Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament
Verses 47, 48
And he was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him: and they could not find what they might do; for all the people hung upon him, listening.
Luke here summarized the situation as it existed on Monday of the final week. Only this day and the Tuesday following it remained for Jesus to continue his teachings. The tragic events of the cross would begin to unfold on Wednesday, culminating in the crucifixion itself on Thursday.
Sought to destroy him ...
The glowering hatred of the leaders had reached the boiling point. They would kill Jesus by any means whatever, preferably by assassination (Matthew 26:4); but whatever it took to accomplish their purpose they were ready to do. Their impatience, however, would have to wait upon the Lord. He, not they, would set in motion the forces that led to his death; and his consent, not theirs, was the condition required to be fulfilled before they could act. The consent of Jesus was the sine qua non of our Lord's Passion. Without that, the criminal and bloodthirsty leaders were reduced to frustration, as so vividly portrayed here. "They could not find what they might do!"
In this chapter, which details Jesus' teachings on Monday of the final week, there are the following units; the Pharisees questioned Jesus' authority (Luke 20:1-8); he gave the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Luke 20:9-18); he answered the question of tribute to Caesar (Luke 20:19-26); he exposed the question of the Sadducees regarding the resurrection (Luke 20:27-40); he confounded them with a question of his own (Luke 20:41-44); and he uttered a sharp condemnation and warning against the scribes (Luke 20:45-47).
All of this chapter is contained in the parallel accounts of both Matthew and Mark; and twice already in this series, a line-by-line exegesis of these teachings has been presented. To avoid needless repetition, the several units of this chapter are discussed in a more general manner.
I. The Pharisees questioned the authority of Jesus, their purpose no doubt being to embarrass the Lord. That Jesus had no authority from THEM was certain; and, supposing that they alone could grant authority to religious teachers, they must have felt rather smug in propounding their question.
And it came to pass on one of the days, as he was teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the gospel, there came upon him the chief priests and the scribes and the elders; and they spake unto him, saying unto him, Tell us: By what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority? And he answered and said unto them, I also will ask you a question; and tell me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, From men; all the people will stone us: for they are persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they knew not whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
Parallels: Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33.
Their question was snide, as was evident in the malice and dishonesty of them that asked it; and yet, despite this, the question itself is the most important that any man may ask concerning the authority of Jesus. Whence is it? That question must be answered by every person hoping to enter into eternal life.
There is a dramatic contrast in the manner of Jesus' feeding the same words of those hypocrites back to them. They demanded that Jesus "Tell us"; but Jesus threw their hand grenade back into their own faces, saying "TELL ME!" By such a shocking refusal of their rights to pass on the credentials of the Christ, the Lord exposed them before all the people.
John the Baptist's authority was indeed from God (John 1:5); and the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel well knew this; for the mighty herald had unequivocally identified Jesus thus:
The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
He that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)
He that hath the bride is the bridgroom (John 3:29)
He ... cometh from above, is above all (John 3:31)
He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God (John 3:33)
God hath given to the Son all things (John 3:35)
He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life (John 3:36)
He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36)
With a corpus of testimony like that, well known to all the people, and coming from a man even the priests recognized as universally hailed a true prophet of God - the name "John the Baptist" must have struck fear and embarrassment into the hearts of Jesus' challengers. So great was the impact of Jesus' question that it appears they withdrew somewhat, and held a council among themselves on the answer they would give. It quickly appeared that not Jesus, but they, were trapped. The best thing they could come up with was an open profession of ignorance, and that before the multitudes!
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