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Matthew 20

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Verses 1-16

Mat 20:1-16

Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20:1-16
J.W. McGarvey

1. For the kingdom.For connects this paragraph with the closing remark in the preceding, "many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." This parable is therefore intended to expound and to illustrate that thought. This intention is also indicated in verse 16, in which the parable is brought to a close by the statement, "So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called but few chosen."

hire laborers into his vineyard.—An elliptical expression for "hire laborers to work in his vineyard."

2. penny a day.—A denarius a day, fifteen cents. This seems to have been the regular price for a day’s labor.

3-6. the third hour... the sixth.—As the Jews numbered the hours from six in the morning, the third was nine o’clock, the sixth was noon, the ninth was three P. M., and the eleventh was five P. M., or an hour before the close of the day.

7. no man hath hired us.—They had stood all the day idle because no man had hired them, and they had probably stood in the marketplace (ἥ ἀγορα, the place of public resort) for the purpose of finding employment. It is implied that the others were found idle for the same reason.

8. beginning from the last to the first.—Another elliptical expression, in which going is omitted. Beginning thus had the double effect of making conspicuous the fact that the last received a full day’s wages, and of calling forth a complaint from those who had come first. (Matthew 20:9-10.)

11, 12. they murmured.—They had received all that they had bargained for, and all that they had earned; but it caused them pain to see others receive the same for only one-twelfth of the labor which they had performed.

13, 14. I do thee no wrong.—No wrong was done to the murmurer, for he had agreed to work for what he received. The settlement with him was strictly just. Nor was any wrong done to the others, for they received more than they had earned.

15. Is it not lawful.—Having shown that no injustice was done, the employer now justifies the gratuity which he had given to the others, on the ground of his right to do as he would with his own, to bestow his gratuities where and when he chooses. He also traces the complaint of the murmurer to its true source by demanding, "Is thine eye evil because I am good?"

An evil eye is a synonym for jealousy, and it acquired this meaning from the malicious leer with which jealousy regards its object. (Comp. Mark 7:2; 1 Samuel 18:9.) These laborers were jealous of the others because of the unmerited favor which the latter had received.

16. So the last.—Here Jesus states the point of comparison in the parable. "So"—that is, as in the parable, so in the kingdom of heaven—"the last shall be first, and the first last." How, then, were the last first and the first last in the parable? In the payment of the laborers the householder told his steward to begin with the last and end with the first (Matthew 20:8); but this mere order of sequence in receiving the reward cannot be the point of comparison, for there is nothing in the rewards of the kingdom of heaven to correspond with it. The last were first in another and much more important sense; they received a reward much greater in proportion to the labor which they had performed. Those who came last were first of all in respect to the ratio between the reward and the labor, and those who came first wore last of all in this particular. The payment of wages was not regulated by the rule of quid pro quo, so much money for so much labor; but, while there was a full reward in every case, in all except the first there was more than a reward—there was an undeserved gratuity, which showed the goodness of the householder. The contract with those who came first, and who receive no more than they had earned, is evidently mentioned for the purpose of showing the real price of a day’s work, and setting forth the fact that the others did receive a gratuity. It has no significance in the application of the parable, but is, like a shade in a picture, intended to make the significant figures more conspicuous. Thus it is in the parable: now what is there like this in the kingdom? Peter and his companions had left all and followed Jesus, had come at his call to work in his vineyard, and he had just inquired of the Master, "What shall we have therefore?" What shall be our wages? (Matthew 19:27.) He was told what their reward was to be, and then, lest they might think that those with the best prospects would be in every instance most certain of the reward, Jesus tells them that many first shall be last, and the last first; and, lest they should think that the promised reward would be only a just compensation for their sacrifices and toils, he recites the parable and says, "So the last shall be first and the first last." That is, in the kingdom of heaven, as in the parable, rewards are not distributed on the principle of a just compensation for labor performed, but, while all labor receives a just compensation (for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and love—Hebrews 6:10), all the laborers will receive a reward far greater than they deserve—a reward which will show the goodness (verse 15) of the Master. And as a consequence of this principle of reward, the last shall be first, and the first last; that is, the last in amount of labor performed shall be first in the ratio between labor and reward, and the first in amount of labor shall be last in said ratio. This we know to be a fact; for eternal life is inconceivably more than a compensation for all that a man can do and suffer in pursuit of it, and among those who will inherit it those who will have done and suffered the least will be first in the ratio between their labor and their reward, and vice versa.Compare the thief on the cross, for example, with the apostle Paul.

From the preceding interpretation it follows, that the different hours at which the laborers were called into the vineyard do not represent different periods’ of human life: for although two old men, one of whom had spent his life in the Church, and the other had just entered it, would be cases in point, yet he who becomes a Christian in childhood may, and often docs, on account of early death, do less labor for the Lord than he who is called in the meridian of life, or even in old age.

This parable has often been used to encourage hope in cases of deathbed repentance. It certainly does teach, that however little the labor which a man does in the Lord’s vineyard, he will receive the final reward if only he be really in the vineyard; that is, if he be really a child of God. But whether a man who repents on his deathbed actually becomes a child of God, is a different question, and is not touched by the parable. Certainly, the eleventh-hour laborer who had stood idle all day only because no man had hired him, and who came into the vineyard as soon as he was called, can not represent the man who has been called by the gospel every hour of his life, but has rejected every call until his sun has sunk so low that he knows he can do but little work when he comes. In order to represent this class of sinners, the eleventh-hour men should have been invited early in the morning, and should have replied, "No, it is too early; I will not go now." Then they should have been invited at the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours, and should have made some equally frivolous excuse each time; then, finally, at the eleventh hour, they should have said, "Well, as you pay a man just the same for an hour’s work as for a day’s work, and as I am very anxious to get your money, I believe I will now go." Had they acted thus, it is not likely that they would have found the vineyard gate open to them at all. Yet such is the sharp practice which some men attempt in dealing with God.

Argument of Section 1

In the series of conversations which fill the preceding section, Matthew has given proof of both the divine knowledge and the divine wisdom of Jesus. The conversation about marriage and divorce shows that he had a conception of the subject far transcending that of the age in which he lived and of all preceding ages. Indeed, it is a conception too pure and lofty for the subsequent generations of his own disciples; for thousands of them have appreciated it so little as to excuse themselves in disregarding it.

In the conversation about little children, Jesus revealed in a single sentence their true relation to God—a relation which the world had not discovered, and which it has ever been slow to recognize. How many there are at the present day who regard children as totally depraved, and who either go through the form of baptizing them in order to fit them for heaven, or teach that they undergo a spiritual regeneration in the article of death! Here again the wisdom of Jesus towers high above that of the most philosophical of his followers.

The conversation with the rich young man shows the power of Jesus to read the secrets of men’s hearts, detecting faults which are hidden from their own eyes. The man had said nothing to indicate a love of money; on the contrary, the extreme rectitude of his life appeared inconsistent with the damning sin of covetousness, and left him to wonder what he yet lacked of being perfect. But Jesus laid bare the hidden sin by saying to him, "Go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven."

In reference to the salvation of rich men Jesus had also made a revelation which amazed his disciples, and which many of his friends in later ages have tried to explain away because it requires too much unselfishness to suit their taste. It was a wisdom not of this world by which he spake.

Finally, the foreknowledge of Jesus is exhibited in his statements about the reward awaiting his disciples, and in his illustration of that subject in the parable of the laborers. Part of his prediction had already been fulfilled when Matthew wrote his narrative; for the apostles were already sitting on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and others had already experienced that those who forsake houses, brethren, etc., on account of his name, "shall receive manifold, and shall inherit everlasting life."

Now it is barely possible that any one of the above named exhibitions of wisdom might be accounted for by the supposition that Jesus was a man of transcendent genius; but when we consider them all together, and in connection with them consider the miraculous foreknowledge which is intermingled with them, we can account for them only on the supposition of divine inspiration. And if Jesus spoke by divine inspiration, his claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God is established beyond controversy.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard - Matthew 20:1-16

Open It

1. What do you think of deathbed or death-row conversions?

2. What is the most generous thing anyone has ever done for you?

3. Who is the best employer you ever had? Why?

Explore It

4. To what situation did Jesus compare the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 20:1)

5. Who was the central character in this parable? (Matthew 20:1)

6. What did the landowner go out and do? (Matthew 20:1)

7. What wages were agreed upon by the landowner and his hired hands? (Matthew 20:2)

8. In the parable, what happened at about 9:00 a.m.? (Matthew 20:3)

9. What wage was agreed upon between the landowner and his workers? (Matthew 20:4)

10. How many additional times did the landowner go out and hire workers? (Matthew 20:5-6)

11. What explanation did the last group of workers give when asked why they were standing around doing nothing? (Matthew 20:7)

12. What happened to the last group of workers? (Matthew 20:7)

13. What did the landowner tell his foreman at the end of the day? (Matthew 20:8)

14. What wages did the workers hired at the eleventh hour receive? (Matthew 20:9)

15. What did the landowner pay to the men who worked all day? (Matthew 20:10)

16. How did the workers respond to the landowner’s system of payment? (Matthew 20:11-12)

17. What rationale did the landowner give for his actions? (Matthew 20:13-15)

Get It

18. In what ways does God’s grace seem unfair?

19. How do our cultural values resist the idea of grace?

20. Why is it dangerous to compare your own situation with someone else’s?

21. How would you answer the argument that God isn’t fair in the way He forgives?

22. How does it make you feel to know that heaven will include ex-murderers, former child molesters, and people who put their trust in Christ only minutes before death?

23. What would happen if God gave each of us what we deserve?

24. How can focusing on God’s grace in our lives keep us from becoming jealous of others?

Apply It

25. What can you do today to help someone who needs God’s grace begin to understand the love of God?

26. In what way can you say thank you to God every day this week for his amazing grace in your life?

27. In what way could you help a new Christian get oriented to life in the Master’s kingdom sometime in the next month?

Verses 1-28

Mat 20:1-28

3. LABORERS IN THE VINEYARD FORETELLS

AGAIN HIS DEATH; REBUKES SELFISH

AMBITION OF JAMES AND JOHN

Matthew 20:1-28

1-16 For the kingdom of heaven is like.—"For" not only introduces this parable, but connects it to what has just preceded; the parable is an explanation of the last words of the last chapter; it explains one of the principles of "the kingdom of heaven" or church that God would not so much regard the privileges of the Jews, nor the riches of the powerful, as the industry and zeal of his people. The parable has very differently been explained; few commentators are agreed as to the meaning of it. Some see in it the principle that God is no respecter of persons in the gifts of honor in his church; that the awards given are not by accidental circumstances as wealth or priority of time. Verse thirty of the last chapter and verse sixteen of this chapter seem to indicate that the parable is an explanation of the thought in these verses. The disciples were expecting great honors in the kingdom of heaven because they were first who were called; the Jews were expecting exclusive honors in the kingdom of heaven, but they are to learn that, because they are Abraham’s seed, the blessings of the spiritual kingdom of God are distributed even to the Gentiles.

"The kingdom of heaven" or the church, in some particular, "is like unto a man that was a householder." "Householder" is the owner of fields who had need of many laborers. "Vineyard" was a field or plantation of vines, hedged in by walls, ditched, cleared of stones and cultivated. (Matthew 21:33.) There were many vineyards in Judea; the figure of a vineyard was used by the prophets in which Jehovah had bestowed care upon the Jews as the vinedresser. (Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 12:10.) The householder went out "to hire laborers" to work in his vineyard; he promised them the usual wage or reward for their services. The amount agreed upon was "a shilling a day." This coin was worth about fifteen to seventeen cents. This seems to us a small sum for a day’s work, but when labor and provisions were equally cheap, it may have been a liberal pay for the day’s work. At any rate, this was the sum agreed to. He went out "about the third hour, and saw others standing in the market-place idle." The Jews divided the day into twelve equal parts, beginning at sunrise. (John 11:9.) These parts were longer in summer than in winter, as the days were then nearly four hours and a half longer. Their nights were divided in the same way; both day and night were then divided into four parts each. (Mark 13:35.) The days were distinguished by the "third hour" (9:00 o’clock), "the sixth" (noon), "the ninth" (3:00 o’clock in the afternoon), and "sunset." It was customary for laborers to go to the market place and there wait until someone came to employ them; this custom both with the laborers and householders was understood.

And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing.—This was about five o’clock in the afternoon, or one hour before the day ended. At this time he found men standing in the market place, and he asked, "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" They readily answered, "Because no man hath hired us." They seemingly had been ready for work, but had not received an invitation or an opportunity to work. The householder employed them and sent them "into the vineyard." At the close of the day the householder sent his steward to "call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first." He followed the custom of the Jews in obeying the law of Moses. (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:15.) Jesus is the steward set over the house of God to order all things and give all their wages. (Matthew 11:27; John 5:27; Hebrews 3:6.) There may be encouragement for those that have delayed to enter the service of God till late in life, but surely not encouragement to any one to delay entering the service of God; there are numerous scriptures instructing all who are capable of service to enter now and not delay.

All received equal amount; each received a shilling. "And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a shilling." As they began with the last who were hired and approached to the first, the first hired observed that those who went in the eleventh hour received the same as the earliest hired. When they saw this, they "murmured against the householder" and said, "These last have spent but one hour, and thou bast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat." They were not willing for others to receive an equal amount; they thought that it was unfair, as they had worked all day and the others had worked but one hour. The householder kindly answered them, "Friend, I do thee no wrong didst not thou agree with me for a shilling?" This was the sum that the laborers agreed to work for when they were hired in the early morning; they should now be satisifed with that amount. The householder dismissed them by saying, "It is my will to give unto this last, even as unto thee." If the householder chose to show considerations and liberality with charity to these last, why should the first object to it? They were envious their eyes were evil. Envy is spoken of as dwelling in the eye and giving to it a malignant power. (Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 28:22; Mark 7:22.) Jesus makes his own application of the parable when he says, "So the last shall be first, and the first last." The householder told the steward to begin with the last and end with the first (verse eight). The last were first in a very important sense; they received a reward much greater in proportion to the labor which they had performed. Jesus says "so," that is, as in the parable, so it shall be in the kingdom of heaven. Some versions add "for many be called, but few chosen." Many, in fact all, have the gospel invitation, but not all accept it and live faithful through life.

There are many lessons that may be drawn from this parable. It seems to have been occasioned by Peter’s question (Matthew 19:27), "What then shall we have?" This expresses about the same spirit that those in the parable had who had worked twelve hours. Again those coming in the eleventh hour may be compared to the Gentiles, who came in to the kingdom of God long after the Jews had been the favorite people of God. There is also the lesson of mercy taught; God exercises mercy toward those who have not had advantage equal to those of others. The laborers were all equal in that each was ready to work when called; the eleventh hour men responded at the first opportunity.

17-19 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem.—Parallel records of this may be found in Mark 10:32-34 and Luke 18:31-33. Jesus had now about finished his work in Perea, and it is supposed to be in December, the time of the Feast of Dedication he has been in Perea about five months teaching and working miracles. The time is at hand in which, by the shedding of blood, there must be the remission of sins. Jerusalem is the place where for ages the typical sacrifices had predicted the real sacrifice which was now to be made once for all. Jesus crosses from the east side to the west side of the Jordan and his disciples follow him. They are afraid; in fact, as Mark states it, they were "amazed" that he would go to Jerusalem at this time. So it becomes necessary for Jesus to explain to them in further detail the death that he was to die.

To quiet them and to remove their fear, "he took the twelve disciples apart" and as they went along the way he explained to them again the death that he must die. Mark tells us that Jesus "was going before them," "and they that followed were afraid." The signs of enmity against him began to thicken and the disciples knew that their Lord was in great danger should he go to Jerusalem. However, Jesus said, "We go up to Jerusalem" and there "the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death."

"The chief priests and scribes" represent the Sanhedrin; he was to be betrayed into their hands by Judas. (Matthew 26:15.) They would condemn him to death, but could not inflict it, hence he should be delivered "unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify." This is a graphic description of what the Gentiles or Roman authorities would do to him. This was a strange cruelty that the Jews should give up a prophet to the Gentiles whom they hated; yet they were to deliver Jesus to Pilate and the Roman soldiers. These would "mock," treat with derision, this prophet of the Jews. We are told that the eastern nations have a singular power of this kind and great sensitiveness to such contempt. (Judges 16:25; Jeremiah 38:19.) "To scourge" was a cruel punishment of which whipping is a very mild definition; it was a terrible laceration by the severest thongs that could be devised, and inflicted only upon the lowest criminal; it was done by placing iron spikes or sharp stones in the lashes of whips and applied to the bare back of the victim. "To crucify" was to nail and suspend one to a wooden cross until he died; this was a Roman mode of punishment for slaves and vile criminals. Luke adds "shamefully treated, and spit upon." Jesus hastens to direct the minds of his disciples from this cruel treatment to the fact that "the third day he shall be raised up." As if the picture were too dark for them to look at, Jesus hastens to tell them of his resurrection. This is the third record that Matthew has given of Jesus telling his disciples of his death. (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22-23.)

20-28 Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee. —Mark 10:35-45 gives a parallel record of this. "The mother of the sons of Zebedee," Salome, and her sons were James and John. Salome was in some way connected with other women to the company of the disciples in some of their journeys, as we find her one of those who were last at the cross and earliest at the grave. (Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1.) Mark tells us that James and John joined their mother in the request that she made at this time; they were eager to be first in obtaining a promise. It may be that they regarded the prophecy of Jesus of his death as a crisis and they wished to take advantage of the situation on this visit to Jerusalem. She came "worshipping him" before she made the request of him. "Worshipping," that is, kneeling and doing honor to him as a king. (Matthew 8:2; Matthew 18:26.) The father, Zebedee, though named, never appears in gospel history after the call of his sons; from this it is inferred that he was either dead or an insignificant character. However faulty the conduct of Salome may appear to be on this occasion, she manifested an undying love for Jesus in the most trying times of his subsequent suffering; she also showed a mother’s devotion and consecration to the welfare of her sons. The mother and sons were inspired by a common ambition.

Salome very tactfully approached the subject while kneeling before Jesus by telling him that she wanted to make a certain request of him; we are not to infer that she wanted him to promise to grant it before he knew what request she would make. Jesus asked her what she wanted and she answered, "Command that these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy kingdom." She asked Jesus to pass the other disciples by and exalt these two disciples to the highest honor in the palaces of Jerusalem; she wanted one to be prime minister to rule the state, and the other to share the chief favors of all private thoughts. Her request was that James, the Boanerges, or son of thunder, flash like a meteor in splendor over thy kingdom, and the gentler John be thy bosom friend. It seems that the vision of the transfiguration still lingered with James and John and that this request is an explanation of it. Jesus replied, "Ye know not what ye ask." The question was propounded in ignorance of the real facts. They still misunderstood the nature of his kingdom, and the principle which makes people great in his kingdom. How often the disciples of Jesus today make requests in prayer which they do not understand! Our false conception of things and our worldly ambitions prompt us to make requests which are not pleasing in the sight of God; we should rejoice that Jesus, our High Priest and the Mediator, will not present such prayers to our Father; he understands our weaknesses.

Jesus answered by asking them, "Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They answered him. "We are able." The Jews often described abstract things by images; "to drink the cup" denoted the affliction and punishment by a cup of bitter ingredients, maddening and horrible to drink. (Psalm 11:6 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15.) One of the modes of punishment by death was to cause the victim to drink a cup of poison. Socrates was caused to drink the fatal hemlock. If James and John understood what they answered, they meant to say that they were ready to brave all the bitterness and hardships of Jesus’ lot. Jesus often spoke of his passion under this image. (Matthew 26:39; John 18:11.) Jesus replied to their answer with a prophetic statement that "my cup indeed ye shall drink:but to sit on my right hand, and on my left hand, is not mine to give." This belonged to the Father to bestow such honors and it had not been committed to him at this time. Mark adds another question, "Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:38.) Jesus here paints by another striking word his coming sorrows and sufferings as if a great wave of the sea were burying him, in their confusion and uproar, as if he were to be drowned in a terrible baptism in them. (Psalms 42:7; Psalms 69:2; Luke 12:50.) This is a graphic picture of the agonies of the soul of Jesus, yielding to the tremendous tides of human sin, passion, hate, and rage, and sinking alone, out of sight, in the gloomy waves of death. Incidentally we see what is meant by baptism; it is not a mere "sprinkling" of suffering, but an overwhelming of suffering in death; so baptism in water is not a sprinkling, but is a dipping, submersing, or overwhelming, or burial in water.

And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation concerning the two brethren.—The other disciples were indignant because they thought that James and John with their mother were taking advantage of them and the situation; they were jealous of each other and angry at these two brothers. However, Jesus called them to him and said, "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them." He rebuked the indignation and anger of the ten as he had rebuked the request of James and John; again he taught them the spiritual nature of his kingdom. His kingdom was of a different kind from that of the temporal kingdoms; in the earthly kingdoms the rulers exercised oftentimes tyrannical wills over their subjects, but in his kingdom it should not be that way, for "whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister" or servant. "Gentiles" as here denotes those who are not Jews, or "all nations" other than Jews. Greatness in this kingdom is determined by service and not by official rank. This lesson was taught in Matthew 18:1. The one who should stand the highest in this kingdom or "would be first among you shall be your servant." Jesus cites himself as an example as "the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." It is strange that his disciples could see his examples of service so long and still entertain the notions that his kingdom would be an earthly kingdom. Jesus served the poorest and lowliest of men; he gave up time, convenience, everything to the sick and poor; he took no reward. What right had his disciples to claim that there was any merit in them that caused him to choose them? If he had intended to establish an earthly kingdom, surely he would have chosen men of wealth and political power instead of some obscure fishermen as they were. Jesus showed himself greatest of all by the greatest service, greatest sufferings, and greatest sacrifices of all. He is the example of greatness to his disciples. Jesus gave his life "a ransom for many."

[How and why the shedding of the blood of Jesus was essential to the salvation of man is, and has been, a trouble to many. The blood is the life. The shedding of the blood is the giving of the life. When we say Jesus shed his blood for the sins of the world, we mean Jesus gave his life for the sins of the world. The blood is the material abiding place of the immaterial principle of life, so that if we take the blood from the body we take the life. Since the blood can be seen by our fleshly senses, and the immaterial principle of life cannot, it is probable that the blood is spoken of to represent the life, the shedding of the blood, the giving up the life. When it is said he shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins, it means he gave up his life to provide for the remission of sins; he became a ransom for many.]

Verses 17-28

Mat 20:17-28

Section II.
Journey from Perea to Jerusalem, Matthew 20:17 to Matthew 21:22

J.W. McGarvey

Third Prediction of His Death, Matthew 20:17-19.
(
Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34)

17. going up to Jerusalem.—Having followed Jesus, on his departure from Galilee, into Perea, where the conversations of the last section took place, Matthew now starts with him from some point in that country, on his last journey to Jerusalem. Much matter related by John (perhaps all from his seventh to his eleventh chapter inclusive), and some related by Luke (Luke 17:1 to Luke 18:14), are here omitted.

the twelve disciples apart.—As on the two former occasions, Jesus makes the announcement of his death to his immediate followers alone. Such an announcement to the unbelieving multitude would have confirmed them in their unbelief, and at the same time it might have encouraged his enemies in their machinations against him.

18, 19. shall be betrayed.—In these verses Jesus describes his arrest, condemnation, and sufferings, precisely as they afterward occurred. First, he was to be "betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes," which was done by Judas. Second, he was to be condemned by them to death, and to be delivered to the Gentiles, which was done when the Sanhedrim pronounced him guilty and called on Pilate to execute him. Third, the Gentiles were "to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him," which was done by the soldiers of Pilate with his consent. Fourth, on the third day he was to rise again, and this was effected by the power of God. If we only credit Matthew’s statement, that this prediction was made by Jesus while he was yet alive and before he made his last visit to Jerusalem, we must regard it as one of the most remarkable predictions recorded even in the Bible.

Jesus Again Predicts His Death - Matthew 20:17-19

Open It

1. What funeral/burial arrangements do you want for yourself?

2. Why are some people unshakable in their pursuit of goals, while others are easily deterred?

3. When do you feel safe enough to confide in a person?

Explore It

4, Who was traveling with Jesus at this time? (Matthew 20:17)

5. Where was Christ going when He spoke of His death for the third time? Why? (Matthew 20:17-18)

6. How can you tell that the disciples weren’t sure what lay ahead? (Matthew 20:17-18)

7. What title did Jesus use to refer to Himself? (Matthew 20:18)

8. To whom did Jesus say He would be betrayed? (Matthew 20:18)

9. What did Jesus say the chief priests and teachers of the law would ultimately do? (Matthew 20:18)

10. Who did Jesus say would kill Him? (Matthew 20:19)

11. What pain and shame did Jesus predict for Himself before the actual crucifixion? (Matthew 20:19)

12. What did Jesus say would happen three days after His death? (Matthew 20:19)

13. When would Jesus be raised from the dead? (Matthew 20:19)

Get It

14. How would you respond to someone who talked about their own death several times?

15. Why is the death of Christ significant to us?

16. Why is Christ’s death significant to you?

17. If Christ knew suffering and death awaited him in Jerusalem, why was He determined to go there?

18. What goals in life are you committed to pursuing no matter what?

19. Why would people who saw Christ’s deeds and heard his words still reject Him?

20. About what other future events has God given us some warning or glimpse?

Apply It

21. What can you do this week to come to a greater appreciation for the death of Christ?

22. What can you do to say thank you to Christ for suffering for you?

Ambition of James and John, Matthew 20:20-28.
(
Mark 10:35-45)

20. mother of Zebedee’s children.—Her name was Salome. (Matthew 27:61. Comp. Mark 15:40.) The fact that both here and in Matthew 27:56, she is called "the mother of Zebedee’s children," rather than the wile of Zebedee, has led to the very probable conjecture that Zebedee had died since his two sons had left him in the fishing boat. (Mark 1:20.) This conjecture has also led to another, that the disciple who had asked leave to go and bury his father (Matthew 8:21) was James or John, their father having died just previous to that time.

worshiping him.—Worshiping in the sense of humble prostration before him, not in the sense of paying him divine honors.

21. What wilt thou?—She had asked, in indefinite terms, "a certain thing of him" (Matthew 20:20, comp. Mark 10:35), but he declines to answer until she states in specific terms what she desires.

on thy right hand.—The place of highest honor in the courts of kings is at the right hand of the throne, and the next, at the left hand. Salome therefore desired to secure for her two sons the highest possible honors in the expected kingdom.

22. Ye know not.—Although the mother alone had spoken, Jesus treats the request as that of the two sons, by using the plural "ye," and addressing his answer exclusively to them. The request was understood in the same way by the ten. (Matthew 20:24.) They knew not what they were asking, because to sit on his right hand and on his left was far different from what they thought, and was to be obtained in a way of which they had no conception.

the cup that I shall drink.—It was common in ancient times to execute criminals by compelling them to drink a cup of poison, and assassination and suicide were often effected by the same means. The cup, therefore, became a symbol of suffering and of death, and it is so used here. The words of this and the next verse that are in brackets are copied from Mark 10:38-39, where they will be considered.

23. Ye shall drink.—James drank the cup by suffering martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa, being the first of the apostles to suffer death. (Acts 12:2.) John lived to an old age, outliving all of the other apostles, and died a natural death; but he drank the cup by the sufferings through which he passed.

not mine to give.—The rendering should be, "not mine to give except to those for whom it is prepared by my Father." (Alford.) It was his to give it, but only to those for whom it is prepared by the Father.

24. moved with indignation.—Nothing moves the indignation of men more than to know that one of a company of equals is plotting to get an undue advantage over the others. It was now necessary that Jesus should interfere as a peacemaker.

25-28. not be so among you.—To sit on his right hand and on his left in the kingdom would not only be an honor, but it would give authority. Jesus informs them that while the princes and the great among the Gentiles exercise dominion and authority, it is not to be so in his kingdom, but that the post of honor is to be the post of servitude. The one who would be great must be their minister (δικονος, domestic servant), and he who would be chief (πρτος, first), must be their slave (δολος). He enforces the lesson by his own example, in that he came not to have men serve him, but that he might serve them. In this way both the ambition of James and John, and the indignation of the others, were suppressed. It is impossible for preachers, teachers, and other workers in the Church, to study this lesson too carefully.

A Mother’s Request - Matthew 20:20-28

Open It

1. What is it inside us that recoils at the idea of serving others?

2. Why do some parents try so hard to plan and run their children’s lives?

3. What are the pluses and minuses of ambition?

Explore It

4. Who came to Jesus? Why? (Matthew 20:20)

5. What favor did James and John’s mother ask Jesus? (Matthew 20:21)

6. How did Jesus respond to the request that James and John get special treatment? (Matthew 20:22)

7. What curious question did Jesus ask James and John? (Matthew 20:22)

8. How did James and John answer Jesus’ cryptic question? (Matthew 20:22)

9. What did Jesus promise James and John? (Matthew 20:23)

10. What did Jesus refuse to promise James and John? (Matthew 20:23)

11. According to Jesus, who will decide the positions of honor and authority in the kingdom of God? (Matthew 20:23)

12. What was the reaction of the other disciples to this whole dialogue? (Matthew 20:24)

13. Whose leadership style did Jesus condemn? (Matthew 20:25)

14. How did Jesus define leadership? (Matthew 20:26-27)

15. What did Jesus say was His mission in life? (Matthew 20:28)

Get It

16. When does honorable ambition become dishonorable?

17. Who among the people in your church do you think will receive the greatest rewards in heaven?

18. How does our culture follow the "Gentile pattern of leadership"?

19. How can jealousy and pride destroy the unity of a group of people?

20. On what basis should honors, awards, and rewards be given?

21. What do you think about people who use connections to try to get favors?

22. In what ways might you have to suffer for the sake of Christ?

23. What opportunities do you have to serve others as Christ taught?

24. In what ways do you need to back off and let your children lead their own lives and make their own decisions?

Apply It

25. What three acts can you do today in service to others?

26. What is one specific way you could build unity among your circle of Christian friends this week?

Verses 29-34

Mat 20:29-34

The Blind Men at Jericho, Matthew 20:29-34.
(
Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35 to Luke 19:1)

J.W. McGarvey

29. departed from Jericho.—Departed in the direction of Jerusalem; for they were then, as previously stated, "going up to Jerusalem." (Matthew 20:17.) Their arrival at Jericho is not mentioned, because the writer is not aiming to give an account of all that was done, but only of certain detached incidents.

30. thou Son of David.—On the meaning of this expression, and on the faith of blind men, see the notes, Matthew 9:27-28.

31. the multitude rebuked them.—Their clamor appeared to the multitude indecorous, and it interrupted conversation; hence their desire to suppress it. The multitude were thinking of their own comfort and dignity instead of sympathizing with the unfortunate.

32, 33. stood still and called them.—To rebuke the indifference of the multitude, as well as to grant the petition of the blind men, Jesus showed, by stopping and calling them to him, that he had not been indifferent to their cries. They had cried only for mercy: he makes them tell in what way they desire him to manifest it, and then he grants their request. They needed Far more of his mercy than they called for; but, like men in general, they thought more of their bodily than of their spiritual ills.

34. they followed him.—Though they came not for spiritual comfort, the bodily blessing which they received attached their hearts to Jesus and led them in the direction of the blessings yet more to be desired.

Two Blind Men Receive Sight - Matthew 20:29-34

Open It

1. Which is more humiliating: being with someone who makes a scene, or losing control yourself and causing a scene?

2. What one miracle do you wish God would do for you?

3. What makes some people quiet and others loud?

Explore It

4. Where did the incident in this passage take place? (Matthew 20:29)

5. Who was with Jesus? When? (Matthew 20:29)

6. Who was following Jesus? When? (Matthew 20:29)

7. Who happened to be sitting by the roadside when Jesus passed by? (Matthew 20:30)

8. What did the people sitting by the roadside do when they heard Jesus was nearby? (Matthew 20:30)

9. What was the crowd’s reaction to the scene that developed? (Matthew 20:31)

10. How did the crowd’s words affect the two blind men? (Matthew 20:31)

11. What did Jesus do in the midst of all the commotion? (Matthew 20:32)

12. What did Jesus ask the two blind men? (Matthew 20:32)

13. What request did the blind men make of Jesus? (Matthew 20:33)

14. Why did Jesus grant the request made of Him? (Matthew 20:34)

15. How did the men who were healed show their gratitude? (Matthew 20:34)

Get It

16. Why would people discourage two blind men from seeking help from God?

17. In what ways does the fear of embarrassment prevent us from following Christ?

18. In what ways are we spiritually blind?

19. In what ways have people tried to discourage you from seeking Jesus or praying in a certain way?

20. How does it test our faith to hear others doubt God?

21. To what area of your life does this passage apply most clearly?

22. How would you define compassion?

23. How are you doing in the area of showing compassion?

24. What means has God given you for showing compassion in concrete gestures of kindness?

25. After all that Christ has done for us, in what ways can we show our gratitude?

Apply It

26. What person in your life needs your compassion today?

27. How can you show love and kindness to a hurting individual?

28. What step of trust in God do you need to take today regardless of how foolish others might think it to be?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 20". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/matthew-20.html.
 
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