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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 20

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-16

The Workers Hired at Different Hours (20:1-16)

This parable is often misunderstood. Is not the attitude of the householder manifestly unjust, and is not the indignation of those who have worked from the first hour legitimate? We have seen that Jesus often used paradox to make his hearers react more vigorously. The point of the parable is found in verse 15: "Is your eye evil because I am good?" (see margin). The story can be understood only if the householder is God himself before whom there is no "just wage," for everything that we receive we receive from his mercy. The point of the parable is directed as much against the Pharisee, sure of himself, as against the disciples who boast themselves of being workers from the first hour. The sinner who repents at "the eleventh hour" can enter with them who knows, before them! into the glory of the Lord (Matthew 21:31). No one but God knows who will be "first" or "last" in his Kingdom. And those who believe that they enter it "by right" strongly risk being among the last

Verses 17-28

Third Announcement of the Passion; The Vocation

of the Servant (20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45)

Jesus and the Twelve approach Jerusalem. Jesus announces for the third time his approaching Passion, and with more precision than on preceding occasions.

These repeated prophecies, even if certain details have been fixed in the tradition after the event, pose a question for us, How can the complete confusion of the disciples at the time of the Crucifixion be explained if they had been warned of the course of events? Why did they not expect the Resurrection? When a truth completely escapes us, it is not engraved in the memory of it comes back to us only after a blow. All the Gospels witness the fact that the disciples continue to have only "human thoughts." They understand neither the meaning of the words of Jesus (see Luke 9:45; Mark 9:32; Mark 10:32) nor the sign which the Transfiguration should have been for them. They are like "blind men."

Was it necessary that the ways of God should be so totally hidden from them in order that Jesus might know this deep loneliness into which he was to enter more and more up to the final agony? Man is always alone before true sorrow as before death. This is a threshold which the deepest human sympathies cannot cross. The one who has chosen to carry "our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:4) walks absolutely alone, humanly speaking, toward the destiny which awaits him.

The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee underscores still more the disciples’ lack of understanding. According to Mark, it is the disciples themselves who come to present then request (Mark 10:35). According to Matthew, it is their mother, which fact somewhat mitigates their responsibility. But they are there, sure of themselves. James and John are involved, two of the nearest and most beloved disciples. Their Master is going to death; but they are speculating on the place to be reserved for them in the Kingdom and they ask nothing less than the first place.

The reply of Jesus confronts them with hard reality. Are they ready to drink with him the cup of death ready for martyrdom? They answer, Yes. And Jesus does not dispute their fidelity. (Acts 12:2 testifies to the martyrdom of James.) But the Father alone assigns to each one the place in the Kingdom which he has prepared for him.

The other ten Apostles are indignant, as though this problem of their place in the Kingdom did not occupy them all (see Mark 9:33-34) . Then Jesus calls them together and repeats to them, under a new form, what he has not ceased to tell them since the beginning: he is great who knows himself to be small and humbles himself, who desires to be the servant of all. Jesus sets over against the way of the world where those who hold authority and power have no other ambition than to dominate his own way, the way of the Son of Man who makes himself the Servant and willingly dies the death of a slave "as a ransom for many." A ransom is that which a slave or his near relatives paid for his liberation. Jesus here reveals for the first time the redemptive significance of his death it will free from the power of Satan all those who believe in him.

Jesus knows that the spirit of domination is not peculiar to temporal authority alone, and that the will to power will also be the temptation of the Church (see Luke 22:24-27). He tells us clearly that his way is different, and that he knows no other power than that of the Cross, no other grandeur save that of service.

Verses 29-34

Healing of Two Blind Men

(Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43)

Perhaps the joining of this healing with the story which precedes it is not mere happenstance. After having seen the spiritual blindness of the disciples, we are confronted by two poor beggars who cry to Jesus and call him "Son of David" a Messianic title. The crowd tries in vain to silence them, and Jesus "in pity" grants their request. It is easier for Jesus to give sight to the blind who believe in him than to make the scales fall from the eyes of his disciples who do not know to what degree they are still blind.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 20". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/matthew-20.html.
 
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