Laborers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
A Mother’s Request
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men
And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
Matthew 20 Commentary
by Hank Workman
We often live in the mindset – people get what they deserve. We think about this when it comes to the laws of the land; when we observe bad behavior and the fallout is massive; when people are neglectful. In the end, this is also something that takes place with God and judgment. However, the difference is his continued chances to those who reject and harden their hearts. He is always reaching, always wooing all of us toward deeper commitment and service to Him.
It would be the parable of the workers in the vineyard Jesus would make a stunning revelation. Workers were recruited throughout many different hours of the day. When the sun was setting all were lined up for their pay and remarkably all were paid the same wage. Seemingly hardly fair for those who had worked so hard from the beginning pushed back. Jesus’ point, however, was not about rewards but about salvation. This was an incredible teaching and illustration of grace.
The aspect of God seen as the landowner is quite amazing. He never treated anyone unfairly. He was insanely generous. He treated each individual with respect. It didn’t matter when the workers signed up to go work the fields, they were paid the same. Much like the thief on the cross who had lived a hardcore life – he was offered eternal life in his faith in Jesus. By the world’s standards more than likely, he was less deserving than those who had followed and attempted to do the right thing. But this is part of the upside-down Kingdom of God – Jesus offers life to all who will turn, no matter how undeserving they are or being late in the game.
The grace of God doesn’t give us more than we deserve. If we are honest, we don’t deserve one lick of it. God operates instead out of His goodness and longing for us to be with Him.
Matthew 20 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Our plans and God’s plans never really pan out the same. He gives us the main idea, but the details are usually mysterious and unexpected. God is not predictable. You can’t put Him in a box.
It’s in these moments where He does His best and most powerful work. Take the cross, for instance. Here in Matthew 20, Jesus hints at His own death. For the first time in His ministry, He reveals that He will not just die – but He will be crucified. He also says He will be raised up on the third day. Imagine the shock and confusion on the disciples’ faces as they soaked in this truth.
The verses that follow illustrate this confusion. The mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, asked for her sons to sit next to Jesus on His throne. Most likely, this was a reference to the words of Jesus spoken in the previous chapter – Matthew 19.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'”Matthew 19:28 NASB
The disciples were clamoring for a higher position. In Mark’s account, this same story is told without their mother, as James and John make the request themselves. We can assume that Mark left out their mother, possibly in an attempt to make them look better? The fact remains; the sons knew of this request from their mother, and they approved it. In their world, Jesus was coming to make them powerful and famous. The disciples jockeyed for a higher position all the way up through the Last Supper. It happened after Jesus’ death. It happened in the early church. Christians still do it today.
The contrasting styles of Jesus proclaiming His humiliating death and the disciples fixation on their own personal gain was no mistake. Jesus came to serve and lead us to serve. He came to suffer, die, and restore. He came to bring a new Kingdom that is counter-culture to our own. We shouldn’t be surprised when we suffer for His namesake, and when we are humiliated as He was. One day we will rise with Him and watch as He destroys evil and suffering for all eternity!