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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 20

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


The Kingdom of heaven is like the owner. This is a parable to teach plainly what Jesus has just said in the last few verses of chapter 19. The owner is God. The vineyard is the Kingdom of Christ, which here includes the world (Matthew 13:38). [The people of the Kingdom work in the world to recruit new people for the Kingdom.] The workers represent the disciples of Christ. Who went out early in the morning. Those looking for work would meet in the market place and wait for someone to hire them.

Verse 2


And sent them to work. This was just at sunrise—about 6 A.M. A “silver coin” was the normal wage, and would buy as much in proportion as a day’s wage now.

Verses 3-4


He went out again . . . at nine o’clock. And hired more workers, promising them a fair wage.

Verses 5-6


Then at twelve o’clock and again at three o’clock. He hires still more workers. It was nearly five o’clock. The owner visits the market place for the final time [it is just one hour until sunset]. Why are you wasting the whole day? No one would pay them for their wasted hours.

Verse 7


Well, then, you also go to work. Notice that they were not working because no one asked them to do so. This is not the same as the one who refused to work. Be sure to notice also that they still have one hour to work before the sun sets.

Verse 8


The owner told his foreman. To pay each the wage he was to receive for his work in the vineyard. [The order of payment is only to allow the first hired to see what was paid to the last hired.]

Verse 9


Were paid a silver coin each. They received what they were guaranteed, but they thought they should get more because they worked harder. (Compare the older brother, Luke 15:28-31.)

Verses 13-14


Listen friend. The owner had not cheated them at all. They had no reason to complain. If the owner wanted to be generous, that was his privilege. The central idea taught in this parable is that the workers in the Kingdom of heaven will all receive the same reward (Eternal Life) even though they work different periods of time. Some come to Christ early in life, and “work all day.” Others do not learn of Christ until late in life, and only work “one hour.” [Also, there are differing levels of responsibility.] This is the complete answer to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27. ALL WILL BE EQUALLY REWARDED.

Verse 16


And Jesus concluded. The first – last; and the last – first. Here, this teaches that the Jews, who were first to be called by God, would not receive more than the Gentiles, who were last to be called. The first people who came into the Kingdom of heaven were Jews (Acts 2:5; Acts 2:41). But God grafted in the Gentiles as well (Romans 11:16-24).

Verse 17


Spoke to them privately. During the six months since Peter’s declaration at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16), Jesus had been preparing his followers for his death.

Verses 18-19


We are going up to Jerusalem. Jesus is going to fulfill God’s Plan by dying on the Cross (Luke 9:31). Jesus gives a detailed prophecy here. (1) Handed over or betrayed by Judas. (2) Condemned to death. (3) Handed over to the Gentiles (Roman soldiers). (4) Make fun of him (mock). (5) Whip him. (6) Death by being nailed to the cross. (7) Raised to life the third day. [Third day: see note on Matthew 12:40.] The death of Jesus would destroy the materialistic hopes for a political kingdom, which the disciples and the Jews still looked for.

Verse 20


Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Salome, mother of James and John, who was probably a sister of the mother of Jesus. [See note on John 19:25.]

Verse 21


Promise that these two sons of mine. Mark tells us they asked a favor before they told what it was. They ask through their mother, Note they still looked for him to be an earthly King, even though he has just detailed his death to them. To sit at a King’s right and left was to be in a very high position of power in his government.

Verse 22


You don’t know what you are asking for. In less than a month they would see two criminals at the right and left of his Cross (Matthew 27:38). Can you drink the cup? That is: Can you share the suffering I am about to experience? “We can,” they answered. They thought they were able, not knowing what they were saying.

Verse 23


You will Indeed. Not just now, but later, they would experience much suffering; both during their ministry, and in their death. All the apostles died violently, except John. But I do not have the right. He could not act on the basis of their worldly ambitions. For whom my Father. It is the Father’s Plan which Jesus is fulfilling.

Verse 24


When the other ten disciples. By doing this, they showed the same worldly attitude the brothers had shown. We often condemn others for the very things we do ourselves.

Verse 25


So Jesus called them. They had not showed their anger to Jesus. You know. To show them the difference between his Kingdom and the kingdoms of the world, he points out what they already know. The rulers and leaders of government domineer their people.

Verse 26


This . . . is not the way. In Christ’s Kingdom, things were to be different. He must be the servant of the rest. Greatness in Christ’s Kingdom does not come through domineering others, but by love and service.

Verse 27


He must be your slave. This is how to be first. In the Kingdom/church, greatness comes through loving others, not through giving them orders.

Verse 28


Like the Son of Man. Jesus did have the right to order people around. Yet he did not do this. He came to serve others. His greatest act was to give his life to redeem many people. “Many” in Jewish usage means “all”—that is, all who will reach out to seize his salvation.

Verse 29


A large crowd followed Jesus. Mark’s gospel explains the seeming contradiction between Luke and Matthew. Jesus was ahead of the crowd; went on into Jericho; the noise of the crowd disturbed the blind men [Mark and Luke tell only of Bartimaeus and say nothing of the other man]; and as Jesus is leaving the town, this healing takes place; and then the meeting with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:0).

Verse 30


Two blind men. Bartimaeus was probably very well known by the people. Son of David! This was calling Jesus the Messiah, and was a declaration of their faith.

Verse 31


The crowd scolded them. For interrupting. Possibly some did not like to hear Jesus called the Son of David [Messiah]; and others, expecting Jesus to be crowned as King of Israel when they reached Jerusalem, thought he should not waste time on blind beggars.

Verse 32


Jesus stopped. He took time for everyone—even a blind beggar. What do you want? This is an offer to meet their need.

Verse 33


We want you to open our eyes. Their great need was to be able to see! (Compare John 9:35-41.)

Verse 34


Jesus had pity on them. God the Son gives mercy to blind beggars! Note their faith: (1) asked about Jesus; (2) began to shout; (3) declared him to be the Son of David [Messiah]: (4) asked for mercy; (5) continued to shout, even more loudly; (6) jumped up and came to Jesus [Mark]; (7) asked Jesus to open their eyes.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/matthew-20.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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