Gospel of Matthew Chapter Twenty Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verses 1-2: "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard." The denarius was a silver Roman coin, about the size of an American dime. The King James Bible calls it a "penny," though it actually represented a significant day's pay. Here God is represented as the "landowner." Those who place their faith in the Lord and answer His call are viewed in this parable as "laborers," working in God's "vineyard." This is a continuation of Chapter 19, and Jesus is using these words to reveal something of the "kingdom of heaven" to His disciples, then and now. If we say "yes" to the Lord and accept His call in our lives, we will be more than amply, infinitely rewarded for what we do.
Verses 3-7: "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’" The first hour was roughly 6 to 7 a.m., when the first laborers were hired, and the "third hour" was about 8 to 9 in the morning. The "eleventh hour" was 4 to 5 p.m. The disciples of Jesus were the first to be called into the service of Jesus Christ, and it's reasonable to wonder: What would it be like if the first disciples were the only ones ever called to trust the Lord and enter His service? How would the world—and you—be different? Would you and I even exist? The blessed reality is that Jesus Christ has continued extending His offer of salvation and service to all who say "yes," in any time and place, to this day and beyond. Whatever "hour" this may be in God's timetable, we are offered the more-than-ample pay of eternal, joyful life, when we simply trust the Lord.
Verses 8-12: "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' 9 When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'" This parable is the answer of Jesus to Peter's question in Matthew 19:27 on behalf of all the disciples, essentially demanding: "What's in it for us?" The Lord's direct response was in Verse 29 of that chapter: "Everyone who has left(everything)for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life." Your choice to follow the Lord Jesus is leading you to eternal joy, but it is also a very serious decision. You are giving up your own attempts to run your life, asking Him to take over and make those decisions for you. You are not the boss—He is. And the decision about your reward is not yours—it's His. If we have grumbled about His choices, it's time to look again at these verses, understanding that when we stand in eternity, we will KNOW that God has been wonderfully fair to everyone.
Verses 13-16: "But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.'" The one among us who is the most disappointed about who and what they are, has been injured by the disease called "pride." We want to be more, have more, and be applauded for what we are, a widespread human problem. None of us understand how "generous" God actually is. He gives and takes away and gives again, on the basis of His love. The goal is to bring us into His vineyard, the kingdom of heaven, where we will be blessed and filled with joy—forever. HE is in charge, not you or me, and it is more than lawful for Him to do with us what He chooses. If someone seems like they are getting a better break than you are, He knows precisely who should be first and who last, and none in eternity will even want to complain, for all of us will see how generous He is.
Verses 17-19: "As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.'" Can you imagine the shock of those twelve disciples, as they heard the words of Jesus at that moment? When you give up everything to follow someone else's will for your life, and you anticipate real benefits from that relationship, it is upsetting to learn that your Leader is about to be charged as a criminal and put to death. "What have I done?" had to be the thoughts of at least most of them, along with, "If this is going to happen in Jerusalem, let's go someplace else!" In their concern, they likely missed the part about, "He will be raised up."
Verses 20-23: "Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her,'What do you wish?'She said to Him, 'Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.' 22 But Jesus answered,'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?'They said to Him, 'We are able.' 23 He said to them,'My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.'" The lack of surprise seen in James and John, the sons of their father, Zebedee, when their mother asked for special treatment, suggests they knew in advance what she would do, perhaps putting her up to it. This encounter does underscore the total lack of understanding by all the disciples about what was to happen, not only to them, but also to the world. The death and resurrection of Jesus was an Open Door, rescuing the faithful from eternal suffering, and granting us instead—forgiveness, along with eternal, joyful LIFE, given by the Father to all who say "yes" to the Lord.
Verses 24-28: "And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said,'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'" When someone makes a "faux pas," committing an error in judgment, especially when their action and words benefit them more than us, it creates anger. Peter, Judas Iscariot and the rest of the other ten key disciples were furious at James and his brother, John. But Jesus had more to teach us about God's view of leadership, which is so different from anything in this world. As leaders, we are to SERVE those we lead, much like Jesus would serve humanity by dying in our place. Instead of lording it over someone, we are to comfort and help them, leading them to Christ with the goal of rescuing them from the sins of this world.
Verses 29-31: "As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. 30 And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' 31 The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!'" Notice the stark, incredible difference between the responses of Jesus Christ, God the Son, and the people of this world. The crowd of people wanted to see Jesus, to be noticed by Him, and possibly receive something from Him... The blind men just NEEDED Him! Words like "Shut up!" were shouted at them, but they did the right thing; refusing to be quiet, crying out "all the more." They KNEW they lacked something in life; their lack of vision proved it—they needed the Lord—and so do we. The Holy Spirit, speaking through Scriptures such as the prophecy of 2 Samuel 7:12-17, had revealed to these blind men something missed by the religious leaders who shushed them from the crowd: Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, Son of David, the Son of God that we all need—and blessedly, those men would not shut up.
Verses 32-34: "And Jesus stopped and called them, and said,'What do you want Me to do for you?' 33 They said to Him, 'Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.' 34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him." Jesus knew precisely what they wanted, as He knows you and me, but He asked them a question, just as He is asking you: "What do YOU want...?"—what do you REALLY want? And they responded by telling Him the honest truth of what He already knew—they wanted to SEE, to be like other people, to have a place, a purpose. Notice that God the Son was "moved with compassion," just as He is moved with compassion by your need. Say "Yes" to Him, then tell Him what you need, follow Him, and see what He does. He loves you—He really does.
Father, I say "YES" to the Son of God. I confess my sin, my lack, my need... I want my eyes to be opened... I want to see Jesus. Heal me, reveal Yourself and lead me. I am Yours, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.