Luke 20:45-47 – Beware of the Scribes (Oct 29th)

Message Notes:  Beware of Bad Leaders Oct 29


Ask your group members if they know people who always try to garner attention from others or try to maneuver into places of prestige and authority. Think about businessmen, politicians, or even pastors that are notorious for trying to be the center of attention. In today’s passage, Christ points out the attention-getters of his day and how their actions have consequences. 


Synopsis:  The glory of God in Christ shows the false sense of glory and pride by the Jewish teachers.

Luke, following his Markan source (cf. Mark 12:38–40), concluded the preceding “debate” accounts with a warning concerning the teachers of the law. Jesus warned the disciples of teachers who are ostentatious in their dress, self-aggrandizing in their social behavior, cheaters of the poor, and hypocritical in their religious behavior.


  • Jesus denounces his religious leaders who are all show and no substance.
  • Pride, showy piety and cruel treatment of the poor have no place among citizens of God’s kingdom.


READ Luke 20:45-47 and answer the questions below:

Who is Jesus talking to in this passage? Who else was listening?

Who does Jesus tell them not to be like in v. 46?

How does he describe the Scribes?

What are the things they do?

What question does Jesus ask his opponents to make his point about the Messiah?

Jesus’ words were designed not only to teach His disciples but also to instruct the crowds (v. 45). Jesus pointed out the dichotomy between what the teachers of the Law taught and what they practiced. Their lives were bound up in greed and pride—they desired: (a) display (flowing robes), (b) attention (greeted in the marketplaces), (c) prominence (important seats in the synagogues and … at banquets), and (d) more money, taking from those who did not have much (e.g., widows). Their pompous lengthy prayers were thus hypocritical. Jesus stated that these teachers would be punished most severely. Those who have greater knowledge are held more accountable (James 3:1).


Use the information from the text and the commentary notes below to help discern responses to the following questions. 

  • Why do you think Jesus pointed out the actions of the Scribes?
  • What do you think Jesus wanted his disciples to know about their actions/lifestyle?
  • What do you think Jesus meant by “the greater condemnation?” 

Jesus then took the offensive and asked a question of the people around Him. The question concerned the nature of the Messiah—How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? Jesus then quoted from Psalm 110:1, in which David called the Messiah my Lord and said that He was exalted by being at Yahweh’s right hand, the place of prominence. Two points are evident in these words of Jesus. First, the Son of David is also David’s Lord (Luke 20:44) by the power of the resurrection. (In Acts 2:34–35 Peter used the same verse from Ps. 110 to prove that Jesus’ superiority is based on His resurrection.) Second, David must have realized that the Son, who was to be the Messiah, would be divine, for David called Him Lord.

Cultural/Historical Background

The scribes, as the worst corrupters of the people among all the Pharisees, are here particularly brought forward and drawn from life; yet not according to their inward character, but according to their external guise. Jesus depicts their behavior: 1. In social life—the self-complacency with which they go about and by which we have especially to understand the wide Tallith reaching down even to the feet; the value which they lay upon being universally greeted in the market, as well as upon extended titles; 2. in the Synagogues, where they lay claim to the πρωτοκαθεδρίας, which are allotted according to office and law; 3. in the house, where they transfer the controversy of rank for the place of honor from the Synagogue to the feast, and seek to dispute with others the first place; 4. in the sphere of philanthropy, where they devour widows’ houses while they pretend to advance their interests. Thus are hypocrisy, pride, and covetousness the three chief traits of which their portrait is composed.


What can we learn from Jesus’ depiction of the Scribes? What does it look like to live differently than them?

How does this passage teach us about the consequences of seeking to be in places of honor for personal gain? In what ways do you struggle with this? Instead of seeking honor, do you desire comfort, luxury, or similar things? Are these similar or different from what Jesus points out in this passage?

Contrast the life and ministry of Christ and the Scribes. In what ways can we be more like Christ in our daily lives and what are some practical steps you can take to be a more committed follower?      


20:45 Jesus said to his disciples. The last reference to the disciples was in Luke 19:39.

20:46 Beware of the teachers of the law. Although not all the scribes fit the description that follows, enough did so that Jesus could use universal language. His unqualified use of “teachers of the law” makes a more powerful saying than “beware of some teachers of the law.” For other examples of Jesus’ use of exaggeration and hyperbole, see comments on 11:9. What follows in this verse is a description of how the teachers of the law liked to be seen and treated. They like to walk around in flowing robes. These stolai were no doubt meant to be ostentatious. Compare Matt 23:5. Love to be greeted … seats in the synagogues … places of honor. Compare Luke 11:43; 14:7–8; Matt 23:6–7.

20:47 They devour widows’ houses. This statement may refer to the teachers’ cheating widows of their houses and estates while serving as the executors of these properties. This is more likely than the view that they were abusing the hospitality of poor widows. Compare Luke 11:39. And for a show make lengthy prayers. It was less the length of their prayers that Jesus was condemning than the motivation to “look devout.” Compare Matt 6:5–6.

Posted in Group Notes, Luke 14, Luke: A Jesus for Everyone