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The Impertinence of Sinners

June 27, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Luke Verse: Luke 20:1–20:8

Theme: Sinners often avoid their own guilt by indicting the Savior. 

Introduction: It is often when someone cannot argue with the point, they will attack the process. The powerful, divine presence of the Son of God in the Temple teaching with authority the Word of God driven by the Spirit of God was overwhelming to the hypocritical, self-righteous, carnal religious leadership of Israel. They had for months desired to “eliminate” Jesus as a rival. They sought to do so through illegitimizing Him through the accusation that His extraordinary power and authority was from the Devil, to seeking to maneuver Him into a corner of embarrassing conundrums, to luring Him to “blaspheme” by self-overestimating His station. In all of these, they were frustratingly stymied by the brilliance and genius of Jesus Christ. Even when faced with irrefutable evidence of divine enabling, the impertinence of sinners kept them from acknowledging Jesus’ credibility. They knew they were crooked, Jesus declared they were crooked, but instead of acknowledging their guilt, they protested what Jesus did on the process – He was illegitimate in cleansing the temple and denouncing the priesthood because He had not been given the authority – the right, privilege, or freedom - to do so by them. Over and over, Jesus had demonstrated his divine authority over disease, natural disturbances, demons, debate, death and sin. In order to avoid their own guilt, sinners indict the Savior by quibbling – not over the truth of what He taught, but by the unacceptability of what He did.

I. The Confrontation by Unbelief – 20:1-2

A. The Provision of the Gospel – v. 1a

  • The previous section ended with Jesus teaching daily – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - in the Temple, with “the people … hanging on to every word He said.”
  • As chapter 20 begins, we find ourselves on Wednesday of Passion Week – Monday He had entered & returned to Bethany; Tuesday, He had returned and cleansed the Temple, taught, and returned to Bethany; and now He is back in the Temple teaching – “On one of the days while He was teaching in the temple …” – cp. Mark 11:27.
  • Luke expressly states that He was “… preaching the Gospel” – the “good news” of the Kingdom wherein God was willing to save sinners from sin by converting them, giving them a heart of flesh instead of stone, and providing for them eternal blessing.
  • As we have seen, He came to “seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10); by declaring the provisions of the New Covenant – cp. Jeremiah 31:31-34.
  • He was providing the ability for people to become the “sons of God – through faith!” – cp. John 1:10-12; 3:3.
  • Jesus was providing the Good News of justification by faith to all who would repent of their sin and turn to God through the Messiah.

B. The Protest by the Guilty – vv. 1b-2

  • However, those hardened by their sin and blinded by their pride were unwilling to listen to the Gospel that Jesus preached.
  • As Jesus is preaching, “… the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him …”
  1. This is an odd collection of enemies of Jesus’ – none of whom has a great deal of affection for the others.
  2. These groups formulated the Sanhedrin – the supreme religious body of 71 legislators who governed Judaism similar to our Supreme Court.
  3. A comparison today would be a group of democrats, republicans, and libertarians getting together without partisanship to oust someone from government.
  4. Essentially, they set their differences aside in order to get rid of Jesus.
  • The “confronted” [ἐφίστημι] Him – a term that has a nuance of suddenly approaching with hostility or aggression – cp. Acts 17:5.
  • Their issue with Jesus ignores what He is teaching and addresses their humiliation and the interruption of their racket – “… they spoke, saying to Him, ‘Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?’”
  • They had already asserted that the “authority” [ἐξουσία] – or power was the power of Satan – cp. Luke 11:15.
  • Essentially, they were attempting to discredit Him in one of two ways:
  1. Either He would say that He wields the power of God and thus they could accuse Him of blasphemy – cp. Luke 5:21; or,
  2. He would say that He is self-appointed and they would accuse Him of sacrilege.
  • Essentially, their point is that Jesus had no right (or “authority”) to say and do the things He was – but they couldn’t contest the truth of what He was saying or doing.
  • Although skeptics will argue with the truth, the greater motivator for their rejection is their unwillingness to be ruled by the Lord and confined by the “oppression” of Scripture – unbelief really hasn’t changed in 2000 years.


  1. Do you ever avoid the truth of God’s Word by concluding it is too radical or transforming? 
  2. What is one area in your life where you seek to preserve autonomy or self-determination?

II. The Conundrum in Unbelief – 20:3-6

A. The Exposure of Their Hearts – vv. 3-4

  • In Rabbinic tradition, Jesus answers their question with a question – asserting Himself as THE Teacher among the group: “Jesus answered and said them, ‘I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me …’”
  • The popularity that Jesus had with those in the audience to this encounter kept the inquisitors from being able to contest Jesus’ counter-question.
  • Elsewhere we are told that Jesus made His willingness to answer their question a reward to them for answering His question – cp. Matthew 21:24.
  • In the genius that is God, Jesus turns the trap set by the Sanhedrin around and snags them by the conundrum He presents – “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”
  1. Clearly, John was recognized by all the people as a prophet “from heaven” – Matthew 11:7-11.
  2. Just as clearly, John did not have authority given to him “from men” – that is, the Sanhedrin – cp. Matthew 3:7-8.
  • Jesus knew that these “religionists” and ungodly legalists rejected God’s authority through the prophets and sought to expose them – cp. Matthew 11:16-19.

B. The Evasion through Their Hypocrisy – vv. 5-6

  • They immediately knew they were in trouble – “The reasoned among themselves …” [συλλογίζομαι] – to ponder or discuss various possibilities.
  • They said: “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe in him?’ But if we say, ‘from men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’”
  • The important observation is their priority of figuring out how to “get around” the truth – how can we avoid facing the realities presented by God’s Word?
  • Some common “cousins” to their approach are: 
  1. “I’ll do it later …”
  2. “It’s too hard …”
  3. “My situation is different …”
  4. “Nobody else is doing it …”
  • Clearly, when unbelief examines spiritual truth, it is inclined to reject it – without a value on the truth, but merely a concern on its impact on them.


  1. Are there things that you rationalize or justify based on the avoidance of drawing conclusions from Scripture?
  2. What question could Jesus ask that would expose your hypocrisy?

III. The Censure of Unbelievers – 20:7-8

A. The Denial by the Heartless – v. 7

  • Instead of risking exposure of their unbelief or rejection by the crowd, they preferred to “humble” themselves through claiming ignorance – “So they answered that they did not know where it came from.”
  • This was a humiliating blow to their prestige as they touted their superior knowledge of the truth of God through the Law.
  • Their hypocrisy, unbelief, self-preserving hearts were flayed open and exposed – diagnosing them as wicked.
  • They were unwilling to know what they intuitively and unavoidably perceived – the unmistakable power of God had been inarguably displayed both by John and by Jesus.
  • As members of the Sanhedrin, it was their supreme duty not only to know but to act according to their knowledge – and in so answering they confess that they were derelict in their most important duty.
  • They had not expected to have their well-planned move against Jesus end so rapidly and calamitously.

B. The Dismissal of the Hardened– v. 8

  • The issue now of focused on their rebellion against the truth – they knew it, Jesus knew it, and we are able to see it.
  • As a result, Jesus pronounced a sad judgment that prevails to this day – “And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”
  • For three years, Jesus had taught, healed, and displayed the power of God in ways clearly seen by all – all of which ended here in this final conclusion by the Jewish Leadership – resulting in this condemnation by Jesus.
  • No longer will Jesus cast pearls before swine – all that is left for them is judgment – cp. Luke 22:67-69.
  • Those who harden their hearts to the truth and reject the light provided to them will face eternal darkness in unbelief – the consequence of refusing the truth – cp. Genesis 6:3.  
  • But, to those who do listen to the truth and embrace it are given the joy of grace upon grace – John 1:14-16 – the very forgiveness of sin.


  1. Do you claim a form of “agnosticism” when it comes to things you just don’t want to face? 
  2. How does Jesus’ refusal to answer the inquiry of the Pharisees concern you in your own life? 

So What?

Our fallen and warped assessment of Jesus’ methods must never prevail over belief in Him.

When we hear God’s Word, we must focus on accountability to it, not on how we can avoid it.

Until a person stops covering, dodging and avoiding the guilt of sin, they will never respond with faith in the Gospel.

Agnosticism is not caused by a lack of truth, but by an unwilling heart to accept it – so they claim it “cannot be known.”

The most tragic thing imaginable is to have the light to truth shined upon you only to reject it in unbelief causing God to permanently, eternally reject you.