In Luke 9:51-19:41, the author recorded Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus taught His disciples and the crowds about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ use of the Old Testament in Luke 19-20 reinforced His supremacy in the narrative of Israel’s religion.
(1) In Luke 19:9, Jesus justified His mercy toward Zacchaeus based on the fact that Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham. In Gen 12:1-3 and 15:1-6, God promised Abraham that He would give him both land and descendants, blessing all nations through him. In Luke 13:10-17, Jesus healed a crippled woman in a synagogue of Galilee on the Sabbath; He justified His apparent setting aside of Sabbath work restrictions by appealing to the woman’s place in the line of Abraham. Though the Pharisees despised Zacchaeus because he was a chief tax collector and wealthy (Luke 19:2), Jesus consented to Zacchaeus’ offer of hospitality because Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9). What marked Zacchaeus as a recipient of the kingdom was not just the fact that he was an Israelite, but also that he repented, giving half of his possessions to the poor and pledging to pay back fourfold those whom he had defrauded (Luke 19:8).
(2) In Luke 19:38, the crowds praised Jesus by lauding Him in light of Ps 118:26. Psalm 118 is a poem of thanksgiving for God’s victorious deliverance. Though the psalmist endured opposition from the nations surrounding Israel, the Lord helped His people. In Jerusalem, the people rejoiced in the one the Lord sent to rescue them saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD” (Ps 118:26). The crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem by singing to Him the song of Psalm 118 (Matt 21:1-9//Mark 11:1-10//Luke 19:28-40). But Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem made clear that the fullness of the kingdom would not arrive until a later time (Luke 19:41-44). Jerusalem, long the center of spiritual life for the children of Abraham (2 Samuel 6; 1 Kings 8-9; 2 Kings 24-25; Nehemiah 1), was now destined to be destroyed.
(3) In Luke 19:46, Jesus cited Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11 to confront those buying and selling merchandise in the temple, distracting worship. In Isaiah 56, Isaiah announced that when the Messiah arrived, the nations would gather with Israel and worship God in the temple. God’s house would be a house of prayer for the nations (Isa 56:7). In Jeremiah 7, the prophet confronted the people of Judah because when they were away from the temple, they practiced idolatry and exhibited greed. So, because the people were robbers, when they came into the temple, God’s house became a den of thieves (Jer 7:11). When Jesus came near to the temple (Matt 21:12-17//Mark 11:15-18//Luke 19:45-48), He “began to throw out those who were selling, and He said, ‘It is written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!’” (Luke 19:46).
(4) In Luke 20:17, Jesus cited Ps 118:22 to help His opponents interpret the Parable of the Vineyard Owner. Jesus told the Parable of a Vineyard Owner to describe God’s judgement upon Israel for their rejection of the prophets and their rejection of Himself (Matt 21:33-46//Mark 12:1-12//Luke 20:9-19). When Jesus told the Jewish leadership that God was taking the vineyard from them and giving it to others, they objected, “No!” (Luke 20:16). Indeed, they would even reject Jesus to maintain their clutch on Israel’s religion. But they would fail—as Jesus said via Ps 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected—this has become the cornerstone” (Luke 20:17).
(5) In Luke 20:28, 37, the Sadducees cited Deut 25:5 and Jesus cited Exod 3:6, 15 to establish their respective views of the resurrection. The Sadducees attempted to cast doubt on Jesus by publicly asking about the resurrection (Matt 22:23-33//Mark 12:18-27//Luke 20:27-40). The Sadducees referenced Moses’ command in Deut 25:5 that a man should raise up children by the wife of his deceased brother so that Israel would grow in population and she would have an heir to support her in her older age. They asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection, her first husband’s wife or a subsequent brother who took her as his wife. Jesus said that in the resurrection, one’s relationship with God—the living God who appeared to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod 3:6, 15)—mattered more than what relationships one had on earth.
(6) In Luke 20:42-43, Jesus cited Ps 110:1 to portray Himself as David’s Lord and David’s Son. After responding to questions from the Jewish leadership, Jesus questioned them concerning the identity of the Messiah (Matt 22:41-46//Mark 12:35-37//Luke 20:41-44). Psalm 110 described the exalted state of Israel’s king, seated at God’s right hand and ruling the nations as both king and priest. Jesus saw in Ps 110:1 a reference to the Lord speaking to the Messiah. Jesus placed Himself in the position of the Messiah and pressed His opponents regarding how the Messiah could be both David’s Lord and David’s Son. The only valid answer was to be found in the One speaking to them.