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111. Workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Jesus’ purpose in telling this story was to illustrate what he had just said concerning God’s unexpected gift to those who at present appear to be disadvantaged (see Matthew 19:30). He was not setting out rules for wages and employment, but giving an illustration of God’s grace. The sovereign God takes pity on a needy world, and generously gives his salvation to all who accept his offer.
At the beginning of the day, a landowner hired people to work in his vineyard for an agreed wage (Matthew 20:1-2). At several stages through the day he hired additional workers, then at the end of the day paid them their wages (Matthew 20:3-8).
When those who had worked all day found that the landowner paid the same amount to the late-comers as he paid to them, they complained. The landowner reminded them that he had paid them the amount they had agreed to, and if he paid others the same amount, that was his concern. The discontent arose not because of any injustice in the landowner, but because of jealousy in the all-day workers (Matthew 20:9-15).
The blessings of the kingdom are the same for all who enter, whether Jews who had worshipped God for centuries, or Gentiles who had just been saved from heathenism; whether scribes who had studied God’s law for many years, or tax collectors who had just repented; whether those who had served God for a lifetime, or those converted in old age. But whereas the most unlikely people entered the kingdom, those for whom it had been prepared were excluded (Matthew 20:16).
112. The request of James and John (Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45; Luke 18:31-34)
As Jesus journeyed towards Jerusalem, he again spoke of his coming death and resurrection, but again his disciples misunderstood. They were still thinking mainly of an earthly kingdom of political power (Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34).
James and John therefore came to Jesus with a request that they might have the top positions in the kingdom (Matthew 20:20-21; Mark 10:35-37). Jesus, by using the words ‘cup’ and ‘baptism’ as symbols of his suffering and death, showed them that he had to suffer and die before he could enjoy the triumph and glory of his kingdom. They still did not understand, and boldly stated that they were prepared to suffer with him. Jesus replied that they would indeed suffer for his sake (cf. Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9), but their position in the kingdom was dependent on the Father alone. And he showed no favouritism (Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-40).
In wanting to be ahead of the other apostles, James and John probably had Peter particularly in mind, but all the other apostles were angry when they discovered what had happened. Jesus then repeated and expanded teaching he had given earlier about the difference between worldly and spiritual greatness (cf. Mark 9:33-35). In the kingdoms of the world people compete with each other to achieve power, but in the kingdom of God true greatness comes from humble and willing service. The perfect example is Jesus himself, who at that time was about to lay down his life so that people in bondage to sin might be set free (Matthew 20:24-28; Mark 10:41-45).
113. Blind men near Jericho (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43)
It seems that Jesus healed several blind beggars as he passed through Jericho (Matthew 20:29-30; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35). The men were determined to attract the attention of Jesus and called out loudly, addressing him by his messianic title, son of David. Jesus called the men to him, and although he clearly saw their need, he asked them what they wanted. He wanted them to declare their faith boldly, and thereby strengthen it. In response to their expression of faith, Jesus healed them (Matthew 20:31-34; Mark 10:47-52).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34