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Tuesday, December 5th, 2023
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 20

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

  1. Intro: Service, or Serve Us
    1. Let’s read the bracketed role-reversal statements in 19:30 and 20:16.
      1. The parable of the vineyard workers portrays God’s gracious generosity.
    2. Read the whole Parable. [Landowner = The Father. Hired Laborers = His Servants]
    3. Video: Capuchin Monkey Video: social inequality. [Frans de Waals, Primatologist/Ethologist, TED talk]
      1. Fairness. Equality.
    4. This parable has nothing to do with…
      1. Salvation - nobody works for salvation. And nobody is going to complain about their own salvation or someone else’s.
      2. Rewards - rewards are granted on the basis of faithfulness and service, and each man’s reward is different.
      3. This parable has everything to do w/a wrong attitude in Service.
        1. We’ll find the Kingdom of God is all of Grace & so is the service connected w/it.
    5. This parable is built on Peter’s question in 19:27 Therefore what shall we have?
      1. ​​​​​​​It was a logical question. And the Lord’s answer was encouraging (explaining 100% return on his investments). But Jesus detected in Peters question an attitude of heart that was dangerous.
        1. Was Peter serving the Lord only for what he could get out of it?
        2. Were the disciples forsaking all only because He had promised them a reward?
          1. So Jesus gives this parable with several warnings that relate to our Christian Service.
  2. HIRING (1-7)
    1. ​​​​​​​In first-century Palestine, a landowner typically woke early in the morning and went to the marketplace, where day laborers gathered. He would select a few workers to tend his fields or harvest his crops and pay them their wage at the end of the day. In the parable, the owner returns to the marketplace every few hours to hire more workers.
    2. Early in the Morning - Early dawn, the break of day, it was a country fashion for starting work (RWP). 6am
      1. Whether the grapes were ripe or it was pruning season, it appears to have been urgent. And, It was a choice privilege to be allowed to begin holy service so early in the morning.
    3. Denarius - A Roman silver coin, worth a laborers days wage. (size/dime)
    4. Note: The 1st were under contract, the others not. The Hiring x’s were [6am, 9am, noon 3pm, 5pm]
    5. Our 1st Warning is…
    6. Beware of Making Bargains with God (2)
      1. So, there were actually 2 categories of workers: those who demanded a contract & those who had or needed no contract.
        1. The 2nd group we commend for sticking it out all day not getting discouraged that nobody hired them. They trusted the owner to give them what was right. So, they trusted the owners word & character.
        2. This explains why the owner paid the men in reverse order, starting with the last workers that were hired. He wanted the 6 o’clock workers to see how generous he was to the employees who did not have/need a contract.
      2. So, how did this apply to Peter? He wanted to know what he was going to get. Peter was signing a contract with the Lord. So Jesus was saying, beware Peter, because you will get just what you bargain for. Why not trust Me to give you what is right? God is just & generous.
        1. If we write the contract and tell God what we want, we will always be losers.
        2. But if we let him do it His way, we will receive exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Eph.3:20
        3. Our Master in heaven does not limit himself to what is just and equal, He gives what is gracious and generous.
        4. Also, remember, God is more interested in her heart attitudes than in our work.
          1. If our hearts are right, our work will be right, but if our hearts are selfish and grasping, our what work will suffer.
  3. PAYROLL (8-12)
    1. ​​​​​​​(8) According to the law, hired workers had to be paid at the end of the day (see Lev 19:13).
      1. Deut 24:15 Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you.
      2. As the sun was setting in the west, the hour to pay the workers had arrived. [The one’s who were hired 1st, were paid last]
    2. (9) The eleventh hour, just enough time to put all the tools away.
      1. Our Lord’s pay is not a hire of deservings, but a gift of bounty.
      2. He payed on the scale of Grace, not on the rate of Merit.
    3. (10) These guys got 1 denari...we ought to get 12.
      1. They supposed that they would receive more - as far as standard economics, they are right. On the basis of hours of service rendered, they went far beyond the others.
    4. (11,12) Borne the burden & heat of the day - These sweat-stained men who had stood the scirocco...the hot, dry, dust-laden east wind, that blasted the corn in Pharaohs dream; that withered Jonah’s gourd; that blighted the vine in Ezekiel’s parable. These men borne the burden & heat of the day.
      1. These murmurers were actually biting the hand that fed them.
      2. His only fault? that He was too good to the short-timers.
    5. Our 2nd Warning is…
    6. Beware of Watching Other Workers (12)
      1. Don’t watch other servants & measure yourself by them.
        1. We see the worker & the work. God sees the heart.
      2. The disciples were often guilty of watching other people and drawing the wrong conclusions from it.
        1. Remember when they saw the man cast out demons in Jesus name, but since the man did not belong to their group, they rebuked him. Jesus said, Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.
        2. Just earlier in that same chapter the disciples were unable to cast out a demon themselves, and yet they dared to criticize a believer who was able to do it?
      3. We too often attack those whose success exposes our own failures.
    7. Our 3rd Warning is…
    8. Beware of Overconfidence (10)
      1. They suppose that they would receive more. These workers were overconfident and ended up being disappointed.
      2. We must never trust our own shortsighted observations.
      3. These laborers negotiated their own contract but they didn’t want to stick to it.
      4. 1 Cor.4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
      5. As God’s workers, we must watch our motives and be sure we are serving God because of our love for him, and not because of a promised reward.
      6. It is possible to accomplish God’s work and yet not really do God’s will.
        1. These workers criticize the owner for being cheap. Like the prodigals elder brother, they dutifully did their job, but their hearts were not in it.
        2. Jonah did the same when he finally obeyed God and went to Nineveh, but his heart was not in his ministry.
    1. ​​​​​​​There is so many discrimination laws today it’s incredible. [some really important, some?]1. Of course we should not discriminate based on: sex, age, race, ethnicity,nationality, disability, gender, religion, political persuasion, etc. [at CM we have about150 on staff school/church]
      1. But difficult when you want to bless an employee (not employed here - benevolence). Then we remind ourselves, are we setting a precedence? Fair?
      2. God is fair to all, more generous to some.
    2. ​​​​​​​(14) Take what is yours & go your way - or pick up, as if he had saucily refused to take it from the table, or had contemptuously thrown the denarius on the ground (RWP).
    3. (15) Is your eye evil because I am good? - Mt.6:22 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. [evil eye/good eye]
      1. Envy is ever spoken of as finding its expression in the eye:
        1. 1 Sam.18:9 So Saul eyed David from that day forward.
      2. Must you be Jealous because I am Generous?
    4. (16) Many interpret this as many are called to laborer for the Lord, but few are choice servants.
      1. ​​​​​​​Jesus tells us that, while many are called to service, few reach the standard of choice individuals.
    5. Here’s a great plaque to hang where you work (Over your washer/dryer. Above your changing table. On your desk. On your tool box. Or, on your wall at work) … I work here because this is where God has called me to do His work in the world.
    6. There was a survey that listed 5 factors used to determine the desirability of a job: [1] High income [2] No danger of being fired [3] Short working hours, lots of free time [4] Chance for advancement [5] Good fringe benefits.
      1. What would you add to this list? Which is more important to you? Is there something not on this list? (ie. the privilege of service, or the feeling of accomplishment that work brings)
    7. A man walked by a building project & asked 3 men what they were doing. One said, I’m laying bricks. The 2nd said, I am making $200 a day. The 3rd said, I am helping to build a Cathedral where people can Worship God.
      1. ​​​​​​​How do you view your work?
    8. Note: these 3 warnings include 3 different relationships.
      1. With God - beware of making bargains with God.
      2. With our fellow workers - beware of watching other workers.
      3. With ourselves - beware of overconfidence.
    9. Again let’s remember how Peter learned from this. We note his change in Acts 3:6 not asking anymore what he will get but asking what can I give.
    10. Questions to Ponder:
      1. Are you available to serve the Lord?
      2. Are you willing to serve without contract?
      3. If nobody has hired you yet, are you willing to volunteer?
      4. Are you a people watcher?
      5. How did you react to the way the Master paid the salaries? Did you think his system was unfair?
      6. Do ever ever examine your own motives as you serve the Lord?
      7. Do you trust God’s word and really believe that He is generous? or are you bitter because somebody else got what you may think is a better deal?

Verses 17-34

  1. Intro:
    1. We remain on the theme of serving. Last week Service or Serve Us? This week A Love That Serves.
      1. Dying to Serve (17-19) Coming to Serve (20-28) Compassion that Serves (29-34).
    2. Jesus’ journey began in Galilee. Travelers on this route would start uphill at Jericho. From there, it was about a 10-mile ascent to Jerusalem.
    3. In vs.28 we have the key to the life of Christ...answering why He came. It’s what we celebrate this time of year in His Incarnation, His coming...but why did He come?
      1. He came to serve & to give (His life). Servanthood & Sacrifice.
      2. He came to die, His supreme mission.
        He came to live, for our example.
        He came to teach, about His kingdom.
        He came to heal, both body & soul.
        He came to show compassion, to the multitudes.
        He came to testify of truth, that we might walk in it.
        He came to destroy the work of the devil, to set us free of sin.
        He came to set the captives free, that we might be free indeed.
        He came to lay down His life a ransom for many.
        (He didn’t die a martyr, but as a Savior).
  2. DYING TO SERVE (17-19)
    1. ​​​​​​​Jesus marches boldly on before them, showing us He’s a Lion of a Lamb.
      1. Mark 10:32 nlt Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him.
        1. ​​​​​​​His steadfast determination in the face of impending danger amazed/surprised the disciples; indeed those who followed were afraid.
      2. This is the 3rd & final prediction of His passion.
        1. Here He finally names the destination…Jerusalem.
      3. Ok, so I want you to know this information so you’ll know I’m in control when it seems like everything is out of control.
  3. COMING TO SERVE (20-28)
    1. ​​​​​​​One at your right hand and one at your left - Refers to preeminent positions of authority and honor - the 1st and 2nd in importance after Jesus Himself.
      1. Denied on 2 counts: Their Ignorance - They don’t know what they’re asking. Their Inability - The Father assigns the seating arrangements.
    2. Mom’s name is Salome. Maybe she remembered Jesus’ promise in 19:28 & was simply claiming it for her 2 boys.
      1. Maybe it was the mention of Jerusalem that triggered their inquiry? As they thought he was going to take His place on the throne of the kingdom...and they wanted the box seats.
      2. What she/they forgot was what He just said about the cross.
      3. What she/they forgot was the only way to glory is through suffering (1 Pet.5:10 may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, & settle you)
        1. You do not pray for a throne; you pay for it. Weirsbe
    3. (22) Why do you think James/John ask what they do?
      1. They had enjoyed the unique privilege of glimpsing His glory on the mount of Transfiguration.
      2. They wanted to get to Him 1st (the early bird gets the worm right?)
    4. If you are a disciple, expect a cross, a cup, & a baptism, for the servant is not greater than his Lord. (Warren Wiersbe, pg.661)
      1. Cup = of sorrow. Baptism = of suffering. [Their goal should be serving, not ruling]
      2. Disciples: Jesus can we share in your glory? Jesus: Sure...will you share in my suffering?
    5. Here is flesh in its finest hour…we are able!
      1. Do you desire a position? Then prepare yourself for it, rather than seek it selfishly.
        1. James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, & HE will lift you up.
    6. (23) You will indeed drink - James was going to be the 1st of the 12 to lose his life for Christ, King Herod...had James, the brother of John, put to death w/the sword. Acts 12:1,2
      1. John was probably the last to die. Died of natural causes as best we know… but suffered many persecutions. [Like trying to be boiled to death] (Where the apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, in the boiling oil, & thence remitted to his island-exile. Tertullian, ch.36, The Prescription Against Heretics.)
    7. (24) Greatly displeased? – Because of James & John’s selfishness? Or, because the other 10 didn’t think of it 1st? Or, because they were jealous they didn’t get to Him 1st?
    8. (25-28) Jesus turns the value system of the world totally upside down.
    9. The marks of true greatness are humility & service.
      1. Jesus seems to say there’s nothing wrong w/the desire to be great, provided:
        1. You seek the right kind of greatness. You allow God to decide what greatness is. You are willing to pay the full price that greatness demands. (A.W.Tozer)
    10. (27)Jesus brings out for a 3rd time 1st shall be last; slave of all. [It’s a race to the bottom]
      1. God’s pattern in Scripture is that a person must first be a servant before God promotes him or her to be a ruler.
      2. You can’t give orders until you can take orders. You can’t exercise authority until you can be under authority.
    11. ​​​​​​​(28) New motivation for service? To give…not get.
      1. Jesus didn’t come to get your service but to give you His services.
      2. Jesus didn’t come to gather your merit but to show you grace.
      3. Jesus didn’t come to count up your works but to show you mercy.
      4. Jesus didn’t come to look for treasure but to bestow upon you unsearchable treasures
      5. Jesus didn’t come for those who think they are righteous but to look for sinners.
      6. Jesus didn’t come to those who think they are healthy but to heal the spiritually sick.
      7. Jesus didn’t come to those who think they are found but to seek & save the lost.
      8. Jesus didn’t come for those who could see but to those who were spiritually blind.
    12. How can your life better conform to Jesus’ view of greatness? In the area of serving or giving?
    13. Ransom – The essential idea is release, redeem, redemption.
      1. Originally, it was the payment of a price to secure the release of a prisoner of war. Then it was used of the release of a slave, and then of a person under sentence of death.
      2. It indicated something was paid to secure that release.
      3. Christ gave Himself as the ransom price to free us from the slavery of sin.
    14. 3 words for redemption/ransom:
    15. Agorazo (ἀγοράζω) buy in the market.
      1. 1 Cor. 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
    16. Exagorazo (ἐξαγοράζω) buy out of the market.
      1. Gal.3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.
    17. Lutron (λυτρόv) to set free never to be bought again.
      1. Titus 2:14 (Jesus) who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people.
      2. It’s the price for a slave who is then set free by the one who bought him.
        1. Jesus gave His own life as the price of freedom for the slaves of sin.
    18. Ransom for (in place of) many - His death would take the place of many deaths (animalsacrifices), for only His death could truly atone for sin.
      1. First, it was 1 animal sacrifice per person (Adam/Eve Gen.3).
        Then, 1 animal sacrifice per family (at Passover Ex.12).
        Then, 1 animal sacrifice per nation (Day of atonement).
        Finally, 1 sacrifice per world (John 1:29 Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world)
    1. ​​​​​​​In the final episode before Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus is again shown to be the Messiah from David’s line.
      1. Jesus continues to show His concern for the castoffs of society and heals two blind men whom the crowds attempt to silence.
    2. Meet 2 determined blind men. Bartimaeus was the prominent one (Mrk10:46).
    3. Here is the last miracle recorded in the gospels before the week of passion.
      1. It’s Passover time, so the streets would be packed the closer they get to Jer.
    4. (29) Jericho – An Oasis in the desert. City of Palms. Place of fragrance.
    5. (30,31) Son of David – a Messianic title.
      1. It was said of Messiah when He comes He’d be...a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Is.42:6,7
    6. (32) So Jesus stood still – [I love this] For a moment in time this blind beggar has the undivided attention of Deity. Bartimaeus the man who stopped God.
      1. Joshua made the sun stand still, but this blind beggar caused the Son of Righteousness to stand still.
      2. In spite of His impending death, Jesus makes time for Bartimaeus.
        1. What does this tell us about His priorities? How do they compare with your own?
    7. Mrk 10:49b NIV says - Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.
      1. ​​​​​​​This should be every Christian’s cry to those who are recognizing their darkness & helplessness…Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.
    8. Listen to his eagerness in Marks account (10:50nlt) Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
      1. This is how we all must come to Jesus. Cast off our old filthy garment like Bartimaeus.
    9. Slide17,18 (33) What do you want Me to do for you? - They knew what they wanted, and they trusted him for it. Lord, that our eyes may be opened.
      1. ​​​​​​​Do you know what you want when you come to Him in prayer?
      2. Do you persist even if others try to discourage you?
      3. What promise we have in Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy & find grace to help in time of need.
    10. (34) The 1st thing this blind man saw was the face of Jesus.
      1. He followed Jesus – We are not surprised from what we’ve learned of him thus far…that he followed Jesus on the road (Mrk 10:52) But what road?
        1. Well, it was the road to Jerusalemto His death.
        2. He followed Jesus on the road right to: Atonement Avenue. Lonely Lane. Calvary Circle. Scourge Street. Broken Boulevard. Passion Place. Death Drive.
          1. ​​​​​​​To follow Jesus on His road...What might be some of your costs? Some of your liberties? Some of your rights?
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/matthew-20.html. 2017.
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