Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, May 18th, 2024
Eve of Pentacost
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 20

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-34

Shall we turn to Matthew's gospel chapter twenty, and continue our book-by-book study through the Word of God? Matthew chapter twenty opens with the parable of the laborers going out into the vineyard.

And Jesus said,

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard ( Matthew 20:1-2 ).

Now a penny was a denarius and it was just a day's wage, the average day's wage. So translated into our present day, an average day's wage for a laborer maybe twenty-five dollars or so.

And he went out about the third hour ( Matthew 20:3 ),

Now he started out at about six o'clock in the morning, and hired these men who were standing in the marketplace to go out and work in his vineyard.

About the third hour, [nine o'clock in the morning], he saw others standing idle in the market place, and he said unto them; Go into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, [noon and three in the afternoon], he did likewise. And about the eleventh hour, [five in the evening] he went out, and found others standing idle, and said unto them, Why do you stand here idle all day? And they said unto him, Because no man has hired us. He said unto them, Go also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that is what you shall receive. So when the evening was come, and the lord of the vineyard said unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. When they came they that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man [the denarius] a penny. But when he came to the first, they supposed that they should have received more; but they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and you've made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden of the heat of the day. But he answered, and said unto them, Friend, I do thee no wrong: did you not agree to work for a penny? Take that which is yours, and go your way: and I will give unto this last even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with what is my own? Is not your eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last: for many are called, but few are chosen ( Matthew 20:5-16 ).

Now if you go back to the last verse of the previous chapter, you'll find this same statement. "They that are first shall be last, and they that are last shall be first"( Matthew 19:30 ). And then he repeats this again. So this seems to be the words that couch this particular parable. Going back just a little bit further, Peter had said to Jesus, "Lord, we have left all to follow thee"( Matthew 19:27 ). And Jesus tells him, "Look no one has left anything, but what in this life he get a hundredfold, and in the life to come, eternal life"( Matthew 19:29 ).

Now what is Jesus seeking to teach by this parable of sending forth the laborers into the vineyard? Basically what He is teaching is that as we serve the Lord in His vineyard, that what really counts is the fact the Lord sent me. Notice that these people didn't go in on their own accord, the Lord sent them into the vineyard. And because they were sent of God, they each one received from the Lord that same portion.

Sometimes we see people who on their deathbed receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and they enter into eternal life. And we who have served the Lord all of our lives and we enter into eternal life. It's God's to give, however, to whomever He pleases. And if those who in the last moment come into the kingdom of God, God rewards them, and they receive the reward for their place in the kingdom. Unfortunately, they have missed the blessing of knowing God, and serving God all their lives. They've missed the joy of what it is to serve the Lord. But I do believe that in this parable, He is teaching that a person at the end of the road can turn, in the eleventh hour and come to God, and receive a share of the kingdom, equal share, as far as eternal life is concerned.

Another thing that it teaches, I believe, is that we all will be rewarded for our faithfulness in our service to God. If I am faithful for an hour, if I am faithful for twelve hours, it is my faithfulness to the service to which the Lord has sent me.

Now a lot of times we think that men like Billy Graham will surely receive the greatest rewards in heaven, because look at the tremendous fruit of his ministry. But I am convinced that there are others who will receive either as great or even greater honor than will Billy Graham who you have never heard of. You've never known them. They never did make front page or even back page. But yet people who have been faithful to that service, to which God has employed them, whether it be intercessory closet prayer that nobody knows anything about, and I think when we get to heaven we are going to be surprised when we see those who are sitting on the front row. Where did they come from? Never heard of them before. And yet the true faithful saints of God, who have been obedient to the bidding of the Lord to go into the vineyard, and no matter what place, what time, it is their faithfulness to the call of God in going for which God makes the reward.

In fact, I do believe that many times those who have been called to a more prominent ministry will actually receive a much lesser reward because we get so much reward now. There is such tremendous reward just in being able to minister to people, the feedback that comes from it is so rewarding. And yet the Lord says, we get the penny, and so that's good enough for me.

Now the Lord does here point out, "look if I want to be good, if I want to extend grace, you shouldn't really complain about the grace that I extend. What is mine, is mine to do with as I please." And so they were actually thinking evil, because of His good.

Then Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and he said unto them, [now He is on the way, there is probably great multitudes, but He takes the twelve apart] He said, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him and the third day he shall rise again ( Matthew 20:17-19 ).

Now this is their final trip to Jerusalem. When they get to Jerusalem, those culminating events of the life of Jesus are going to take place. He's been with them now for almost three years, and He feels it necessary to draw them now into that more intimate fellowship with His suffering, as He has set His face to go to Jerusalem, knowing exactly what awaits Him there. And He prophesied so accurately the things.

First of all, He is going to be betrayed. Judas one of the twelve, who is listening to Him, will be the one who betrays Him. He is first of all betrayed by Judas to the chief priests, because Judas made a bargain with the priests to turn Jesus over to them. But they in turn will deliver Him to the Gentiles, who will first of all mock Him. They put upon Him a scarlet robe, and they begin to say unto Him, "Hail king of the Jews," and they mocked Him. And then Pilot delivered Him unto them to be scourged. Jesus said, "They will scourge me."

I am certain that there is much about the scourging about Jesus that we do not fully understand. It is not an accident that Jesus was scourged. He here is predicting the fact that He is going to be scourged. The scourging was an extremely painful experience. The prisoner would be tied to a post in such a way, as your back would be stretched. And then they would take a leather whip, with little bits of lead and glass, embedded in it. And they would lay this leather whip across the back, and it was so designed, that when they pulled it back up to rip up pieces of flesh.

The purpose of the scourging was the third-degree Roman style. The idea was you were to confess the crimes that you had committed against Rome, and as you confessed your crimes, the man who was administering that scourging would go easier and easier on you. But if you were silent and refused to confess your crimes, then each time he would lay the whip on heavier, and heavier, until you'd be forced to cry out your crime against the Roman government.

Herein is where the prophecy of Isaiah really stands out: "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth"( Isaiah 53:7 ). Which means that each lash that was laid upon Him, was laid with greater ferocity, as they were seeking to elicit from Him some confession of wrong, but He had done no wrong. Isaiah prophesied the fact that He would be scourged, but in prophesying the fact, Isaiah tells us the reason.

Now do you think that God the Father would allow His Son to suffer unnecessarily? If you do, you have a different concept of God than I do. I do not believe that God would just allow His Son to take all of that suffering, if there were not some value to be received from that suffering. And thus as Isaiah predicts the scourging, the stripes, he declares, "by His stripes ye are healed"( Isaiah 53:5 ).

In the eighth chapter of Matthew as it tells of them bringing all of their sick and those who were diseased to Jesus, and He healed them, every one, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, "He in His own body bore our sufferings." And Peter quoting Isaiah looking back at that scourging said, "by His stripes, ye were, past tense, healed"( 1 Peter 2:24 ).

Now Paul the apostle as he is talking to the Corinthian Church about their abuse of the Love feast, where they were remembering the broken body of Jesus and His blood that was shed for our sins, Paul said, "that which I received from the Lord, I delivered also unto you. That the same night that in which Jesus was betrayed, He took bread, and when He had broken it, He said, take eat this is my body which is broken for you. And after the supper He took the cup, likewise and said, this cup is a new covenant in my blood, which is shed for the remission of sins, and as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death, until He comes"( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ).

And then Paul warned the Corinthians about the manner in which they did partake of the Lord's supper. Warning them against that casual, careless attitudes in which many of them were receiving it. Warning those who were using this Love feast as an excuse just to sort of gorge themselves, and they were not really realizing the spiritual significance of these things.

And he said, "If a person eats or drinks in an unworthy manner, he is eating and drinking damnation to his own soul"( 1 Corinthians 11:26 ). And then he said interesting things for this cause; "There are many who are weak and sick among you, because they do not understand the Lord's body"( 1 Corinthians 11:30 ).

Now what did Jesus mean when He broke the bread and said, "This is my body, broken for you"? He is talking about, no doubt, the scourging that He was going to receive, because it could not be that any of His bones should be broken. First of all, because the sacrifice that was offered to God could not have any blemish, any broken bones. Secondly, the prophecy of Psalms declared, "not a bone of Him shall be broken"( Psalms 34:20 ). Therefore He could not have any broken bones. Therefore when He said, "this is my body broken for you", He could not refer to some bones being broken, but His body was broken open by this scourging that He received.

Now according to the historians, this scourging was such an awful taxing thing upon the person that many people never made it to the cross. There were many who died right there as the result of the scourging itself. Many of them bleed to death. Jesus was no doubt very weakened by it. For they needed someone to help Him bear the cross. That scourging was for you. "That by His stripes you may be healed." Now Paul said if you understand this, when you partake of the broken bread, you can receive from God a work of His Spirit in your body.

Now many who do not understand this, are weak and sick, because they do not understand the Lord's body. They don't understand all of the provision that the Lord has made for them. By His stripes ye are healed, spiritually, yes, but I do not think that it can be limited to spiritual only, the whole context, and especially Matthew eight would extend it also to physical healing. And I believe that we can believe and trust Jesus Christ for physical healing, as well as spiritual healing. And I do believe that in communion there should always be healing services, where people as they take the broken bread and remember the suffering of Jesus Christ, by faith receive the result of that suffering; the purpose for which God allowed Him to be suffered, and receive healing and strength in your body. How many times during communion has God touched me physically, and ministered to me physically, as I received that work of Christ for my own physical need?

So Jesus predicts His crucifixion finally, and then rising again. So He is telling the disciples this was going to happen. We are going to Jerusalem. I am going to be betrayed. I'll be turned over to the chief priests. They in turn will give me to the Gentiles, the Romans. That they might mock me, scourge me, and crucify me, but I will rise again on the third day.

Now again whenever Jesus talked to His disciples about His death, this thought was so repulsive to them, their minds just turned off, and they never heard, "I am going to rise again on the third day." Just the idea of Him being crucified was so shocking, that their minds in trying to absorb that, lost everything else He said after that. And so they didn't really remember that He said He was going to rise the third day, until after the resurrection. Then they remembered, oh, yeah, He said He was going to rise on the third day.

Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee's children [now James and John were the sons of Zebedee and she came to Him] with her sons ( Matthew 20:20 ).

So little old Jewish mama coming to Jesus with her two sons. And every Jewish mother wants the best for her son. They are beautiful people. I love that family strength among them.

And she came worshiping him, and desiring a favor from him. And he said unto her, What is it that you want? And she said unto him, Grant that these my two boys may sit, the one your right hand, and the other on your left, in your kingdom ( Matthew 20:20-21 ).

Oh, you have to love the mothers, don't you?

But Jesus answered and said, You don't know what you are asking. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am going to be baptized with? And they said unto him, We're able ( Matthew 20:22 ).

Now notice, the mother is the one doing the speaking, but the boys are right there behind her. And who knows, but what they may have put her up to it, because when Jesus asked the question, they're ready to respond. "Oh, you bet you, we're able." Jesus of course was talking about His crucifixion and His death. He's being despised and rejected. Drinking of that cup.

And he said unto them, You shall indeed drink of my cup ( Matthew 20:23 ),

We read in the book of Acts that Herod stretched forth his hands against the church and had James beheaded. That's one of the two.

You shall indeed drink of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brothers. But Jesus called them unto him, and he said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister [or servant]; And whosoever will be the chief among you, let him be the bondslave ( Matthew 20:23-27 ):

Jesus here is teaching the servanthood of the ministry and the path to greatness. It is tragic that we have gotten so far away from the concepts that Jesus taught. It is tragic that we have a professional ministry that so often seeks people to cater to it, rather than to realize that they are the servants of all. Jesus said that among the Gentiles there is this desire to exercise lordship and dominion over people. It is tragic that in church circles there is also that endeavor many times to exercise lordship and dominion over people.

One of the weird doctrines of the seventies was the shepherding doctrine, where so many men sought to establish themselves as the lords over the flock of God and causing people to submit to their authority. To where they exercised such dominion and authority and lordship over people, that they inserted themselves between the people and God. Rather than seeking God as to whether or not you should buy a new car, you had to seek your elder or your shepherd. And it really was a heavy bondage trip. And so anti what Jesus has declared.

"If you really want to be great in the kingdom of God, learn to be the servant of all. He that would be great among you, let him be your servant and if you want to be chief, then become the bondslave." And that's exactly what the word, "minister" means, servant. It doesn't mean someone who is to be looked up to, and someone who is to be catered to, and someone who is to be bowed to, and all of this kind of stuff, and do special favors because he is the minister. To take on the position of the minister is to take on the position of the servant to the flock of God. And I pray to God that we will never lose this concept of the ministry, that we are the servants of all.

It is so important that we maintain, because Jesus said,

I didn't come to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give my life as a ransom for many ( Matthew 20:28 ).

He didn't come that people might cater to Him and minister to Him, He came to minister to the people's needs.

And as they departed from Jericho ( Matthew 20:29 ),

They're on the way to Jerusalem; they've come down the Jordan Valley. They've come to Jericho. And now as they depart from Jericho,

a great multitude followed Him. And, behold, there were two blind men who were sitting by the way side, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, saying, Have mercy upon us, O Lord, thou son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried out all the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And Jesus stood still, and he called them, and said, What do you want me to do for you? And they said unto him, Lord, we want our eyes opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him ( Matthew 20:29-34 ).

Now we see Jesus leaving Jericho, a great multitude of people thronging around Him, and these two blind men hearing the multitude passing by, and observing all of the bustle and activities saying, "what's going on, what's happening?" And someone said, "Jesus is going by." Now they no doubt had heard of the fame of Jesus. I am certain that everyone that was afflicted had heard of the fame of Jesus. They had heard of the miracles that He had wrought, up in the area of Galilee, around Capernaum. And to these men who were blind, they saw this as their one opportunity for a whole new life. And so they began to cry out to Jesus. They couldn't see Him. They could probably tell the direction in the flow, the crowd, which direction He was, but they began to cry out to Jesus. And the multitude around them said, "Shut up, hold your peace." Try to discourage them from seeking Jesus. But they were so desperate, they weren't discouraged, they even cried louder, "Jesus, thou son of David have mercy on us."

And Jesus heard their cry and stood still. He said, "Call those fellows to me." And they no doubt led these two blind men to Jesus. And as they stood there with those clouds over their eyes, Jesus said, "What do you want?" They said, "Lord, if we could just see." And He had compassion upon them, and healed them. And they joined the crowd following Him on up to Jerusalem.

Remember at this point the heart of Jesus is very heavy, because He knows that He soon is going to be betrayed, mocked, scourged, crucified. And yet He takes time still to minister to the needs of others. He was never too busy to minister to individual needs. When a person's ministry gets so great, and they become so prominent that they lose touch with people, and they can no longer minister to people's individual needs, their ministry has become greater than their Lord. When it gets to where I have to sneak in the back door at the last minute, and sneak out before things are over, then I need to find something else to do, when you can no longer take time to minister to individuals.

Now these men of course do give to us a very beautiful picture of people who are blind in sin, and there is the spiritualizing of the text, crying out for Jesus. And everybody will always try to discourage you, but persist, for there is a whole new life. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/matthew-20.html. 2014.
Ads FreeProfile