December 16, 2012

Luke Looks Back 25


Study 25 - Luke 20:1-21: 4

Jesus challenges his hearers 7 times.

The first 4 of these challenges are quite substantial with definite contexts; the others less so.

Challenge 1 – Luke 20: 1 – 8

The question of authority is of great importance. There is no answer here so we need to go to John 5: 31 – 45 to find one. Question 1: Where does Jesus say his authority comes from or is testified to in these verses, which I am just about to read. Listen carefully and count the different sources you can hear. You should get six different ones. Where does the authority of what we say or do come from? You should have got as sources of authority: John the Baptist, his works, his Father, the Scriptures, Moses, his own words. Our main authority should be the Word of the Scriptures. All other authorities are secondary to them.

Challenge 2 – Luke 20: 9 – 19

It is based on Isaiah 5: 1 – 7. This story of the Tenants, or rather of the Vineyard Owner, is one of the most significant of all the parables with the clearest foreshadowing of the future of Jesus.

Question 2: What is the expected answer to Vineyard owner’s question “What shall I do?” after the first 3 servants have been beaten and sent back empty handed? What, therefore, is the significance of the given answer ‘I will send my son’?

The expected answer is that he will declare war on the tenants and have them beaten or killed to restore his honour which has been so shamed. Instead the Owner (God) makes himself vulnerable to the behaviour of the tenants (the Temple leadership). Thus a new way of humility, love and grace is displayed before the watching world.

That vulnerability is displayed in the Owner sending his son. The son is killed and only then is it said that the Owner ‘will kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’

Question 3: What is the significance of that for the original hearers? And for us?

This suggests that the Incarnation of Jesus constituted a last chance for the leadership of Israel. They failed the test. Jesus is the first and last chance for us.

Jesus comment on the parable is a quotation from the Psalms (118: 22) ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’ and one from Isaiah (8: 13 – 15) ‘The LORD Almighty will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.’ “Son” in Hebrew is “ben”; “stone” is “eben”. This is probably a deliberate word play.

Question 4: What should we, the second tenants, learn from this story?

God is infinitely gracious in what he has done for us; but we must not presume on his loving kindness if we despise his Son and his graciousness.

Challenge 3 – Luke 20: 20 – 26.

This is about the relationship between church and state. Should we: a) resist - have nothing to do with politics? b) accept - have a modest involvement only? c) challenge - be politically active for the betterment of society? Since hearers and readers of this will come from so many different countries with so many different situations I will have to leave you without an answer so it will be best if I do not ask the question! There is a deeper meaning, often missed.

Question 5: If we compare v 24b ‘Whose portrait and inscription are on it?’ with Gen 1: 26. ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,’ What does this imply?

If the denarius belongs to Caesar we, not just our coins, belong to God.

Challenge 4 – Luke 20: 27 – 40

People often assume that we shall be united with our loved ones in heaven although this is not clearly stated in Scripture. Jesus’ answer to the 7 husbands teaser probably has no implications for that assumption, since it is an impossible situation anyway.

The following 3 much smaller challenges all have very little given context.

Challenge 5 – Luke 20: 41 – 44

It is not easy to see what Jesus meant when he said this. Luke probably records it because it was very meaningful for the early church about 40 years later when they must have been quite puzzled to know who exactly Jesus was. They were worshipping him. Did that make him God? We know now that it did, and he was, but they must have been unsure about that for many years. These verses are a part answer to their questions.

What Jesus said equates the Messiah with the Son of David. That is not literally true. It is a useful reminder that ‘son of God’ is not to be taken as grossly literal either as some people try to do.

Challenge 6 – Luke 20: 45 – 47.

Question 6: Jesus did not actually condemn the privileges given to the scribes. What did he condemn? What are the present day equivalents of these? In particular, in what ways can we err in the way we participate in a prayer meeting?

What Jesus condemned were wrong attitudes to those privileges. They were to be things treasured and used for the benefit of other people not for private vanity. A minister should not dress differently from other people unless it is for a purpose such as recognition as he visits a hospital. We need to be careful when we take part in a prayer meeting that we are not taking part because we like other people to hear our voice.

Challenge 7 – Luke 21: 1 – 4.

Question 7: Is this realistic advice? Is ‘all she had to live on’ wise giving? If we do that we will end up in court for non-payment of utility bills or have to rely on other members of our family to give us food! So what can we take from this passage?

Yet again this is all about motives and attitudes. A very few Christians can imitate this situation. But they have to be a very few or we would all starve! Perhaps this is another of Jesus’ overstatements for effect.

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