Matthew 20:1-28 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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A Truly Great Man in His Kingdom
Comments for Study 25

Matthew 20:1-28
Memory Verse: 28


I. The Owner and Workers in the Vineyard (1-16)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

* This drawing in public domain from a book by Schwertfer, Wenceslaus (1617-1680) titled "Micae panis caelestis : De mensa Domini deciduae, pro catellis famellicis colllectae, sive, Doctrinae morales, ex sacrosancto Eucharistiae Sacramento, eiusque speciebus, in gratiam animarum venerabili sacramento specialiter affectarum deductae / R.P. Wenceslao Schwertfer". The titled "Parable of the Workers in the Vinyard" depicts Jesus' parable in Matthew 20. An angel presents a denarius to a believer while, in the background, the landowner pays each of his vineyard workers a denarius. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University:

>1. What is this parable about?

* "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard." (1)

* Jesus parable in this chapter is about how God will reward his people at the resurrection for the things done in this life. Eternal life is by God grace alone as the former chapter teaches. We cannot work our way into heaven. Yet we will receive a reward for what we do in after we come to saving grace.

* "the kingdom of heaven" -See two studies before this for an explanation of this term. The parable makes it clear that the workers enter the kingdom of heaven when they are hired by the field owner. We enter the kingdom of heaven when God calls us and we accept his call.

* "is like" -Jesus uses a similitude, or perhaps it is better to call this an allegory. He compares the soon to come eternal reward process with the earthly reward process.

>Who is the landowner?

* "a landowner" -The landowner in the allegory owns the field as God owns the earth. Both have absolute rights to do as they please. They have no authority over them.

>Where and how did he get workers?

* "hire men" -In the allegory the workers are Christians, those who are true believers in Jesus. None are not true believers.

* "to hire men to work" -We all have a job to do.

* "in his vineyard" -This world is God's vineyard. He is raising fruit.

>What can we learn here about God's initiative of grace? (cf. Isaiah 1:2-5, 18; Matthew 9:9)

* "who went out" -This parable makes it clear that God is the one who initiates entrance into his kingdom. God calls us when we are still sinners (against God).

* "Here, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken; 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The oz knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted." (Is 1:2-5)

* "'Come now, let us reason together.' says the LORD. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)

* "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." (Matthew 9:9)

>2. What did the owner of the vineyard pay the workers? (About how much is this by the wage standard of the day?)

* "He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard." (2)

* "He agreed to pay them" -Through this parable and many more Jesus is making a "contract" with us. An older term for contract is "covenant". Jesus is making a binding agreement with us.

* "a denarius" -A days wages in those times was a denarius.

* "for a day" -Day here refers to our life in the flesh right now. The "day contract" starts when Jesus calls us and we accept. This day ends when either when our physical body dies or the Lord raptures us away.

* Jesus takes this contract seriously, we should too. Living according to the contract is living by faith in his words of promise. He promises to pay us.

* "he sent them" -Jesus sends us. A person, group, or organization does not send us. A pastor (shepherd in Latin) does not send us. An elder does not send us. A missionary does not send us. A church does not send us. A committee does not send us. God does work through people and organizations; yet the sending and the sent must recognise that Jesus is the one who sends us into his vineyard. A study of the Book of Acts makes this very clear.

>What does this suggest about God who supplies our needs?

* "his vineyard" -When workers agreed to work in the field the owner agreed to supply their needs too. God provides what we need to do the work from his field.

* Proverbs 30:7-9 states, "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

>3. At what time did the owner hire additional workers?

* "early in the morning" (1)-The fact that he went early in the morning may refer to the apostles time. The parable refers to everyone in this "day". Day refers to the age we are now in; the age of grace, the age of the church, "the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:19), and the age of preaching the kingdom of God (the gospel). The Jewish day started at sunrise and went to the predawn moment of the next day.

* "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing." (3)

* "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing." (5b)

* "standing in the marketplace" -In ancient times men who were looking for employment would wait around the marketplace.

* "doing nothing" -All activities done outside of the owner of the vineyard's call is nothing. We will not get a reward for work done outside of Christ. Even if we do nice things outside of Christ they are nothing unless he calls us to the field.

* "morning... third hour... sixth hour... ninth hour..." -The use of different times refer to a person's physical age as well as the place in this age. Some are called at youth and others are called at a very old age.


* "doing nothing" -He wanted to call workers and he saw they needed work.

>What did he agree to pay them?

* "He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.'" (4)

* "whatever is right" -Jesus is a fair and trustworthy owner. He will pay exactly according to what is right. We can trust him.

* The Lord told Abraham, "I am your very great reward." (Gen. 15:1)

>Why had those hired at the eleventh hour (5 P.M.) being doing nothing all day?

* "Because no one has hired us,' they answered." (7)

* No one recognized their potentials.

* They didn't know the potential they had.

* The last workers of the day were usually the low class.

>What is the situation of a man without a job?

* He is restless, feels unimportant, and he has a low opinion of himself.

* Often he becomes lazy, bored, and insecure.

* Our worth when he calls us is not important. The importance lies in the fact that we accept his call.

>4. When the end of the day came, how did the owner pay the workers?

* "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'" (8)

* "when evening came" -The end of working is the end of this life. Yet, since this is pay day Jesus is referring to the Bema seat. For more on this read the manuscript The Believer's Future - Hope That Inspires.

* "Call the workers" -The call of the arch angel and a trumpet blast will call us home. As Jesus called to Lazarus, "Come forth." This is often called the rapture.

* "pay their wages" -The reward. (Matthew 16:27, 5:12, 6:4, 10:42, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

>Why did those hired first grumble?

* "When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'" (14)

* They were paid the same. Some state that the denarius here is eternal life and not the reward. They say being called ensure the pay of eternal life. This may be true except we do not earn eternal life.

* The earlier workers had to wait longer and work longer to receive their rewards.

* "they began to grumble against the landowner" -At the end of the previous chapter Peter had stated that they left everything to follow Jesus. He was among the first to be called. Perhaps Jesus was referring to Peter's statement.

>How did the owner of the vineyard answer them?

* "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go, I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I have you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'" (15)

* "friend" -He considered them his friend. Jesus said during the Last Supper, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other." (John 15:15-17)

>What can we learn here about God's generosity?

* "I am generous" -Jesus gives freely and as we do not deserve. God is sovereign.

* Those who worked all day received the blessing of working. Those who were hired last did not feel love and acceptance.

* Sovereignty in this parable:
    1) God initiates by looking for the worker
    2) God calls
    3) God sets the wages
    4) God gives the task
    5) god calls the workers in
    6) God gives the pay

* We can never think that we are special and have something that God needs.

II. The Meaning of His Death (17-19)

>5. Where was Jesus going?

* "Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them" (17)

* "as Jesus was going to Jerusalem" -Jesus had gone to Jerusalem before. Now his is going there to be crucified.

* "he took the twelve" -Jesus did not say this to the crowds nor to the other people following him. He only told the twelve. Something God only tells a few his plans.

>What did he tell his twelve disciples?

* "'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'" (18-19)

* "the Son of Man" -A term Jesus used refering to his Messianic life.

* "will be betrayed" -Jesus knew exactly who is was all along. Just because a person follows Jesus does not mean his heart is following and accepting.

* "the chief priests and teachers of the law" -religious leaders.

* "condemn him to death" -What they always wanted to do.

* "hand him over to the Gentiles" -Jesus is not blaming the religious leaders or the Gentiles. He is only telling what is predestined to happen.

* "crucified" -The worst form of punishment at the time.

* "raised to life" -The crucifixion is always linked with the resurrection.

* "!" -the ancient writers pressed into the paper to show emphasis of expression, the same as the exclamation piont.

>When had he told them these things before? (Matthew 16:21, 17:12)

* After Peters confession that Jesus is the Christ. (16:21)

* After the transfiguration. (17:12)

>Why did he tell them again?

* The time was getting closer and they just weren't getting it.

* Later they would confirm that he knew all along. This shows that he laid down his life. He did not avoid the cross. He did not run away and hide.

>Why was it so hard for them to accept his words?

* The did not want to see him die.

* They had their own ideas.

* They did not want him to go. They loved him so.

* The Messiah going through such a horrible punishment by Gentiles hands and being rejected by their religious leaders did not fit into the concept of the Messiah that had been taught.

>6. Why was it necessary for him to die and be raised?

* For it is by these things that we are justified before God. Once justified we can have a relationship with God. Then when our physical body dies we will be able to live in the kingdom of heaven forever.

* 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 states, "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"

>What does this mean to us?

* Paradise, eternal life, acceptance into the kingdom of God, heaven.

* Freedom from sin.

* Through Jesus' death and resurrection the previous parable is possible.

III. True Greatness (20-28)

>7. Who were Zebedee's sons?

* "Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him." (20)

* James and John. (4:21)

>What favor did their mother ask of Jesus?

* "'What is it you want.' he asked. She said, 'Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in you kingdom.'" (21)

* "grant" -she was asking very nicely. She had faith. She knew he was the Messiah. She knew he was going to establish his kingdom some day. She assumed it would be after this trip.

* Is it possible that James and John said something to their mother about what happened at Mt. Hermon?

>What did she think about Jesus' kingdom?

* "sit at your right and the other at your left" -She thought it would be an earthly kingdom established and set up in the way that kingdoms of men are established. She believed that the way to greatness in Jesus' kingdom is through political prowess. She believed that those who have these seats would exercise power over others. Many have made this mistake even to this very day.

>8. What did Jesus ask the two brothers?

* "'You don't know what you are asking,' Jesus said to them. 'Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?'" (22a)

* Jesus did not answer her directly. Instead he pointed out the principal laid down in the parable at the beginning of this chapter.

>What did he mean by the "cup" of suffering?

* His suffering and death.

* Matthew 26:42 records, "(Jesus) went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

* Jesus was saying that they needed to participate in his suffering.

>How did they answer?

* "'We can,' they answered." (22b)

* They were bold and ignorant.

>Do you think they understood?

* No.

* Are we any different? Do we understand that the Lord calls us to drink the cup too? Do we understand that the Lord's cup that we share during Communion is a symbol not only of his death and resurrection, but that we agree to participate in living a life like he lived, a life of service and sacrifice?

>How did Jesus answer them?

* "Jesus said to them, 'You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'" (23)

* "You will indeed" -This will happen.

* James was the first of the apostles to be killed. (Acts)

* John lived the longest. Eusebius (an early church father) wrote that John was sent to Patmos (Rev. 1:9) by Emperor Domitian in A.D. 95 and released after 1 1/2 years. Other church historians state that he also lived in Ephasus and Rome where he was eventually killed by Caesar at the age of one hundred and twenty.

>What did he teach them?

* To respect God's appointing.

* God respected their desires.

* God blessed and honored their answers even though they didn't know what they were committing to.

>9. What was the reaction of the ten when they heard about James and John's request?

* "When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers." (24)

* "ten heard about this" -They might not have been there at the time.

>What does this show about them?

* They too wanted the high seats.

* They were competitive.

* The twelve apostles didn't have close relationships at this time.

* In that day, cup bearers were very important. So they believed Jesus was promising them a lot.

>10. What did Jesus teach them about the difference between spiritual greatness and worldly greatness?

* "Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Nor so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave" (25-27)

* "Jesus called them together" -They were not together physically nor emotionally. They were apart. Jesus can call us together.

* The world's ideal of greatness is by how many people serve us. God's idea of greatness is how many people we serve.

* Everybody hates being lorded over.

* All in God's kingdom serve others not themselves.

>11. How did Jesus himself demonstrate the meaning of spiritual greatness?

* "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (28)

* The gospel message is very clear and it includes serving.

>Remaining verses; Two Bind Men Receive Sight (29-34)

* "As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." (29-34)

* These men were as blind at James and John.

* "what do you want me to do for you?" -The exact same question he asked James and John.

* These men ask for something greater than James and John. James and John never asked Jesus why he said, "You do not know what you are asking."