This Chapter contains, the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard: Jesus' discourse with the mother of Zebedee's children: and the cure of two blind men.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. (2) And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (3) And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, (4) And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. (5) Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. (6) And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? (7) They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. (8) So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. (9) And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. (10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. (11) And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, (12) Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (13) But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (14) Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. (15) Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"
The kingdom of heaven, means the kingdom of grace, leading to the kingdom of glory. The man represented under the character of householder is God. Ephesians 3:16. The vineyard is the Church. Isaiah 5:1, etc. The different seasons of hours intimate the different ages of the world, as well as the different ages of life. And by the market place, is intended the word and ordinances of the Gospel. Idle persons may be found under the word and ordinances, as well as the diligent, who use the means of grace profitably. The day of hire means the day of life. The evening the close of it: and the wages of a penny, means not the merit of man but the gift of God. For the wages of sin is death: but it is the gift of God which is eternal life; and this through Jesus CHRIST our Lord. Romans 6:23.
The equality of wages, is a beautiful illustration of the free and sovereign grace of God; because, strictly and properly speaking, it is all free: no merit, no pretensions of merit, in one more than another, making the smallest claim to favor. The Vineyard, the Church, and the Laborers in the Church, all the gift of God the Father, the purchase of God the Son, and the whole cultivation from the work of God the Holy Ghost. And however different the measures of grace, and strength, and ability given; yet the whole is the Lord's not theirs; and everything speaks aloud that the whole efficiency is of him. Not by might, nor b y power, but by my Spirit, said the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6.
Now what a beautiful similitude is here, of the kingdom of grace! Such is the Church of Jesus, as a vineyard gathered out of the world's wide wilderness; chosen (as scripture expresseth it) by God the Father; purchased by God the Son; and set apart in the regenerating and purifying grace of God the Holy Ghost Reader! at what age are you standing? Hath the Lord called you at the early morning of life, the mid-day, the afternoon, or evening? Are you in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts? or are you still idle in the market-place? Oh! the unspeakable blessedness of knowing, under divine teaching, that we are saved and called with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. 2 Timothy 1:9.
"So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."
See the Note on Matthew 22:14.
"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, (18) Behold, we go 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, (19) And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again."
I pray the Reader not to overlook our Lord's delight in speaking of his approaching death. This is the third time the Lord reminds his disciples of it within a few Chapters. Matthew 16:21, and Matthew 17:22-23. And again in this place. Every act of Jesus testified his promptness to the work, as though he longed for it. Lo? I come (said Jesus,) to do thy will: O God. I delight to do it: yea, thy law is in the midst of my bowels; And when Peter out, of love (though a mistaken love) for his master, wished it to be otherwise; Jesus rebuked him, yea, called him Satan, for what he said. Never did the meek and loving Savior ever drop such an expression before: so very intent was he on finishing the work his Father gave him to do, and so much displeased was he with anyone who wished it to be otherwise. Precious Lord Jesus! was this thine ardent love to thy spouse the Church, as one longing to bring her out of the prison-house of sin and Satan, though all the cataracts of divine wrath for sin. Were broken up, to be poured on thy sacred head!
"Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. (21) And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom."
It is probable that this mother of Zebedee's children was Salome. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:40. Both the mother and sons had no views at this time of any kingdom but a kingdom of this world. It is remarkable that the poor woman asked nothing for herself, but for her sons. Oh! how the feelings of nature exceed those of grace! How much more anxious parents are, to see their children rise to the enjoyment of the things of this world, than they are to see them made wise unto salvation for those to come.
"But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. (23) And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed 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."
What a tender answer of Christ! And true enough both James and John drank of the same cup though not to the dregs, as Jesus did in the alter exercises of their life. James was the first of the Apostles who bore testimony to Christ by his blood, Acts 12:2. And John tells the Church in his banishment, of his sufferings for the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 1:9. I beg the Reader not to overlook our Lord's expressions, concerning the sitting at his right hand in glory. It is not mine to give but for whom it is prepared of my Father. For I beg the Reader to notice, that the words put in between those words of Christ, it shall be given to them, are not in the original, neither ought they to have been introduced in the translation. And the doctrine without them is the pure doctrine of the Gospel. It is not mine to give but to those whom the Father hath given to me, in an everlasting covenant which cannot be broken. But all whom the Father hath given me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. And elsewhere Jesus expresseth the same blessed truth: for speaking to his Father he saith: A s thou hast given him power over all flesh: that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. John 6:37; Joh_17:2.
And what a glorious consideration is it that such a provision is made for the Lord's redeemed ones in the eternal purpose, council, and will of Jehovah: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: nothing disposing to the gift of such unequalled mercy but the divine favour: and neither depending upon the merit of man, nor any of the after arrangements of life. Oh! the glories of grace! Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!
"And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. (25) But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. (26) But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; (27) And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (28) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
In the conduct of the disciples towards James and John, we behold a renewed instance of the effects of our fallen nature. No man hath ever calculated, or can indeed calculate, the vast injury sustained by Satan's seduction of our first parents, and the whole race of human nature in them. Oh! how doth the thought of it tend to heighten the immense mercies in the recovery of the Church by Christ. Reader! see in the disciples of Jesus, the proof of a body of sin and death, though the soul he renewed by grace. They were men of like passions with ourselves. How many heart aches would it have saved me in days past, had I learnt of Jesus the humbling lesson he here taught them, in what the growth of grace consists: namely, in being more and more lowly in heart, from a conviction of unworthiness, and more and more to see my need of Jesus. Precious example in this minister of salvation; who came not to be ministered unto, but though Lord of all, became servant of all, and who gave his life a ransom for many. John 13:14; Philippians 2:7; 1 Timothy 2:6.
"And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. (30) And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. (31) And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. (32) And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? (33) They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. (34) So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."
There is no doubt, but that the miracle Jesus wrought on those men is the same which Mark takes notice of Mark 10:46, and Luke 18:35: although both those Evangelists mention but of one blind man, while here Matthew speaks of two. But there is no contradiction in the history. It is the fact of the miracle itself, each writer had in view, and not the very circumstances of each. Many very precious instructions arise out of it, which I pray God the Holy Ghost to bring home to the heart of his people. The grace of Jesus in the act; the proof he thereby gave of his Messiahship. Isaiah 35:5. The place where it was wrought, near Jericho, the cursed city. Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34. Jesus bestows blessings; himself becoming a curse for his people, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21. The sovereign act of Jesus, in the freeness and fulness of his mercy, as a testimony of his Godhead; for on the supposition of an eyeless socket, it is not simply giving sight to the blind but anew creation. And who but God himself can do this? The conduct of those blind, also hold forth many sweet instructions. They were in the highway begging. It is good to be found in the highway of ordinances, where Jesus passeth by. The cry of those men under a sense of their misery, and Jesus' power afford great lessons to teach men how to pray, and not to faint. But who taught them that Jesus was the Son of David; that is the Messiah which should come? Who indeed, but he to whom they came could lead them to himself? Observe also, how earnest, how clamorous they were; and how they held on, spite of the unkind multitude who rebuked them. Oh! how earnest ought we to be, when we ask Jesus is the light of the soul. And if men revile, or would stifle our cries, may the Lord give us grace to be the more importunate; have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son; of David! And do thou blessed Master and Lord, give the grace to thy children, both to be sensible of our spiritual blindness; and to be as earnest in the cry of the soul for deliverance from it: and may that grace of thine in our hearts be more powerful to lead to thee, than all the world, or sin, or unbelief, to keep from thee. But may all thy redeemed, though blinded by sin, be so taught by grace, that they may besiege thy throne night and day, until the Lord hath heard and answered prayer; and then follow thee in the regeneration, beholding with open face, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Who can read in this Chapter, the striking Parable of the householder hiring laborers into his Vineyard, and not feel conviction at the free, sovereign, purposing, appointing, carrying on, and completing grace of God? Is not the Vineyard of the Lord of hosts, his Church: and every plant in it of the Lord's right hand planting? What! if Jesus sends his under servants his ministers to labor in his service; or calls his people to sit down under his shadow, do either lessen the right and property of the Almighty owner? Is not the whole his, by gift, by purchase, by right, by conquest, and by power? And is it not separated by redeeming grace from the world's wide wilderness, and fenced in with love? Ye ministers of my God! esteem it the highest honor, to labor within the sacred inclosure, and be more anxious to win souls than to win kingdoms. Ye children of the Lord! whether in the early, mid-day, or later calls of his grace; bless God for the distinguishing mercy. Soon will the evening of life come; and the Lord of the Vineyard will call ye home, from his courts below to his heaven above.
Precious Lord Jesus! I behold thee by the eye of faith in thine ascent to Jerusalem! Yes! truly there thou wast delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification! Grant me dearest Lord to be more anxious to be brought under the continual baptisms of thy spirit, than to arrive at the highest temporal honors. A door-keeper in thy house, far exceeds the golden tents of the ungodly.
In the review of my Lord's mercy to those poor blind men, and the grace imparted to them to be so earnest with Jesus for bodily sight; teach me, thou gracious giver of eyes to the blind, to imitate their cries for spiritual apprehension of my Lord's person, work, and righteousness. Oh! for grace to see the king in his beauty, and to have my soul so awakened to desires after Christ, that I may follow my God and Savior by faith here, till in open vision I shall see him as he is, and dwell with him forever!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany