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Chapter twenty continues Jesus’ public teaching in Jerusalem during the Passion Week. On Tuesday of that week, Jesus’ teaching authority was challenged by the religious leaders (vs. 1-8). As happened so many times before, they attempted to catch him in his own words, but instead he spun it around on them, and they were unable to answer him. Ironically, he proved his authority by showing that he did not answer to them.
In verses 9-19 Jesus told a parable about tenants leasing a vineyard. Unlike many of his other parables, even the religious leaders understood the meaning of this one and wanted to arrest him because of it. The “slaves” sent by the owner were the Hebrew prophets who the Jews murdered throughout the centuries (vs. 10-12). The “son” was Jesus, who used this parable to prophesy his own death at their hands (vs. 15).
The religious leaders needed to get the populace on their side against Jesus, so they attempted to trick him again in a way assuring he would either infuriate the crowd or show himself treasonous to Rome. When they asked him about paying taxes, he replied with his famous statement, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (vs. 25).
Seeing that the Pharisees were unable to trap him, the Sadducees made their attempt (vs. 27-40). They fabricated a story about a woman who legitimately married each of seven brothers but was unable to bear any of them a son. Their question: whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Ironically, the Sadducees did not even believe in the resurrection, so their trick was obvious. However, Jesus used the opportunity to make a statement about the afterlife, namely, that marriage will not last into the eternal state. He followed that with a statement proving their disbelief in the resurrection was against the teachings of Moses (the Sadducees accepted only the books of Moses in their Bibles), so they were even contradicting themselves! This silenced them for good (vs. 40). He finished with a warning to the crowd that they should not listen to the religious leaders, because they were full of pride and under God’s judgment (vs. 46-47).