Luke 20:1-26 Opposition to Jesus

There was plenty of opposition to Jesus throughout his ministry. But it came to a head in that final week before his crucifixion. Some opposition to Jesus is direct, and some is rather more subtle. As you consider this opposition here in these verses, you can think about your own attitude towards Jesus.

And for those who already claim Christ to be your saviour, you can learn from the master about dealing with objections and questions – all the while pointing people to life and hope.

We’re going to think about what it is to come to Jesus truly, to come to Jesus humbly, and how to live for Jesus wisely.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church Wirral in September 2023. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Come to Jesus truly (1-8)

Jesus spent some time in Jerusalem in that last week, teaching. Read Luke 20:1-2.

It’s a bit like a security guard coming over to you saying, “Who said you can park your car here??” The person asking the question has the authority. They have the support of the organisation behind them. Those chief priest, scribes and elders weren’t interesting in engaging with Jesus. They just wanted him to stop. They were the authorities, and they didn’t like anyone coming in.

For anyone here who hears things about Jesus, or God, or the Bible, and says, “Yes, but what about…?” – be true: Do you really want to know, or are you just trying to support your own objections? Are you being objective? Are you trying to learn, or object?

As so often, Jesus answers their question with his own question. Read Luke 20:3-4.

He’s not being awkward. In theory, it allows for a more open conversation. John is dead, and they can all discuss him as a third party – no offence to anyone. But more than that, Jesus knows that if they truly answer that question then they’ll have discovered the answer to their own question about Jesus.

In the end, they kop out: Read Luke 20:5-7.

  • Look at how they think it through:
    • If we say this… then…
    • But if we say that… then…
  • They’re not engaging with truth; they’re just trying to work out what looks best.
  • They’re not asking, “What if he really was a prophet, in our own time, and we have treated him as our forefathers treated earlier prophets?”

Ask the right questions

Wisdom isn’t about knowing all the answers, it’s about asking the right questions. They don’t want to ask the real question because it will mean they were wrong, and that they need to repent.

You will often find that when people ask you questions, they’re not really trying to engage with truth. They’re just reinforcing their objection and opposition to Jesus. It’s rarely worth launching into a brilliant defence (even if you could – which Jesus obviously could!). Rather, ask questions back. That will almost always display shallow thinking, or biased questions, or a closed mind.

Read Luke 20:8. Don’t be fooled, and don’t be taken for a fool. John’s message was from heaven. Repent of your sin, and turn to God. Even more, Jesus is the Son of God. Opposition to Jesus is opposition to God. It’s futile, and dangerous. 

So, anyone and everyone who has objections against Jesus is welcome. Everyone is welcome!

But come to Jesus truly, with an open heart and mind, ready to learn.

Come to Jesus humbly (9-19)

Jesus immediately spoke a parable against those leaders. Read Luke 20:9.

They’d have known from Isaiah 5 how God’s people are a vine, planted and tended by God himself. So this parable has that kind of background, except that here there are tenant farmers. He clearly means the chief priests, scribes and elders, and it was their job to tend God’s vine, his people.

It’s an important, but simple point: The vine didn’t belong to the tenant farmers; they were to oversee, tend, and produce fruit. Read Luke 20:10.

They did the same with a second, and a third. We might think of how Jeremiah was treated, or Elijah, or John the Baptist. That’s the point Jesus is making here.

But then the owner of the vineyard sent his beloved son. And what did they do? Read Luke 20:14-15.

It doesn’t matter whether inheritance could actually be transferred like that. What matters is their disregard for the owner and his son. They thought there would be no come-back. And then read Luke 20:16.

The people listening to Jesus’ parable were appalled that such a story could happen.

So he then does something surprising: He shows how exactly this is predicted to happen to the Messiah, Son of God!

Opposition to the Messiah foretold

Read Luke 20:17. That’s from Psalm 118, the Passover psalm being sung on his triumphal entry on the donkey (last week). It’s a song of the triumphal entry of the king to Jerusalem, rejected and opposed by many, rescued by God.

When we refurbished our pulpit area, we were left with a space right at the front with no carpet. What to do? Then we remembered there was a scrap of that carpet that had been on the floor in the disabled toilet for years. A piece of unwanted scrap carpet – ultimately put to use in the focal point of the building!

That’s the image here. Builders who chose their building materials carefully, rejecting this one stone over and over. And that one stone ultimately becoming a focal piece for the whole building.

Psalm 118 told Israel to expect a king like that, and Jesus is that king. But he’s even more: Read Luke 20:18. That’s a reference to the coming of Immanuel in Isaiah 8:14-15. He is God With Us, Jesus who has come to bring salvation to his people. Anyone who attacks him will be broken. And everyone who stands in his way will be smashed.

But get this: He is God With Us, Immanuel who came to save. Jesus is the Son of God. Opposition to Jesus is opposition to God. It’s futile, and dangerous. 

Jesus doesn’t need to be your destroyer.

Jesus came to seek and to save

If you engage with him truly, come to him as a sinner deserving righteous judgment, he will save you forever. Come to Jesus humbly, and he will be a rock of refuge to you. Come to him in opposition, and he will smash you. Read Luke 20:19.

The very opposite of humility: Pride. They were livid that Jesus would speak about them in such a way, and couldn’t for a moment stop and wonder if he was right.

In truth, the Christian life is one of daily repentance and dependence. Not a day goes by without sin – good things not done, bad things contemplated or done. Humility and repentance before Jesus is your life-long posture. He is God and you’re not.

And remember, he’s saying all this against those responsible for caring for God’s people: Church leaders are especially under the spotlight, needing to walk humbly before God.

So, having thought about how you’re to come to Jesus truly (genuinely, openly, without bias or prejudice), and how to come to him humbly (in repentance, recognising that he is God), now:

Live for Jesus wisely (20-26)

The devil’s way is often this: Indirect enticement. Like Balaam seducing Israel, once direct engagement failed. See what goes on next towards Jesus. Read Luke 20:20-22.

They come as angels of light, but their hearts are dark. It’s a trap. If Jesus says, “Pay your taxes to Caesar,” they will say he’s no friend of Israel. But if he says, “Don’t pay your taxes,” they can get him in trouble with Pilate, the governor. They think they’ve got him.

Knowledge and wisdom aren’t the same thing.

You can know the law of God and have a strong grasp of right and wrong. But we live in a world where things are rarely that simple. For example:

  • Abortion is morally wrong, as a destruction of human life.
  • Should I not pay tax, knowing that some of that money is used immorally?
  • In Jesus’ day, paying tax to the Romans was a hot topic.
    • Some of that money went into Rome’s idolatry and military machine. Is that right?

Jesus had perfect knowledge of the law, but he also had perfect wisdom – godly insight that enabled him to work through the grey areas of life, and do right. His answer is pure wisdom: Read Luke 20:23-26.

The people asking him the question were setting up a false distinction: It’s not right to ask if you serve God or Caesar.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

There’s a well-known Monty Python sketch based on life at that time. Someone asks, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” 

  • It’s meant to be rebellious, obviously. No taxes!
  • The answer is surprising: Good roads, sanitation, medicine, education, security,…
  • That is, they’re due their tax. It’s right.
  • It’s an obligation, and no more than that.
  • Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s: Tax.

Give to God what is God’s. What’s that?

  • Your life. Love. Praise, honour, glory, prayer.

The problem comes when Caesar (or whatever government is in place – Sunak, Biden, Pol Pot or Putin) demands from you what belongs to God.

We must serve God first in everything, and respect the authorities over us. As 1 Peter 2:17 puts it: Honour everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honour the emperor.

Maturity needs wisdom

Christian maturity does require a growth in knowledge, but only so that you will grow in wisdom (steering through the grey),
in grace (being gentle with others),
in love (pointing to hope and life in Christ).

Everyone here will struggle to find the right path at times.

All treasures of knowledge and wisdom are in Christ, so ask him!

  • Let’s take an easy example.
    • Do you have to observe the 20mph speed limits?
    • Is it a moral failure to drive at 20mph? No.
    • Give to Caesar what is his: Obey the law. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 cover this in more detail.
  • What about masks in Lockdown, and church buildings being closed?
    • We know we’re to meet together, and we know we’re to love one another. Wisdom steers a course.
  • If our Government insists we conduct same-sex marriages or blessings here, will we do it?
    • That is Caesar contradicting God’s own statement on marriage, which is between one man and one woman. In that case, we serve God, not man.
  • What if where you work has a policy about including pronouns (he/she/them) in your email signatures?
    • You might well refuse to comply in general (at company level).
    • But that might not be how you want to show compassion to a particular individual.
    • Wisdom steers a godly course through the grey.

We go wrong when we do what some of those religious people were doing.

You need to remember that Jesus is the Son of God. Opposition to Jesus is futile and dangerous.

Come to Jesus

He is wisdom itself, as well as goodness, knowledge, and love.

Come to Jesus truly, without preconception or bias. Come to Jesus humbly. He is God. He has the authority to judge you in perfect knowledge. If you try to take him on, he will smash you like a mountain crashing into you. But if you come before him in repentance and faith, you find him to be a rock of refuge, rescue, life, and hope.

And we’re not left trying to work out how to live for him. You’re to live for Jesus wisely, growing in knowledge, wisdom, grace and love towards others.

Steer a godly path through the greys of life, loving God, serving worldly authorities well, and pointing others to hope and life in Christ.