Luke 20:9-19
In order to understand this story, let's identify who each person represents.
the owner    -     God
the vineyard    -     Israel
the tenant farmers    -     religious leaders
the servants    -     prophets
the son    -     Jesus, Son of God
the others (v.16)    -     Gentiles

The response of the people in verse 16 shows that they understood the message of this story.

When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” —Luke 20:16
The “vineyard” was a familiar picture of the nation of Israel.
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! —Isaiah 5:1-7

In that day, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day; I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together. Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit. —Isaiah 27:2-6

Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. —Jeremiah 12:10
The Jews, especially the religious leaders, had refused to listen to the prophets, including John the Baptist, and now they refused to listen to Jesus, God's Son.

Look at the response of the people in verse 16. — May this never be! — Don't you wish they were concerned for the fate of the “son” instead of to the fate of the “tenant farmers”? But their focus was not on what would happen to Jesus but what would happen to them. But Jesus draws their attention back to Him by pointing them to a verse that spoke of Him.

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’? —Luke 20:17
Jesus here is quoting Psalm 118:22-23: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This verse is quoted many different times in the New Testament.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone —Acts 4:11

...built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone —Ephesians 2:20

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” —1 Peter 2:7


The Expository Dictionary of Biblle Words says:
The Greek word for corner stone means literally “the head of the corner”. “[This] was most like the large stone that lay at the top of the wall at the corner, binding the walls of a structure together. Some think it may have been the keystone that completes an arch or structure. Used figuratively . . . , the capstone is clearly the one essential stone on which the integrity of the building depends.” [Expository Dictionary of Bible Words]
Jesus is not just an important part of being right with God, He is essential. All religious activity without Christ just falls apart.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. —Luke 20:17
In the context of this parable, Jesus is speaking in particular of the way the Jewish religious leaders rejected Him and, more broadly, the way so many of the Jewish people rejected Him. Why do you think the religious leaders (and the people) rejected Jesus in spite of the compelling evidence of His miracles, His teaching, His life? Today, Jesus is almost universally recognized as the greatest moral example and greatest teacher who ever lived. So: why do you think so many people in America still reject Him as Savior and Lord?

In verse 18 Jesus wants them to understand that when they reject Him they don't destroy Him, rather they destroy themselves.

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him. —Luke 20:18
Then the religious leaders show their lack of a heart for God by their preoccupation with what the people would think. If they genuinely believed Jesus were blaspheming God, they should have spoken against Him no matter what the consequences.
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. —Luke 20:19
A cornerstone is the first stone laid. If it is not perfectly square and perfectly aligned every other stone in both connecting walls would be off-line.

A keystone is the center stone in an arch that holds the others in place. Remove the keystone and the arch collapses.

Is Jesus the cornerstone, the keystone of your life? Are you “aligning” the areas of your life -job, marriage, family, finances, etc. — according to Him? If you aren't relying on Him, then sooner or later your life will come crashing down. What's one area of your life that you need to bring into alignment with the Lord and His teaching?

The religious leaders rejected Jesus' authority and placed themselves as the highest authority in their lives. How about you? What authority is highest in your life? Even if you are a Christian, it doesn't automatically mean that you are daily submitting to the Lord.

Sam Bronfman, the late CEO of the Seagram Company, entered a crowded conference room and, anxious to get on with the meeting, plopped into the nearest chair. One of his young assistants immediately said, “No, Mr. Bronfman, you're supposed to sit at the head of the table.”

“Young man,” replied Mr. Bronfman, “wherever I sit is the head of the table.”

Because Jesus took on the roles of servant and savior, we sometimes forget that He is still Lord. Like the CEO in the story, wherever Jesus sits is the “head of the table”!

So far in Luke 20, we learn from Jesus to Accept the Authority of Jesus.


Next week: — we will go on to Accept the Authority of Government.