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(Luke 20:1-18) The Heir Has Arrived

(Luke 20:1-18) The Heir Has Arrived

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Luke
Ref: Luke 20:1–18

After Jesus finished clearing the immoral commercialism and greed taking place in the Temple, He sat down to teach. A crowd formed quickly to hear what He had to say, and so did the religious leaders, who wanted to challenge Him with questions. Jesus was ready for their challenge, and had a question, a story, and a prophecy of His own. The point of Jesus’ teaching still resonates with us today.

Sermon Summary

Understanding the true meaning of someone's words can often be challenging, as illustrated by a personal anecdote about a marriage proposal that was initially met with hesitation due to past uncertainties. This story serves as a prelude to the exploration of the theme of clarification, particularly in the context of Luke chapter 20, which is characterized by a series of probing questions and answers.

In this chapter, Jesus is confronted by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel, who question His authority following a series of actions that have disrupted the status quo, including His acceptance of Messianic adoration, cleansing of the temple, and direct teaching in the temple courts. This confrontation occurs during a time when the Jewish people would have been inspecting their Passover lambs for blemishes, symbolically paralleling the scrutiny Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, is undergoing.

Jesus responds to the Sanhedrin's challenge with a question about the authority of John the Baptist, which they are unable to answer without incriminating themselves or facing the wrath of the people who believed John to be a prophet. Jesus then shares a parable about a vineyard owner and his tenants, which serves as a prophetic allegory for God's relationship with Israel and the religious leaders' rejection of His messengers, culminating in the sending of His beloved Son, whom they also reject.

The parable's elements are clearly identified: God as the vineyard owner, Israel as the vineyard, the religious leaders as the tenant farmers, the prophets as the servants, Jesus as the beloved Son, and the Gentiles as the "others" invited into the vineyard. The parable concludes with a stark warning of judgment upon those who reject the Son, and Jesus reinforces this message by referring to Himself as the cornerstone that the builders rejected, a reference to Psalm 118 and a declaration of His preeminent authority.

Jesus further warns of the consequences of rejecting Him, drawing from the prophecy in Daniel about a stone that will crush those who oppose it. This serves as a reminder of God's patience and the impending judgment for unbelief. The patience of God is highlighted as a remarkable attribute, having endured for centuries, offering an open invitation for all to accept Jesus as the Messiah and cornerstone of their lives.

The narrative concludes with a call to personal decision and passionate devotion, emphasizing Jesus as the beloved Son, the Passover Lamb who takes away sin, and the coming King. The Sanhedrin, faced with Jesus' authoritative teaching and the crowd's support, find themselves in a difficult situation, unable to assert their authority over Him.

Key Takeaways:

  • The concept of authority is central to understanding one's role and purpose. In the narrative, Jesus is questioned about His authority, which He demonstrates through His actions and teachings. This invites reflection on the source and recognition of authority in one's own life, and the importance of aligning with the ultimate authority found in the divine.
  • The patience of a vineyard owner in the parable reflects the extraordinary patience of God with humanity. Despite repeated rejections and mistreatment of His messengers, God's patience persists, culminating in the sending of His beloved Son. This patience is a model for believers, challenging them to exhibit similar forbearance in their interactions with others.
  • The rejection of the cornerstone, as depicted in the parable, serves as a metaphor for the rejection of divine truth and guidance. The cornerstone is essential for the integrity of a structure, just as spiritual truths are foundational for a well-ordered life. This imagery encourages individuals to examine what they have rejected or accepted as the cornerstone of their own lives.
  • The concept of the vineyard as a symbol of divine blessing and ownership is rich with meaning. The vineyard owner's actions in the parable mirror God's care and claim over His people. This symbolism can inspire believers to consider their own stewardship of the blessings they have received and their responsiveness to the Owner's expectations.
  • The final warning about the stone that crushes serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of rejecting divine authority. It underscores the gravity of one's response to God's offer of salvation and the ultimate triumph of His kingdom. This prophetic promise calls for serious contemplation about one's standing with respect to divine truth and the urgency of reconciliation.

Five-Day Devotional

Day 1: Divine Authority's Role in Purpose

Understanding and embracing divine authority is crucial for finding one's true purpose and direction in life. Recognizing this authority goes beyond mere acknowledgment; it involves a deep alignment of one's life with the divine will. This alignment brings clarity to one's role and purpose, guiding actions and decisions in a way that honors the ultimate source of authority.

Hebrews 5:8-9 - "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."

Reflection: In what areas of your life have you struggled to recognize or submit to divine authority, and how can you begin to align yourself with God's will in those areas?

Day 2: Patience as a Reflection of God's Character

The extraordinary patience of God is a testament to His enduring love and mercy. As believers, reflecting on God's patience with humanity, despite our flaws and failures, can inspire us to cultivate patience in our own lives. This divine attribute challenges us to extend grace and forbearance to others, mirroring the patience God has shown us.

2 Peter 3:9 - "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Reflection: How can you exhibit God's patience in your relationships, and what steps can you take to be more patient with those who may test your patience?

Day 3: The Cornerstone of Our Faith

The rejection of the cornerstone in scripture symbolizes the tragic dismissal of divine truth. As the cornerstone is essential for the stability and integrity of a structure, so is Jesus Christ for our spiritual lives. This imagery invites believers to examine their own foundations, ensuring that Christ is the cornerstone upon which their lives are built.

Ephesians 2:19-20 - "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."

Reflection: What have you established as the cornerstone of your life, and how does this align with the role Christ is meant to play in your faith?

Day 4: Stewardship of Divine Blessings

The vineyard in the parable represents the divine blessings and responsibilities bestowed upon us. As stewards of these gifts, we are called to bear fruit and honor the Owner's expectations. This symbolism encourages believers to reflect on their stewardship, recognizing that all they have is entrusted to them by God for a purpose.

1 Peter 4:10 - "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."

Reflection: Consider the blessings you have received. How are you currently stewarding these gifts, and what changes can you make to better serve others and honor God?

Day 5: The Gravity of Rejecting Divine Truth

The final warning about the stone that crushes is a sobering call to acknowledge the consequences of rejecting divine truth. It emphasizes the importance of responding to God's offer of salvation and the certainty of His kingdom's ultimate triumph. This prophetic message urges believers to contemplate their standing with God and the urgency of reconciliation.

Daniel 2:34-35 - "While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth."

Reflection: How does the reality of divine judgment impact your relationship with God, and what steps can you take to ensure you are not found rejecting the cornerstone of truth?

Discussion Guide

Bible Reading:

  • Luke 20:9-16 - The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
  • Luke 20:17-18 - Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22 and alludes to Daniel 2 regarding the stone that crushes

Observation Questions:

  1. In the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, what actions did the vineyard owner take when his servants were mistreated by the tenants?
  2. How did the tenants react to the vineyard owner sending his beloved son?
  3. What does Jesus say about the stone that the builders rejected, and what will happen to those who fall on it or it falls on?

Interpretation Questions:

  1. What might the vineyard and the tenants represent in the parable, considering the historical and religious context of Israel?
  2. How does the reaction of the tenants to the son's arrival reflect the broader theme of rejection and authority in the passage?
  3. What implications does Jesus' reference to the cornerstone and the crushing stone have for understanding His identity and mission?

Application Questions:

  1. Reflect on a time when you faced rejection for doing what was right. How did you respond, and what can you learn from the vineyard owner's patience and ultimate justice?
  2. Consider the cornerstone in your life. What is the foundation that you measure everything against? Is there anything you need to realign to ensure it is built on Jesus?
  3. Identify a situation this week where you can demonstrate patience and forgiveness, as the vineyard owner did, even when it's challenging.
  4. Think of a relationship where you have resisted authority. What steps can you take to reconcile and acknowledge the rightful authority in that situation?
  5. In what practical ways can you honor Jesus as the cornerstone and King in your daily activities and decisions?

Transcript

The Heir Has Arrived

Luke 20:1-18

When I grew up and entered college, my parents had this unwritten rule for my brothers and for me, that we would not bring a girl home for Christmas break unless she was the one. I dated Marsha fornearly four years and had never invited her homeover Christmas break, and she knew why. 

So when I planned how to propose to her, on Thanksgiving weekend, a few weeks before Christmas break, I set everything up – had the ring hidden out of sight and I asked her, “Would you like to go home with me on Christmas break?” Her eyes got wide – I knew she knew what that meant. But she didn’t say anything. 

So I clarified it a little more by asking, “That is, if I can introduce you as my fiancé?” And then I said, “That is, if you will marry me?” And she said, “I don’t know.” Wait – that’s not how this movie is supposed to go.

Now granted, if Marsha could come up here and  tell you her side of the story – I’m not gonna let her – well, here’s her story – whenever we started talking seriously about marriage, I’d get cold feet – and even break up. 

I told her I loved her and broke up 2 weeks later; I gave her a promise ring and broke up 2 weeks later. I had cold feet. She would say I had a cold heart.

So when I proposed she heard me saying we were gonna break up 2 weeks later; I heard me saying, we were gonna get married 6 months later.

So had some clarifying to do! And as I like to tell it – I talked her into saying “Yes!” And here we are 43 years later – am I ever glad she said “Yes!”

It’s easy to miss the true meaning of what someone might be trying to say to you.

This past week, somebody sent me a humorous quote that went like this: “When older people say to you as young parents, ‘Enjoy them while they’re young” – they’re talking about your knees – not your children.”

You might wanna clarify!

Well, if you could write a caption at the beginning of Luke chapter 20, which is where we arrive today, you could write the word, “Clarification”.

It’s a chapter of clarifying questions and answers. In fact, Bible scholars entitle what takes place now as “The Day of Questions.” [William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Westminster Press, 1975), p. 243]

You’ll find nearly a dozen questions in Luke chapter 20 – and here’s one of the first questions we’ll cover today – verse 1:

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?” ​​Luke 20:1-2

By the way, chief priests, scribes and elders is code for the Sanhedrin. Israel’s supreme court.

And they’re not happy.

In the last 72 hours, Jesus has accepted the adoration of the people who declared Him to be King and Messiah. He’s cleared the court of the Gentiles, effectively cleansing the temple. He’s called the temple leaders, “thieves, or robbers”; He’s even referred to the temple as “His House” – “This is My House!” And now He’s now turned the temple into His private pulpit.

So the Sanhedrin now show up to examine Jesus. 

One author pointed out that the Jewish people would have been inspecting their Passover lambs during these few days to make sure lambs had no blemishes that would disqualify them. So Jesus – the final Passover Lamb – is being examined – tested – and He will indeed prove to be without sin. [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Courageous (Victor Books, 1989]

John’s Gospel account indicates that Jesus typically taught in what is commonly called, Solomon’s Porch (John 10:23).

Solomon’s porch was a covered area – a colonnade – that opened along the eastern side of the Court of the Gentiles.

Now that all the money changers are gone, and all the stalls of the merchants have been removed – traffic is no longer allowed to cut through here, it would have become quiet – worshipful – a “House of prayer and meditation and learning”.

The Lord’s voice would have echoed easily along that marble pavement and the nearby temple building itself.

Jesus has essentially reclaimed the temple for its original purpose. [Dale Ralph Davis, Luke: The Year of the Lord’s Favor (Christian Focus, 2021), p. 134]

Now at this point, the court is filled with people who’ve come to see and hear the Lord. 

We have every indication that thousands of people had gathered and would have been eager to hear Him teach – this was a Passover season like noneother.

But the Sanhedrin isn’t happy at all – thepriesthood is losing money by the hour with all the merchants scattered – but greater than that, they are losing face.

Jesus had called them thieves – earlier He had called them a brood of poisonous serpents.

And now He’s taken over the courtyard and turned it into a classroom – “We gotta stop this – we’ve gotta shut this down – who does He think He is?

And that’s the clarification they’re after here – “By what authority have you taken over the temple?”

Now Jesus responds three ways: 

  • He asks them a perceptive question; 
  • then He tells them a convicting story; 
  • and finally, He applies some old propheciesto Himself. 

And let me tell you, when He’s finished, there will be no misunderstanding what He means – there will be no more need of clarification.

How here’s the Lord’s question back to them – verse 3:

He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”  ​​Luke 20:3-4

In other words, where did this Old Testament prophet, John the Baptizer, get his authority to demand repentance and use baptism as a sign of preparation for the kingdom of God? 

“Did he get his authority from God, or from youreligious leaders?”

Now Jesus isn’t just trying to avoid their question – He’s not trying to be tricky here. 

He knows that their answer to His question will answer their own. [Barclay, p.  244]

How’s that?

Well, John the Baptizer was the forerunner of the Messiah. He had introduced Jesus to the nation as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

Sounds like his authority is from God!

So these religious leaders retreat a little ways away and huddle up and talk it over! [Adapted from Davis, p. 134]

Verse 5:

And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did younot believe him?’ But if we say, [he got his authority] ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”

As we say it in the South, the Sanhedrin is in a pickle. That actually comes from the 16th century when “pickle” was a hot sauce and to be submerged in “pickle” meant you were over your head in a difficult situation.

Well, the Sanhedrin is over their head – and the heat just got turned up.

Now verse 7:

So [they broke huddle and] 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 20:5-8

Jesus effectively says, “I’m not gonna pat you on the head like a little child who doesn’t know the answer – because you know the obvious answer regarding John, the Old Testament prophet. 

So, why don’t you sit over there without interrupting and listen while I tell everybody here a story – verse 9:

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.” ​Luke 20:9

Stop for a moment – everybody understood this context.

A vineyard was commonly rented out in Israel.

We know from history that along the Sea of Galilee there were vast estates owned by foreigners who lived some distance away, butwould lease their vineyards to farmers in the Jewish community. [William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Baker Book House, 1978), p. 891]

So everybody would have understood the Lord’s story because a vineyard was commonly rented out in Israel.

But even more significantly, a vineyard was a common reference to Israel. Israel was pictured in the Old Testament as God’s vineyard.

The prophet Isaiah said, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7).

The Psalmist said this of God: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land” (Psalm 80:8-9).

It’s no coincidence that the grape vine had become the artistic logo – the brand – so to speak, for the nation Israel. 

Clusters of grapes signified the blessing of God upon Israel.

In fact, more than one hundred years before the birth of Christ, coins had been minted in Israel, discovered recently near the Temple Mount just a few years ago.

On one side is a palm tree and the word, Jerusalem; one the other side – shown here – is a cluster of grapes on a vine.

But there’s something else going on here. Jesus is teaching in the courtyard and all you had to do is down the plaza and you would see the doorway into the Holy Place.

That opening was nearly 100 feet tall, and flanking that opening were two columns, and on those columns was a magnificent grapevine made of gold:

  • its branches and leaves were sculpted out of solid gold. 
  • clusters of grapes 6 feet long were sculpted into the vine, 
  • the grapes were crafted using precious gems
  • wealthy Jews would embellish this grapevinefrom time to time; 
  • someone would donate gold for another leaf; another might add a jewel, or an entire cluster of precious gems. [Adapted from R. Kent Hughes, Luke: Volume Two (Crossway Books, 1998), p. 255]

This grapevine was the symbol of God’s ownership of Israel – He had pulled them out of Egypt and had planted them in the land of promise.

Now verse 10:

When the time came, he (the vineyard owner) 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. ​Luke 20:10

Under normal business practices, were this to happen, law officers would immediately be sent over there and these tenants would have been arrested and put into jail.

So don’t miss the vineyard owner’s patience here – now verse 11:

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. ​​Luke 20:11-12

By the way, the word doulos, translated servant – is a term used in the Old Testament Greek translation for the prophets of God.

The nation Israel historically mistreated, ignored, mocked, threatened them – like Elijah, they put a price on his head. The queen told him he was as good as dead – and Elijah ran for his life.

Over the centuries, the servants of God have been sent out, and they have been thrown out.

Now verse 13:

Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son;

This is the same expression heard on the day Jesus was baptized by John – the Father’s voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” 

Let me tell you, this parable is becoming prophetic. [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Augsburg Publishing House, 1946), p. 979]

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!” ​Luke 20:13-16

This expression relates to the entirety of the parable, not just the final line. These people can’t imagine the vineyard owner sending his son and the tenants committing murder.

Remember, the Sanhedrin has already decided to put Jesus to death. They’ve already planning the death of God’s beloved Son.

They’re gonna take Him outside the city, just like the heir of this vineyard - this beloved son – Hebrews 13:12 says that Jesus died outside the city gate.

There’s no missing the meaning here; no more need for clarification: the players in this dramatic parable are easily identified:

  • The vineyard owner is God the Father
  • The vineyard is the nation Israel
  • The tenant farmers are the religious leaders
  • The servants​ are the prophets of God
  • The beloved son is Jesus, the son of God
  • And the “others” who are invited into the vineyard are the Gentile nations.

I imagine the Sanhedrin is stunned; you could’ve heard a pin drop as Jesus delivers the verdict. And He does so, by quoting old prophecies and applying them to Himself – verse 17:

But he looked directly at them (“He looked them right in the eye.” [David E. Garland, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke (Zondervan, 2011), p. 794] and said,

“What then is this that is written: ​‘The stone that he builders rejected ​has become the cornerstone’?​ Luke 20:17

The Sanhedrin – the religious leaders – those who were supposed to build up and lead the nation correctly – have rejected the cornerstone.

They wanted the benefits – they wanted the produce – they wanted the power – they wanted whatever God would give them, but they ultimately rejected the Son of God.

The world just did that not long ago. There was a universal celebration of Christmas – but no manger scenes allowed on public property. [Barton, p. 452]

Christmas carols could be heard by Bing Crosby but nothing from a church choir. 

The world had a birthday party without inviting the guest of honor. 

Let me tell you, if people threw a birthday party today without inviting the birthday boy, the birthday boy would probably sue them for emotional distress.

But Jesus isn’t gonna sue – He’s planning to suffer– this is His plan – He is the Final Passover Lamb.

There's something else significant about this prophecy Jesus mentions here; When Jesus was riding into Jerusalem – you might remember that people were singing from Psalm 118 and verse 26. 

Blessed is he [the King] who comes in the name of the Lord. ​​Psalm 118:26

They changed the lyrics and applied it to Jesus. 

And now Jesus pulls another verse out of Psalm118, applying it to Himself as Messiah – these are the lyrics of Psalm 118 verse 22:

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. ​​Psalm 118:22

This was a declaration of Christ’s preeminent authority.

  • He is the cornerstone, not only of the house of Israel – 
  • the cornerstone of the future kingdom – 
  • the apostle Paul even used this of the Lord as the cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

God hasn’t rejected Israel forever – but during this time when Israel rejected His Son, Romans chapter 11 tells us, that He is now allowing othersinto the vineyard – Gentile believers – in this dispensation of the church age.

Believers of all nations, who because of their faith in Christ as their Messiah, Paul writes, allows them to be grafted into the branches – 

In the analogy of this parable – 

  • we get into the vineyard – 
  • we’re grafted into the vine – 
  • which is in reality, Jesus Christ our Lord.

By the way, a cornerstone played the most important role – 

  • it was the most important stone in a building; 
  • it became the reference point by which every part of the building was measured. [Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), p. 459]
  • it governed every angle in the foundation and the building itself. [Lenski, p. 984]

That’s another way of saying, the cornerstone became the authority – the correct standard – for all of life.

Now with that Jesus issues a severe warning here as he brings out another Old Testament prophecy from the Book of Daniel – He says to them here in verse 18:

“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” ​Luke 20:18

The verb here for crush can mean, “to grind into powder.”

This is a serious warning – 

  • the time of patience will one day be over. 
  • the owner of the vineyard is planning to bring holy justice to everyone who rejects His beloved Son.
  • don’t misunderstand His delay as your deliverance
  • don’t misunderstand His patience as indifference.

This crushing stone the prophet Daniel refers to in Daniel chapter 2 is the Messiah who will one day crush every nation and every person who rejected Him.

Jesus is warning His audience then and He’s warning this audience today – He will keep these prophetic promises.

In the meantime, we should be moved by the incredible patience of God. God is incredibly patient with the world today.

Martin Luther, the reformer said some 500 years ago in his rather blunt manner, “If I were God and the world treated me like it treated Him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces.” 

There’s an honest theologian for you.

God’s patience with the world’s unbelief of Christ has lasted 2,000 years. 

Let me ask you:

  • how long has He been patient with your unbelief? 
  • are you trying His patience today?

The good news is, if you’re still alive and breathing, His invitation is still open:

  • make Him your Passover Lamb – 
  • ask Him to take away your sin – 
  • claim Him as your Messiah and King.

Even for believers today – remember He is your cornerstone:

  • let Him determine the angles of your life
  • let Him be the measurement for what is right and wrong
  • let Him be the standard for what is straight and true

Two observations now in closing:

First, this scene demands a personal decision – don’t make the same one they did.

Second, this scene deserves our passionate devotion – don’t withhold your service to Him and praise to Him – He is indeed:

  • the Beloved Son – 
  • the Passover Lamb who died to take away your sin and mine
  • the King who is coming for us one day.

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