I love the way the Scripture chronicles Christ’s ministry, the conversations He had. Our passage today is a classic example of how Jesus would deal with tricks & traps. He’d put the question asker on the spot, then tell stories that featured a version of His enemies. He would also make profound theological statements that left everyone speechless. He would do all of that in one exchange, like we see in our passage today. He will get asked a question that will lead him into a story that points out the wickedness of the religious establishment and then take another question and turn it into the deep lesson.

Ch 20:1-26

20 One day as Jesus was teaching the people and preaching the Good News in the Temple, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 2 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”

  • Teaching & preaching the Good News in the Temple, against the establishment
  • ‘We’ the ruling religious establishment did not give you the right / authority
  • They thought God’s authority was theirs to do with as they pleased

3 “Let me ask you a question first,” He replied. 4 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”

  • Answer a question with a question…
  • Classic Jesus question: there is a right answer but it is costly…

5 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 6 But if we say it was merely human, the people will stone us because they are convinced John was a prophet.” 7 So they finally replied that they didn’t know.

  • They had to protect their franchise of power, that was the overriding concern
  • Recognizing John’s ministry when was preaching was the thing to do…

8 And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

  • If you cannot be honest about the reality of God you wont listen to what I say
  • If someone denies the obvious work of God they will not recognize His authority
  • Jesus says: you guys don’t get to demand anything based on what you’ve done

9 Now Jesus turned to the people again and told them this story: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and moved to another country to live for several years. 10 At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers attacked the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed.

  • This story is to illustrate the the way the Jewish establishment has acted to God
  • The people in charge of the Temple are the tenant farmers (Stewards)
  • God sent a representative (Prophet) to get His due harvest (honest worship)
  • They had stopped treating the Temple like it was God’s & used it as their own
  • This prophet is ignored & attacked

11 So the owner sent another servant, but they also insulted him, beat him up, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 A third man was sent, and they wounded him and chased him away. 13 “‘What will I do?’ the owner asked himself. ‘I know! I’ll send my cherished son. Surely they will respect him.’

  • Obviously the owner is God, He doesn’t give up on the tenants, 2nd chance…
  • These next two ‘Prophets’ are physically ill treated… It keeps getting worse
  • The Owner figures that it is a matter of Him needing to show more authority
  • He figures there is no way they will not respect His ‘Only Son’ (His Beloved)

14 “But when the tenant farmers saw his son, they said to each other, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 15 So they dragged him out of the vineyard and murdered him.

  • Instead of responding with contrition, they get even more ruthless & rebellious
  • They decide instead of abusing the owner’s authority, they will be the authority
  • They take Him from what is His and Murder Him (not just kill, murder)

What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do to them?” Jesus asked. 16 “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others.” “How terrible that such a thing should ever happen,” his listeners protested.

  • Christ puts the question directly to the Sanhedrin: What should these guys get?
  • Jesus says here is what is gonna happen: Tenants are going to be replaced
  • The Sanhedrin guys are like: Oh how could anyone be that awful?
  • Jesus is describing what they have actually done (Like Nathan with King David)

17 Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does this Scripture mean? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ 18 Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”

  • Christ points them to the Scriptures to understand who He is and who they are
  • If they don’t recognize Jesus for who He is, He will end up being their demise
  • There is an incredibly high price to pay for rejecting Jesus The Christ

19 The teachers of religious law and the leading priests wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the people’s reaction.

  • Once they see Jesus is directly criticizing them they want to silence Him
  • But they had to tread lightly because they feared the crowd turning on them

20 Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus.

  • Sanhedrin start a campaign to trip Jesus up so the Romans will silence Him
  • They want to get the Romans to do their dirty work for them, was safer that way

21 “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully. 22 Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

  • The set up is to flatter Him, get Him to become prideful…
  • The trap they tried to set was to have Christ make a treasonous statement
  • They are asking Christ to recognize Rome’s authority

23 He saw through their trickery and said, 24 “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 25 “Well then,” He said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

  • Of course God / Christ knows exactly how to combat their argument
  • ‘Coin’ is a metaphor for what belongs to this fallen world, embedded with sin
  • The reality of things as they are in this world must be dealt with
  • God’s followers are to have a value system that is different, different priorities
  • We participate in this world a little as possible, giving everything else to God
  • Giving everything else to God means having values that are formed by HIM

SURRENDER TO THE GOSPEL = Give God what belongs to God, YOUR LIFE!

26 So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.

  • The effect was the opposite of what the Religious Leaders wanted
  • Obviously they had no idea of Christ’s divinity, constantly underestimating Him
  • They could choose to give up trying to kill Him…


God requires honesty in the way you inquire of Him, He is not obligated to respond.

God will not reveal Himself to those playing power games with people’s faith.

As Christ’s followers we are all Stewards of Christ’s Redemption and God’s Glory.

God entrusts His authority to Leaders, but they are held accountable by Him.

The system of this fallen world is not what God’s people are to invest in.

Christ’s Followers are stuck in ‘This World’ but are focused on eternal values.


In what ways might you be less than honest with God? How do you stop doing that?

How might you specifically be a better steward of The Gospel & God’s Reputation?

What role can you play in our Church Body to encourage Kingdom Stewardship?

How do you evaluate whether you are more invested in this world or the next?