corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.11.13
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Matthew 20

 

 

Verses 1-16

B. The Reward in the Spirit of Free Grace. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Matthew 20:1-16

(The Gospel for Septuagesima.)

1For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder [like to a human householder, ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδεσπότῃ], which [who] went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard 2 And when he had agreed [having agreed, συμφωνήσας] with the labourers for a penny [denáry, or shilling][FN1] a day, he sent them into his vineyard 3 And he went out about the third hour [at nine o’clock, A. M.], and saw others standing idle in the market-place, 4And 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 [at noon] and ninth hour [at three o’clock, P. M.], and did likewise 6 And about the eleventh hour [an hour before sunset] he went out, and found others standing idle,[FN2] and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto him, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.[FN3] 8So when even [evening] was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward [overseer], 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 [denáry, shilling]. 10But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received [should receive, λήφονται] more; and they likewise received every man a penny [denáry]. 11And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house [householder, 12οἰκοδεσπότον], Saying, These last have wrought [made] but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which [who] have borne the burden and heat of the day 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend,[FN4] I do thee no wrong: didst not thou 14 agree with me for a penny [denáry, or shilling]? Take that thine is [what is thine, τὸ σόν lit.: the thine], and go thy way: [but I will give unto this last, even as unto 15 thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be [are] called, but few chosen.[FN5]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 20:1. For the kingdom of heaven is like.—This parable is evidently intended as an illustration and explanation of Christ’s former teaching [especially of the last verse of the preceding chapter, as is shown by the connecting γάρ. Hence the division of chapters here, as Trench justly observes, is peculiarly unfortunate.] For a number of ancient treatises on this parable, see Lilienthal’s Bibl. Archivarius, p91; for more recent discussions, the Studien und Kritiken (Rupprecht, 1847, p396 sqq.; Steffensen, 1848, p686 sqq.). On the difficulties of this parable [second only to those of the parable of the Unjust Steward], see Heubner, p300. [Latin dissertations on the Parabola de Operariis in Vinea, by J. L. Mosheim, 1724; A. H. Faust, 1725; F. S. Lœffler, 1726; F. A. Zülich, 1741; J. R. Kiesling, 1740; J. H. Schramm, 1775, etc. Of English expositions, see especially Trench, Notes on the Parables, 9th Lond. ed, 1863, pp161–184, and Alford in loc.—P. S.]

A human householder.—In contrast to God, who is the Householder in the highest and truest sense. As in [It is plain that the householder signifies God; the vineyard, the kingdom of heaven (comp. Isaiah 5:1-7; Song of Solomon 8:12); the steward ( Matthew 20:8), Christ; the twelfth hour of the day, or the evening, the parusia of Christ; the other hours, the different periods of calling and its service. The difficulty lies in the symbolical meaning of the denáry and in determining the chief lesson of the parable. See below.—P. S.]

Matthew 20:2. For a denary (or shilling) a day.—Both these terms are intended to express the fact, that the servants were hired in the proper sense of the term, which is also implied in ἐκδηναρίον. A Roman denarius was the common pay for a day’s labor ( Tobit 5:14 : a drachma). The Attic drachma was equal to the Roman denarius, and amounted to six oboli, or about seven and a half pence sterling, or fifteen American cents. “That this hire was equitable,[FN6] appears from the circumstance that at a time of scarcity, the denarius would be sufficient to purchase what was requisite for man’s daily support; Revelation 6:6.” Starke.

[The meaning of the denáry is a crux interpretum, and reminds us of what Chrysostom and Maldonatus say in loc, that we must not scrupulously press every particular in a parable, but keep always in view the general scope. Parables are poetic pictures taken from real life for the illustration of the higher truths and realities of the kingdom of heaven, and contain with the essential figures some ornamental touches which are necessary for the artistic finish, although they may not express definitely a corresponding idea or fact in the spiritual world. The denáry here undoubtedly conveys the idea of reward, but in a very general way. As soon as we particularize it, we get into almost inextricable difficulties. Two opposite views must be mentioned. (1) The denáry means the temporal reward only, and those who were hired first, while they receive their stipulated denáry, lose eternal life and are ultimately lost The Lord says to them at last: Take thy miserable penny, the wages of a day-laborer on earth, and go thy way (ν̔́παγε), i.e, depart from Me ( Matthew 20:14). So Luther (in his later writings: The penny is the temporal good, the favor of the householder, the eternal good; the murmuring laborers trot away with their penny, and are damned), more recently Stier (who zealously and elaborately defends this interpretation), W. Nast (who fully agrees with him), and Wordsworth. At first sight this view offers a plausible escape from the difficulties of the second, but it is hardly in keeping with the dignity of the parable, and is made impossible by the fact that the penny is paid at the close of the day, i.e, at the end of man’s life or the day of final account, when the temporal reward ceases. Godliness is indeed profitable for all things and has the promise of this life as well as of that which is to come; but the temporal blessings accompany the work itself, while the eternal reward follows it after it is finished. (2) The denáry means eternal salvation. So Origen, Augustine (Serm. Matthew 343: “Denarius ille vita œterna Esther, quœ omnibus par est”), Gregory I, Bernard, Luther (in his Com. on Galatians 3:2), Maldonatus (salus et vita œterna), Meyer (das Messianische Heil), Lange (with some modification: the blessing of Christian communion, see his Doctrinal Thoughts below), Alford (eternal life, or God Himself), and many others. To this view the following objections may be urged: (a) Eternal life is not a reward or wages for work performed, but a free gift of grace. True; yet there is a reward of grace as well as a reward of merit, and in the former sense eternal life is constantly represented by Christ and the apostles as a μισθός (variously rendered in the E. V. by reward, hire, and wages), see Matthew 5:12 (“great is your reward in heaven”); Matthew 10:41-42; Luke 6:23; Luke 6:35; Luke 10:7; John 4:36; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:14 etc. The selection of so small a price as a denáry for so great a good as eternal life is to be explained from the nature of the parable and the fact that a denáry was the usual pay for a day’s work.—(b) The laborers who were first called, engaged in the service of God in a mercenary spirit, which is indicated by ἐκ δηναρίον i.e, for the sake of a denáry,[FN7] and their murmuring and dissatisfaction, as well as the rebuke administered to them on the day of account ( Matthew 20:11-15), seems inconsistent with the fact of their final salvation. For envy, as Words worth remarks, disqualifies for heaven and is an inward hell. But it should be observed, first, that the murmuring occurs before they enter into heaven proper; secondly, that the laborers who were called first, are placed, not outside of the kingdom of heaven, but simply last in the kingdom, Matthew 19:30; Matthew 20:16; thirdly, that we have a full parallel in the parable of the Prodigal Song of Solomon, whose elder brother showed envy and anger at the mercy extended to the Prodigal, and yet the father expressly said unto him: “ Song of Solomon, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine;” Luke 15:28-31. In both cases this manifestation of dissatisfaction must be explained from a primary reference of the parable to the Jews and their inveterate and almost insurmountable prejudice against the Gentiles. It is introduced for the purpose of rebuking their mercenary and envious disposition, and commending the more disinterested spirit of the Gentile converts who went to work as soon as they were called, without a definite agreement as to price, but implicitly trusting in the justice and mercy of the householder, who would give them far more than they could ask or deserve. But although the laborers who were called first, were ultimately admitted into heaven with the rest, yet many of them occupy there the last place, and enjoy a far inferior degree of glory than many others who were called last. Cœlum omnibus est idem, sed gloria dispar, or as Augustine has it: splendor dispar, cœlum commune. Thus the denáry, or final reward, although the same objectively considered, is very different subjectively, according to the different degrees of capacity for bliss, and moral perfection on the part of the receivers. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:41, and the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:15-30, and the parable of the pounds, Luke 19:12-26. With this explanation we regard the second view as substantially correct, certainly preferable to the first, although it is doubtful whether we are authorized, in the original sense and intent of the parable, to go beyond the general idea of reward. Comp. Lange’s Doctrinal Thoughts below.—P. S.]

The expression day refers to that period of time in the narrower sense. The Jews reckoned the day in the wider sense from sunset to sunset (comp. Leviticus 23:32). Before the Babylonish captivity the day was divided into morning, noon, evening, and a twofold twilight. Gradually, however, the division into hours was introduced, which in the Old Testament occur under the Chaldee designation of שׁעִה. The Jews seem to have adopted the division of the day into hours during their residence in Babylon. As every natural day was divided into twelve hours, their duration necessarily varied at different periods of the year. The longest day in Palestine consists of fourteen hours and twelve minutes; the shortest, of nine hours and forty-eight minutes. About the third hour, or at nine o’clock in the morning, the market-place would be full of people. “Vitringa applies the term hours to different periods of history. Thus he regards ‘early in the morning,’=Adam; ‘the third hour,’=Abraham; ‘the sixth hour,’=Moses; ‘the ninth hour,’=the latter times, when the Edomites, under John Hyrcanus, became converts to Judaism; ‘the eleventh hour,’ = the time of Christ. Similarly Origen and Hilary.”[FN8] Heubner.—On this point comp. the Doctrinal Thoughts below.

Matthew 20:4. Whatever is right.—In the general sense; whatever is equitable. The idea of a regular engagement for a definite hire gradually disappears. The first laborers were hired for a day; their remuneration being not only fixed, but serving as their motive (ἐκ). The next laborers were merely promised an equitable acknowledgment of their services; while in the last instance, according to the best accredited reading ( Matthew 20:7), no promise at all was made to those who went into the vineyard.

Matthew 20:7. Because no man hath hired us.—This trait is of great importance in the interpretation of the parable. Comp. Romans 11; Acts 14:16.

Matthew 20:8. Unto his steward, ἐπίτροπος.—The term was equally applied to those who administered whole provinces and single households. In this case, the steward of a household. [Christ is the overseer set over the house of God and entrusted with the whole economy of salvation including the distribution of the final rewards, Hebrews 3:6; John 5:27; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:28, etc.—P. S.]—Their hire.—Meyer: The hire which the master had previously told him to give. But in this case it is intended to combine the idea of a day’s hire with that of hire in the more general sense; in short, the full amount of their hire.

[It is a gratuitous assumption that the last hired laborers worked as much in one hour as the rest during several hours or the whole day, and that for this reason they received the same reward. God does, indeed, not measure His reward by the length of man’s life, but by the intensity of his labor and the fidelity of his services, and the parable implies a protest against the quantitative appreciation of men’s works, as distinct from the qualitative. But this is not the main lesson of the parable, as Maldonatus[FN9] and Kuinoel affirm, else the circumstance, on which the narrative turned, would have been mentioned in this place or afterwards.—P. S.]

Matthew 20:12. Have done (spent) but one hour, ἐποίησαν—Not wrought, but passed one hour in working. Evidently indicating their contempt for the others; which also appears from such expressions as “these last,” and from their laying stress on their own work. This is likewise implied in the arrangement of the words: “Thou hast made them equal unto us—unto us who have borne the burden of the day (having wrought for twelve hours), and its heat (at noon).” Καν́σων, lit.: the scorcher, used here in the general sense for noon-day heat, but in the Sept. frequently for the hot wind from the south.

Matthew 20:13. But he answered one of them.—This trait must not be overlooked. The householder does rot deem it necessary to excuse his conduct before all the laborers, and only explains it to one of them, by way of information for the rest.

Friend.—Not ironically, but as an expression of kindness, to show that the rebuke which followed was not the result of partiality.

Matthew 20:15. Is thine eye evil?—Not a doubtful question, nor a mere suggestion, but intended to show the impropriety of such evil seeing, when the householder manifested so much kindness. On the expression ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός, comp. Matthew 6:23; Proverbs 28:22. In this instance it refers to envy. History records the terrible consequences of such “an evil eye” ever since the time of Cain. Eastern and Southern nations assign a pernicious and baneful effect to the evil eye.

Matthew 20:16. The last shall be first.—On the ground to which we have before referred, the statement is here reversed.

[This verse contains the lesson of the parable, comp. the last verse of the preceding chapter and the connecting γάρ in the first verse of this. It illustrates the truth that many (not all, see Matthew 19:30) first shall be last, and (many) last shall be first, or that the order in the calling of individuals and nations will in many cases be reversed in their final position in heaven. This truth is an encouragement to those who are called at a late period of their lives, but still more a solemn warning to those who are called early, urging them to be humble and ever mindful of their unworthiness before God, lest they be overtaken by others or forfeit the reward altogether. Bengel observes on ἔσονται: respectu apostolorum non, est prœdictio sed admonitio. The admonition contained in the words: the first shall be last, was intended first for apostles, especially for Peter, whose self-exalting and somewhat mercenary question in Matthew 19:27 called forth this parable, and whose subsequent history sadly revealed the danger of self-confidence; then for Jewish Christians generally, who were so prone to look down with envy upon the Gentile converts, and to set up peculiar claims, as if salvation was of merit and not of free grace; and lastly, for all Christians, who enjoy special spiritual privileges and the great blessing of an early acquaintance with the Saviour.—This is the main lesson of the parable as plainly set forth in the opening and concluding sentences. What other commentators have set forth as the main lesson, is either not taught at all, or taught only incidentally or by implication, as: the equality of rewards in the kingdom of heaven (Augustine, etc.; but this must be modified by the doctrine of different degrees of glory); the kingdom of heaven is of grace, not of debt, but God will strictly fulfil all his covenant promise in its integrity (Rupprecht, Alford); God rewards not according to the time, but according to the kind and fidelity of service (Maldonatus), etc.—P. S.]

For many are called.—Our Lord here shows that this reversal of the outward order was not arbitrary, but depended upon a higher and internal order. Those who are chosen do not exclude them that are merely called; but, from their earnestness and the absence of all mercenary spirit, they occupy a higher place than the latter. This characteristic is indicated in the parable by the circumstance, that these laborers went to the vineyard without the promise of any definite hire, and even without the assurance of any reward at all. On the other hand, in [Trench explains: “Many are called to work in God’s vineyard, but few retain that temper of spirit, humility, and submission to God, which will allow them at last to be partakers of His reward.” Similarly Alford, who disconnects these words from the parable. But the connection is more readily accounted for if we explain the sentence somewhat differently here, from what is its obvious meaning in the parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son ( Matthew 22:14), where it contains the moral of the parable. Bengel in loc. observes: “̓Εκλεκτοί exquisiti prœ aliis. Videtur, hoc loco, ubi primum occurrit, non omnes salvandos denotare, sed horum excellentissimos.” So Olshausen, who makes the called and the chosen alike partakers of final salvation, but with different degrees of standing.—P. S.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Meaning of this parable.—It is unnecessary to prove that the vineyard is intended to designate the kingdom of heaven (see Isaiah 5:1; Matthew 21:28; Matthew 21:33). The kingdom of heaven is compared to a vineyard because it produces the noblest fruits, even love, peace, and blessedness, of which the precious fruit of the vine is a faint emblem. Besides, the need of careful cultivation and of seasonable weather, as also of good soil and sunny exposure, and of a favorable climate, are features which make the vineyard a fit symbol of the kingdom of heaven.

But the first point to be ascertained Isaiah, whether the vineyard is intended as an emblem of the kingdom of God generally, in its various economies, or only of the New Testament economy of the Church. According to Gray, Seiler, and others, the first hired were the Jews, and those who were last engaged, the Gentiles. Heubner denies the correctness of this view. It is certainly of great importance to remember that this parable was primarily, and almost exclusively, intended for the disciples. Hence it must evidently refer, in the first place, to the New Testament economy, although it is at the same time applicable to the various economies of the kingdom of God; while Matthew 21:33 primarily refers to the Old Testament economy and its termination. By thus restricting the import of the parable, its leading features become more distinct and definite. Above all, it is of the greatest importance to keep in mind that it is intended to illustrate the statement, “Many that are first shall be last,” but not meant to teach that all that are first shall be last, etc. Perhaps we might arrive at such a conclusion from the circumstance, that in the parable all that are first are described as sharing the same mercenary spirit; but this is only intended to convey the idea that, as a body, and in reference to their general spirit, such was the case. We shall by and by see in what sense this was true.

To return: The vineyard is the kingdom of heaven under the New Testament, from its first commencement; the householder is God (see the passages above quoted); the steward is Christ, in His capacity as the Judge of the world ( Matthew 25); the laborers are, in the first place, the regular ministers in the kingdom of God, and secondarily, believers in general. To this interpretation Heubner objects that the people must be represented by the vineyard itself. In answer to this, we again remind the reader, that symbolical expressions must not be confounded with dogmatical statements. Thus, on one occasion, our Lord Himself is compared to a vine ( John 15:1); while on another, even the weakest Christians may be designated as laborers in the vineyard, just as in Matthew 21:31 converted publicans and harlots are compared to the son who, returning to his obedience, goes to work in the vineyard. Every Christian must seek to advance the kingdom of God, or be a laborer in His vineyard—by his confession, by his Christian conduct, and, above all, by the spiritual character which attaches to his ordinary labor and avocation, however humble it may appear in the sight of men. The different laborers evidently indicate not only different stages of faith and worth, but also difference of individuality. Their reward is given them individually, while the explanation of the householder is also addressed to one of them individually. Similarly, the different hours refer not only to different periods in the history of the Church, but also to different stages in our own life and experience, although the former idea is perhaps more prominently brought out. Hence we may remark, that those who were hired “early in the morning” were not merely the Apostles, but also Jewish Christians generally. Accordingly, the whole of that class are represented in the parable as displaying a mercenary spirit—a characteristic which, so far as the Apostles were concerned, was only intended as a warning. This will also assist us in explaining the statement about the denáry. Those who were hired in the third hour were found standing in the market-place. This may probably be referred to the Jewish proselytes, who congregated along with the Jews in the most public place of the kingdom of heaven as then existing, or in the synagogue. Those who were hired at the sixth and the ninth hour, were the Gentile races who inhabited the ancient Greek and Roman empires, and those barbarous tribes who, after the migration of nations, were brought into the Church. Lastly, they who were converted at the eleventh hour may be the last fruits from among the Jews and Gentiles, gathered through the missionary labors of the latter days. The evening is the hour of final reward for those who labored in the vineyard. That festive evening of the Church will take place at the second appearing of Christ—which must not be confounded with the final judgment;—while, so far as each individual is concerned, the festive evening commences with our entrance into the Church triumphant, although in a certain sense it may be said to begin whenever we taste of the blessings connected with the invisible Church. From the general character of this parable, it is evident that its main point lies in the idea of an hour of reward. It is not easy to ascertain the exact meaning attaching to the hire of a denáry or shilling (see Heubner, p300). Gerhard remarks, in his Harmonia, that the denáry refers to Christ Himself; while, according to Augustine and Luther ( Galatians 3:2), it means eternal life. In another place, however, Luther remarks that the denáry referred to temporal possessions,[FN10] while the favor of the householder constituted the eternal reward of the laborers. Heubner suggests that the denáry refers to the reward generally; H. Müller, that it applies to all rewards of grace, both in this and in a future life. But if the labor in the vineyard is performed in the service of the Church, the hire must equally refer to Christian fellowship. This blessing may be characterized as forming part of the outward manifestation of the kingdom of Christ and of its benefits. By the word and sacraments—by which Christ is brought to us—we have even now “part and lot in this matter.” But the history of the Jewish Christian Church shows that we may lose our enjoyment of this portion even while possessing it. They had agreed with the Householder ἐκδηναρίον: for the sake of the kingdom of Messiah, and of their part in it, they had gone into the vineyard, or entered the Church. It deserves notice, that the prospect of this kingdom was not so clearly set before those who—so to speak—were engaged at a later hour. In their case, only a general promise was given, and they were to receive whatsoever was right. On this assurance they went into the vineyard. Lastly, as we have seen, according to the best reading ( Matthew 20:7), no mention of any reward was made to those who came at the eleventh hour. Apparently, they were satisfied to be delivered from total inactivity, and happy at the prospect of securing by their labors the favor of Him who had called them. This will serve to explain how, while the same reward was given to all, it led to such a difference of feeling among the laborers. Manifestly, any dea of dissatisfaction or murmuring would be entirely inadmissible, if the reward accorded to the laborers had referred either to Christ Himself, or else to eternal life. On the other hand, temporal possessions would scarcely be characterized as a reward for labor in the vineyard of the Lord. But a share in the blessings of the Church, or in the manifestation of Christ, is a spiritual possession, which at the same time may produce in different persons different, and even contrary, results. This may also serve to throw some light on the parable of the ten virgins. It accounts for the dissatisfaction of the first laborers on receiving the same reward as the last. The Jewish Christians were dissatisfied because the Gentiles were to obtain the same share in the blessings of the Church, or in the kingdom of Messiah. They expected that some distinctive privileges would accrue to them, and thus lapsed into Ebionism, and in the end became the last (even as is the case with the Jewish nation generally). Similarly, at the moment when Judas obtained his share in the Church, at the first celebration of the Eucharist, his murmuring and dissatisfaction became open apostasy.

This leads us to the next inquiry, whether those who were last rewarded were in reality lost, as their murmuring and envy would seem to indicate, or whether they were only reproved for their pretensions and claims. The fact that they received a denary seems in favor of the latter view; but, on the other hand, they appear to have raised some objections to taking their hire, as appears from the expression, “Take what is thine.” When combining this with the circumstance that they were last rewarded, we infer that our Lord intends to indicate that an immense difference of internal capability for spiritual blessings existed between them—pointing forward to the contrast of eternal blessedness and everlasting misery. This is also implied in the parable of the prodigal Song of Solomon, while it is fully brought out in that of the wise and foolish virgins. We need scarcely add that such was really the case in the history of the Church. While the one party regarded the denáry as a scanty and even poor reward, the other took it as a sign and seal of the infinite favor of the Master, and of the free love of God and of Christ. Thus legalism regards, for example, the Lord’s Supper as a merely outward ordinance, implying legal absolution and reconciliation with the Church; while to the humble believer it is a seal of pardon and of final salvation. This difference of view depends on whether we regard the kingdom of heaven in an outward and legalistic manner as conferring certain privileges and rewards, or in an inward and spiritual manner as the kingdom of free love. But there are certain characters who, though intensely conscientious and earnest, are destitute of love. In their Case, the difference between those that are chosen depends exclusively on a smaller capacity for receiving the blessing. But those who are selfish and mere professors are not only less capable of receiving the blessing; they also convert the blessing into a curse. Thus the shilling of reward becomes to them ultimately a punishment and a judgment. But in this parable this point is only alluded to; the main object being to show that many of the last shall be first, to the glory and praise of free grace, and as displaying the righteousness and glory of God.

2. On a previous occasion, the Lord had taught the disciples that the grace of God and the faith or unbelief of man were capable of annulling and bridging over every distance of space in the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 8:11). In the present instance, He shows that the same holds true with reference to time. Grace can not only equalize, but—so to speak—reverse, the times of outward service; and it does so in many cases. It seems as if it restored to genuine believers the time which they had lost Nay, it may convert one day into a thousand years, and a thousand years into one day.

3. We would call special attention to the spiritual progress marked in the parable by the fact, that the idea of a hire gradually recedes from view.

4. The fundamental idea of this parable is the free reward of the kingdom of heaven, not as dictated by arbitrary motives, but as depending on the internal state of mind and heart, in opposition to the legal and common reward in the service of works, which is determined by only outward considerations. The kingdom of heaven does not consist in merely outward performances, to which a certain value attaches. This idea, which was so much fostered by the legalistic spirit of the Pharisees, was all the more effectually refuted in this parable, that it seemed at first, to a certain extent, to admit its accuracy. But after having presented the kingdom of heaven under the figure of hired servants, the parable gradually changes, and exhibits in all its fulness the economy of sovereign mercy, compassion, and love. All these exhibitions are indeed based on the idea of justice—every laborer receives a shilling, none receives too little. But in its combination with love, justice assumes a higher form, and those who have only labored part of the day receive the hire of full work. Hence, according to the notions of legalism, they received too much. But grace manifests itself not only in giving the shilling to those who were last engaged, but also in giving it first to them, while the earliest laborers are last paid. Nor is this dispensation arbitrary, but based on truth. Thus it appears that a mercenary spirit brings its own judgment. It leads to dissatisfaction with the promised reward, and to contempt and envy of those who may have been made the subjects of grace. On the other hand, the latter in reality possess superior inward qualification, as appears from the fact that they agreed to commence labor late in the day, and in simple trustfulness, without any promise of definite reward. Similarly, it is now seen that the shilling, which the one class receives with dissatisfaction and murmuring, is hailed by the other as a reward of free grace. Thus the parable points forward to that of the prodigal, in which the elder son is represented as having been all along in his father’s house, and shared all his possessions without ever rejoicing in his inheritance. Lastly, the righteousness of the reward appears from this, that while the selfishness of the earlier laborers converts their hire into a judgment, it is received by the others as a gift of grace, by which they become the free servants and fellow-laborers of their Lord and Master.

5. It is important to remember that this reward is of grace, although not in the sense of any arbitrariness, nor to the exclusion of the requirements of strict justice. Everything that we possess is indeed a gift of God, in the twofold sense of our having received it either naturally or by grace. Accordingly, every idea of merit in the literal or worldly sense is entirely excluded; yet there is a reward and return, in the relationship subsisting between God and man in the covenant, and in the interchange between promise and duty. To banish every trace of a mercenary spirit, it is not necessary to suppose that believers are not to receive any reward, but to recognize that, along with the penny which Supreme Justice has accorded on the ground of free love, we have by grace received the whole kingdom of heaven, with all that it implies—even as we are able to receive it, in humility and self-surrender, and far above all that we could ask or desire.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The word of the Lord: “The last shall be first, and the first last.” 1. Illustrated by the parable of the laborers in the vineyard; 2. explained by the declaration, “Many are called, but few chosen.”—The laborers in the vineyard: 1. The vineyard of the Lord, and labor in it2. The calling and the character of the laborers3. The work and the hire4. The equality and the difference of the reward.—The equality and the difference in the outward form of the kingdom of God: 1. The equality and the difference of the laborers. All are called to be servants in the kingdom; but one class consists of those who are merely called, or who are external and legal laborers, while the others are also chosen, their labor being internal and free2. The equality and the difference of their work. Their service is one of simple obedience; but in the one case there was the advantage of priority, while at the same time some (lot all of them) seem to have felt the service a burden. The others were engaged for a shorter period, but labored in confidence and joy3. The equality and the difference of the reward: all received the shilling. The external blessing attaching to service in the kingdom of heaven remains the same. All have part in the Church, in its fellowship and its privileges. But to some this appears a scanty hire, if not a kind of punishment; while to those who receive it in faith, it is a sign of infinite grace.—Late repentance.—The festive evening-time.—The reward which the Lord will ultimately grant to His servants: 1. It is not arbitrary, but in accordance with the strictest justice (He rewards only His laborers; He rewards all His laborers; He gives the same reward to all His laborers as such). The equality of the denáry a figure of the equality of God’s justice2. It is not limited, but free and rich, according to the fulness of His love (even those who were last called received a denáry, and may perhaps have received it before the others). 3. It is not a mysterious and silent fate, but the ways of Wisdom of Solomon, which justify themselves.—How the kingdom of free love is reared on the basis of God’s justice.—The kingdom of justice is also that of love: (a) This love is ever just; (b) this justice is ever love.—How a mercenary spirit destroys the position of a laborer in the kingdom of God: He makes merchandize of the calling of God (instead of being a fellow-worker, he becomes an unfaithful, hired servant); he converts the word of God into mere traditions, the work of faith into a burden, the hope of a reward into a claim, and the blessings granted into a judgment.—The one shilling, or the blessing of legal return, may lead some to heaven, while others convert it into a curse.—Comparison between the first and the last laborers: A. first merely a difference, but at last a contrast, between them.—The solemn word of the Judge: Take what is thine.—How self-righteousness brings its own judgment.—How it refutes itself: 1. It demands the promised reward, and yet always expects more2. It only seeks its own, and yet looks with envy upon others3. It does not care for the friendship of the Lord nor the prosperity of His vineyard, but attempts to use Him and the vineyard as a means toward an end; while at the same time he grudges to others the favor of the Lord which they enjoy.—The evil eye of those who are merely outward workers, as illustrated by the history of the Church from the commencement of the kingdom (Cain) until now.—The dire effects of this evil eye.—How the grace of God makes up for everything to the laborers who have entered even at a late hour,—1. for lost time; 2for loss of service; 3. for a lost life; 4. for the lost of the fruits of life.—Import of the shilling to various classes of laborers: 1. It is viewed as the just reward: the value of the labor (Church-fellowship in return for confession and profession). 2. Viewed from a legal point, as if the labor had been forcibly taken; in which case it becomes a spiritual judgment3. Viewed as the reward of love: as the blessing attaching to genuine labor and the pledge of eternal salvation.—What has the legal church to do with that of love?—What have those who are merely outward laborers to do with the blessedness enjoyed by true believers?—Import of the fact that legalism would fain limit and restrain the exercise of free grace (the Lord, His love, His grace, heaven, the Church, inward life).—The signs of a sad evening-time: 1. Murmuring on looking back on the labor and its results2. An evil eye with reference to our neighbor and his success3. Self-contradiction, and the merited rebuke4. The loss of the capacity of enjoying the blessing in peace and gratitude.—How the return made us in the kingdom of God becomes a real reward: 1. If it has been preceded by joy in the work2. If it is a pledge of further activity3. If it is a sign and seal of the favor of the Lord.—The characteristic marks of those who are chosen: 1. They wait for the call of love without knowing it2. They gladly enter the kingdom of love without hesitating3. They do service in the trustfulness of love, without bargaining4. They regard the outward and finite reward as an emblem and a pledge of the infinite love of their Master, without seeking merely the outward hire.

Starke:Zeisius: Eternal salvation is indeed a gift of free grace, but God will have no idle people: He wants laborers in His vineyard.—To stand idle in the market-place of the world.—We must follow the call of God.—We should ever keep in view the reward, Genesis 12:1.—God stretcheth forth his hands all day long, Romans 10:21.—While bearing the burden of the day, let us comfort ourselves with thoughts of the evening of rest.—What God has promised He will certainly perform.—True repentance is never too late.—The penitent thief on the cross.—But it is a most dangerous thing to defer the work of salvation to the last hour.—All legalists are actuated by a mercenary spirit.—Nova Bibl. Tub.: “What advantage then have we? Is God unjust? Has God cast away His people? Romans 11:1-2. Such is the murmuring language of a mercenary spirit.”—Presumption of the hired servants: 1. They boast in their own merits ( Matthew 7:22; Matthew 19:20); 2. they despise and envy others ( Luke 15:2), nay, they presume to question God Himself ( Job 31:2).—Presume not to question God’s mode of administration.—God rewards us as we serve Him.—God is justified when He speaketh, Psalm 51:4.—God has power to do with His own as He pleases.

Lisco:—The laborers: not merely the ministers of the word, but all Christians.—Luther: These words, “The first shall be last,” are intended to remove all presumption, and to prevent our exalting ourselves above any sinner; while the clause, “The last shall be first,” is directed against despair.

Heubner:—It is grace which calls, grace which renders us fit for service, and grace which promises and bestows the reward.—This call is heard in all ages of the Church, and at different periods of our lives.—Our whole life is only one day.—There is a difference between standing idle and going idle.—How many idlers there are in this world! Such are all who only live for themselves.—In proportion as you have formerly lost time, be earnest, diligent, and active in employing the rest of your life.—There is an eternal festive evening for the laborers in Christ’s vineyard.—Conceit and a mercenary spirit lead to dissatisfaction with the ways of God.—There is a great deal of murmuring against the providence of God: 1. In point of fact—murmuring on account of want of outward prosperity, etc.; 2. expressed in various ways—being open or concealed, etc.—The servile spirit, which leads us to regard labor in the vineyard as a burden, renders it really heavy.—The strict justice of God dispensing what is right to every one, even to mercenary laborers.—We shall certainly receive What our labor deserves,—Even merely external virtues, however worthless in a spiritual sense, receive a certain reward; as, for example, chastity, temperance, etc.—The coarse envy of carnal men is directed against the earthly happiness of others, while the more subtle form of that sin is excited by the gifts and distinctions which grace confers upon others.—Many of those who were first, etc. In what respect? 1. With reference to the various periods of the Christian Church; 2. with reference to age; 3. with reference to gifts, office, etc.; 4. with reference to their own opinion.—All who regard themselves as the first, etc.—A Christian should regard everything as of free grace: the labor, the blessing, and the reward.—This passage may well be quoted in opposition to the Popish doctrine of works, but also against Protestant Antinomianism.

K. Zimmermann:—On what principle does our heavenly Father reward His people? 1. Not arbitrarily; 2. according to the law of justice; 3. according to the law of grace; 4. how justice and grace are here combined.—Arndt (Gleichnisse):—Humility in reference to the future reward.—Hofacker:—On the invitation of God to labor in His vineyard.—Goldmann (Erweckungen, 1835):—The characteristic marks of those who are chosen.—Reinhardt:—A mercenary spirit in the practice of what is right.—Haupt:—Haste into the vineyard: the Lord calls, time flies, the reward beckons.—Kuinoel:—The economy of the kingdom of grace.—Nicmann:—How does our labor become a service in the kingdom of God.—Lisco:—He is the humblest Christian who has received most grace.—Ahlfeld:—Evening and its reward.—Florey:—The grace of the Lord is manifest in the case of all the laborers in His vineyard: 1. The call a call of grace; 2. the hour an hour of grace; 3. the labor a labor of grace; 4. the reward a reward of grace.—Uhle:—The season of grace in our lives.—Rautenberg:—God will give to every one according to his works.—Bomhard:—Meditation on the eleventh hour: 1. It is an hour of grace; 2. a solemn hour; 3. an uncertain hour; 4, a well-marked hour; 5. a difficult hour; 6. a blessed hour.

[Trench:—The great question on the last day will be, not “How much hast thou done?” but “What art thou now?” (Yet that which men have done will greatly affect what they are, since actions form habits and habits establish a character.)—D. Brown:—1. True Christianity is a life of active service rendered to Christ2. God rewards us for this service, though not of merit, but of pure grace3. There is a reward common to all laborers, and special rewards for peculiar services4. Unreasonable and ungrateful conduct of the murmuring laborers, and the rebuke administered to them on the day of account5. Encouragement for those called at a late hour6. Strange revelations of the judgment day: some of the first will be last, some of the last first, and some of the greatest note in the church below, will be excluded altogether.—Comp. also Barnes, Notes in loc, who derives nine lessons from this parable too long to be quoted.—Stier:—The greatest man of business on the market-place of the world is a mere idle gazer ( Matthew 20:3 : standing idle).—W. Nast.—Whoever has not yet commenced to labor in the kingdom of God, is an idler, no matter what else he may do.—The labor in the kingdom of God and its reward: 1. All are called to labor, though at different hours (in childhood, manhood, or old age). 2, God is just toward all laborers3. The reward is of free grace.—P. S.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Matthew 20:2.—[Ἐκδηναρίου. The foreign term ought to have been retained in English, as Matthew retained the Latin denarius in Greek. The English Version is here peculiarly unfortunate, and makes a false Impression on the common reader. A penny would be a poor reward indeed, but a denarius is worth more than seven English pence or fifteen American cents, and was a liberal day’s wages at that time. About two thirds of a Roman denáry (not a full denary as generally stated) was the daily pay of the Roman soldier. Comp. Tacitus. Annal. Matthew 1:17. Polybius ( Matthew 2:15) mentions that the charge for a day’s entertainment in the inns of Cisalpine Gaul was only half an ass or one twentieth of a denarius. Bengel intimates that the daily wages in his time (before the middle of the last century) were not higher: Denarius erut diurna merces, ut fere est hodierno die. Shilling would be a far better popular equivalent for denarius than penny. See note 4 on p332.—P. S.]

FN#2 - Matthew 20:6.—Ἀγρούς (idle) is wanting in Codd. B, C, D, L, and many others [also in Cod. Sinait.], and is inserted from Matthew 20:3 and the question immediately following. In this place it does not strengthen, but weaken the sense.

FN#3 - Matthew 20:7.—The words: and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive, καὶ ἐὰν ἶͅι δίκαιον λήψεσθε, are missing in Codd. B, D, L, Z, [Cod. Sinait.], the Vulgate, and other old versions. Meyer, however, observes that the expression λήψεσθε instead of δώσω ὑμῖν speaks against the insertion of this sentence from Matthew 20:4.

FN#4 - Matthew 20:13.—[Friend is almost too strong for the Greek ἑταῖρε (comrade, companion, fellow). while “fellow,” as now used, would be too disrespectful. It is here used as a term of cautious respect with reproving import. The Vulgata translates: Amos -ce; Augustine better: sodalis; all the German versions but one: Freund, as all English versions have friend. The word is often used in the address of a superior to an inferior, as a servant or a disciple, and occurs four times in the N. T.: here. Matthew 22:12 (of the guest who had no wedding garment), Matthew 26:50 (of Judas when he betrayed his Master with a kiss), and Matthew 11:16; in the last passage the E. V. translates: fellows. in all others: friend. Grotius: “Comvellatio leviter notis accommodata.” Meyer compares the German Kamerad, but this, like fellow, would not be dignified enough. We must, therefore, retain friend in the absence of a precise equivalent—P. S.]

FN#5 - Matthew 20:16 —The last words: πολλοὶ γάρ εἰσιν κλητοὶ, ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί, are not found in B, L, Z, [and Cod. Sinait], Copt. Sahid. But Meyer rightly objects to the hypothesis of interpolation from Matthew 20:14, since there was no occasion for it here, the words appearing rather out of place in this connection. [Lachmann, Tischendorf (ed. of1859), and Alford retain the sentence, and Tischendorf says: Cur vero ex xxii 14 huc transtulerint vix dixeris. The homœoteleuton ἐσχαΤΟΙ—ἐκλεκΤΟΙ easily explains the omission of the sentence by some transcribers. Κλητοί and ἐκλεκτοί are a paronomasia in Greek, which is lost in the E. V. In German it might be rendered by erwählt and auserwählt.—P. S.]

FN#6 - This must be the meaning of die Billigkeit dieses Tagelahns, (as the connection shows in the passage quoted from Starke) and not small or cheap, as the Edinb. trls. has it; for a denarius was liberal pay for a day’s work at the time of Christ. Comp. Note1, p352.—P. S.]

FN#7 - Meyer in loc.: “Ex signifies not the price (which would be expressed by the genitive, Matthew 20:13), although the denáry is the price, but it represents this price as the causal feature or motive of the agreement. Comp. Matthiæ, p1334.”—P. S.]

FN#8 - Especially also Gregory (Homil. 19 in Evang.) who refers the morning to the age from Adam to Noah, the third hour to the age from Noah to Abraham, the sixth hour to that from Abraham to Moses, the ninth hour to that from Moses to Christ, and the eleventh hour to that from Christ to the end of the world. But the same writer applies the different hours also to the different ages in the life of individuals: childhood, youth, manhood, old age, and the years of decrepitude. The latter interpretation is also held by Jerome, Theophylact, Maldonatus.—P. S.]

FN#9 - “Finis ergo parabolœ Esther, mercedem vitœ œternœ œon tempori, quo quis laboravit, sed labori et operi, quod facit, respondere.”—P. S.]

FN#10 - So also Stier, Nast, and Wordsworth.—P. S.]


Verses 17-19

PART FOURTH

Christ surrendering Himself to and for the Messianic Faith and Hope of His People.

Matthew 20:17 to Matthew 24:1

Historical Succession.—A second time Christ is now induced to leave Peræa by a message from Bethany, to the effect that Lazarus was sick. We account for the delay in His departure, in consequence of which He found His friend dead and buried, by the abundant work which lay to His hands in Peræa. Then followed the raising of Lazarus ( John 11:1-44). The definite resolution of the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus, expressed in the formal sentence of excommunication which they now pronounced, induced Him to retire into the city of Ephraim, which lay a few hours north of Jerusalem, near Bethel, and in the immediate vicinity of the wilderness of Judæa. Once more that wilderness was to afford Him shelter until the next paschal feast. Similarly, He had retired into the desert for a while after His baptism, because He was met by the spurious Messianic expectations of His people, as by a temptation. But now He withdrew, before fully surrendering Himself to those hopes of His people and followers which had been evoked by His own word and teaching. From Ephraim Jesus went to Jericho, where He joined the festive caravan of His friends, coming from Galilee and Peræa.

The history of Christ’s sufferings, which now follows, may be regarded as that of His self-surrender to the Messianic faith of His people, which He had purified and sanctified in those who were Israelites indeed. The long-expected hour had arrived. In the most general sense, or viewing it in connection with the whole evangelical history, this period may be said to continue until His death. But, for the sake of greater distinctness, it may be arranged into the days of the Hosanna, and those of the cry: “Crucify Him;” or, the period of enthusiastic reception, and that of determined rejection. In the Gospel of Matthew, the period of suffering and the report of the last discourses of our Lord are very distinctly marked; while at the close of that section we have Christ’s farewell to the temple, and His final judgment upon the Pharisees and scribes. Accordingly, the part under consideration constitutes a well-marked, although very brief, period of the highest importance. It may be designated as the period of triumphant progress, or of the Hosanna. Its contents are arranged under the following sections.

_____________

FIRST SECTION

THE FULL PROPHETIC ANTICIPATION OF THE END

Matthew 20:17-19.

17And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples[FN11] apart in the way, and said [and in the way said][FN12] unto them, 18Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall [will] be betrayed [delivered] unto the chief priests and unto the scribes,19and they shall [will] condemn him to death,[FN13] And shall [will] deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him:[FN14] and the third day he shall rise [will be raised] again.[FN15]

__________

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 20:17. Took the twelve disciples apart.—The expression παρέλαβεν is intended as an antithesis to καί προσλαβόμενος ΙΙετρος in Matthew 16:22, although the terms are not quite the same. On the latter occasion Peter rebuked the Lord, and in his earnestness actually took hold of Him, to arrest His progress; while Jesus took the Twelve apart into retirement. There He entered into full explanations about the decease which He was to accomplish; thus giving the disciples another opportunity of deciding whether, by an act of free and full self-surrender, they would follow Him, or not.

Apart, κατ̓ ἰδίαν—This expression has a profound meaning in the life of Jesus. In all probability, it does not merely refer here to a turning aside from the multitude which had gathered around (Euthym. Zigab.: ον̓́κ ἔδει ταν͂τα μαθεῖν τον̀ς πολλον́ς ̓Ινα μὴ σκανδαλιοθῶσιν), but means, that Jesus retired into the wilderness of Ephraim. Comp. John 11:54. Thence He afterward joined, at Jericho, the festive caravan which travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem. In the text, the Evangelist refers to the moment when He came out of the wilderness, and was about (“in the way,ἐντῇὁδῷ) to join the festive train.

Matthew 20:18-19. Behold, we go up.—The former predictions of His impending sufferings, in Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22, are now followed by a more detailed description of these events. Spiritually viewed, His sufferings consisted of a twofold betrayal, and that in the form both of rejection and of surrender: 1. παραδοθησεται τοῖς ἀρχιερεν͂σιν, κ.τ.λ.; 2. καὶ παραδώσουσι. With reference to the first betrayal, our Lord evidently indicates that He would Himself go forth from the midst of His followers, and that they would not prevent the impending events. But the betrayer himself is not yet named; the particulars being still withheld under the use of the passive mood. But the second act of betrayal is distinctly mentioned as the voluntary deed of the chief priests and scribes, or of the Sanhedrin,—in other words, of the professing people of God, in so far as they were represented by their supreme tribunal. His own followers were to betray and surrender Him into the hands of the Sanhedrin, while the Sanhedrin and the chosen people were to betray and to deliver Him to the Gentiles. Similarly, these two parties were to share in His death, For while the highest Jewish tribunal was to judge and to condemn Him to death, the Gentiles were to determine the accessories and the mode of His sufferings.—He was to be mocked, scourged, and crucified. When the apostasy and betrayal of the high priests had first been announced to the disciples, mention had not been made of most of these particulars. On the second occasion on which the Saviour intimated His sufferings, He spoke of being delivered, but only in general terms, as a betrayal into the hands of men. But on this occasion the disciples were informed of the twofold betrayal which was impending—on the part of His own friends into the hands of His enemies, and again on the part of the chosen race to the Gentiles. Similarly, the prediction of His death is now more definitely presented, with all the particulars connected with it. He who was mocked or treat ed with scorn (or designated as an impotent enthusiast), should not have been scourged; or, again, having been scourged (or designated as a common and ordinary transgressor), He should not have been crucified (or treated as a capital offender). But all these apparently conflicting modes of punishment were to be inflicted upon the Messiah, whom His people had betrayed and rejected.

Matthew 20:19. And the third day.—As the sun breaks through dark clouds, so does this promise here again shed its blessed light, comp. Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:23. Still, it is not more fully explained, but left in general outline until after the paschal feast, when the Lord explained it more fully. The Evangelist does not directly record the effects of this prediction of Jesus. But the history of Salome, which immediately follows, clearly shows that, so far from having tended to cast down the disciples, it had only increased their courage. From Mark 10:32 we infer that even before that time they had been most deeply moved; while from Luke 18:34 we learn that even after this express statement, they were not inclined to take the words of the Lord in their literal sense, as implying the terrible truth which they seemed to convey (Leben Jesu, ii2, 1148).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

We note, first of all, the contrast between the first occasion on which Jesus had left the wilderness, at the commencement of His public ministry, and this time, when He again came forth at the close of His course. Then, the spurious and worldly expectations of His people concerning the kingdom drove Him into the wilderness, where He resolved to avoid and eschew that temptation, wherever and however it met Him. But now He is again drawn forth by the youthful and healthy, but weak faith of His followers, who go up to the feast. He comes forth from the wilderness, as if at the call of the Father, as the Messiah, to join them, and to realize their hopes. Again, the state of mind of the disciples, as compared with that of the Master, forms another sinking contrast. They seem full of indefinite hopes and expectations; and the announcement that He should be crucified, only adds fresh fuel to the flame. The mention of the twofold betrayal that awaited Him has its deep and solemn meaning. Our Lord referred not merely to the fact, that His people and their rulers should deliver Him, their long expected Messiah, into the hands of the Gentiles, But also to the be trayal which awaited Him from among His own followers, in consequence of which He should be surrendered to the Sanhedrin. Thus Christ was betrayed not merely by the Old Testament community, but also by those who formed the circle of the New Testament disciples before they were enlightened by the pentecostal effusion of the Spirit. If the latter had not first delivered Him, the Jews could not so readily have seized and betrayed Him into the hands of the Gentiles.

[Wordsworth: Our Lord reveals the future by degrees, as His Apostles were able to bear it, and in proportion as He drew nearer to His passion. He had first told them that the Son of Man should be put to death, Matthew 16:21 (and more fully, Matthew 17:22-23), and He had said that His disciples must take up the cross and follow Him, Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; and thus He had prepared them gradually for the revelation which He now makes toward the close of His ministry, that He Himself should be delivered to the Romans to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified. How natural is all this! Here is one of the many silent proofs of the truth of the gospel history, as well as of the long-suffering, Wisdom of Solomon, and tenderness of Christ.—P. S.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The last and fullest prediction of the sufferings of the Lord, a great evidence,—1. of the prophetic character of the Lord; 2. of His willingness, as a Priest, to offer Himself a sacrifice unto the Father; 3. of His confident expectation of victory as a King.—How the faithfulness of the Lord toward His disciples appears in the announcement of His impending sufferings: 1. It is seen in the gradual manner in which He makes the fact known (from the first He had intimated that His path was one of suffering; but, while putting an end to their spurious hopes, He had never said anything to cast them down). 2. But now He set it before them in all its terrors (He dealt candidly with them. Return was still possible for them, although, from their former decision, He no longer asked them whether they would forsake Him). 3. He placed before their view the promise awaiting them at the end; thus establishing and encouraging them by this blessed prospect.—How frequently the Lord takes His own people apart in His Church (to reveal great things to them, which others cannot yet bear or receive).—Deep and solemn importance at all times of the saying, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem.”—The journey of the Messiah to Jerusalem: the saddest and yet the happiest event in history.—The fact of His impending sufferings so clearly present to His mind, and yet conveying so little terror: 1. The sufferings themselves,—(a) in their spiritual aspect: a twofold betrayal and a twofold rejection; (b) in their outward aspect: a twofold sentence—condemning Him as a heretic and as a criminal2. The effect on His own mind: (a) it did not affright Him (if it did, He would not have seen it; but because He saw it, it did not fill Him with fear); (b) it led Him to arrange His progress (to prepare both Himself and His people)—Deep mystery of the fact, that Israel delivered their long-expected Messiah into the hands of the hated Gentiles: 1. A mystery connected with their former sins; 2. with their impending judgments; 3. with the infinite compassion of the Lord.—The guilt of the world, the death of Christ.—How the sin of the world appears in the death of Jesus: (a) in the sin of the disciples toward their Lord and Master; (b) in the sin of the people toward their Messiah; (c) in the sin of the Gentiles toward the Son of Man.—How the Lord looked beyond and through His sufferings to the goal of His resurrection.—When the guilt of the world appears most fully, its reconciliation by the Messiah is also at hand.—In opposition to men, who crucified Christ, we have God, who raised Him up.—The Son of Man will be delivered. Import of this sad secret: 1. As yet, it is not more fully disclosed, because it is the saddest part of all2. It may not yet be disclosed, because it is to be the free act of the betrayer3. It need not be more fully disclosed, because the slightest hint should have proved a solemn warning to all.—How, in meditating on the sufferings of Christ, we are prone to think too little of the first and saddest betrayal, viz, that of His disciples.—The ecclesiastical and the historical aspect of this betrayal.—The threefold manifestation of the sin of the disciples as springing from offence at Him: (a) It was a betrayal; (b) a denial; (c) a forsaking.—“He that delivereth Me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Import of this, as referring not merely to the second betrayal of Jesus on the part of His enemies, but also to the first by Judas Iscariot.—Contradictory character of the treatment which the Saviour experienced: 1. He was betrayed, and yet judicially condemned; 2. temporal and spiritual sentence was pronounced upon Him; 3. He experienced various and contradictory modes of punishment: scorn, scourging, crucifixion.—Why Christ saw His cross afar off: 1. It was predetermined from the beginning, and He saw it everywhere throughout His course; 2. from the first He prepared for it, and experienced its bitterness in many preliminary trials; 3. it was the harbinger of His exaltation, and ever and again He anticipated His coming glory.—The cross the perfect manifestation—1. of the guilt of the world; 2. of the love of Christ; 3. of His obedience; 4. of the grace of God.

Starke:Hedinger: The sufferings of Christ our sufferings; (a) in respect of their imputation: (b) in respect of heir consequences; (c) in respect of the example set to us.—Let us learn to be ever mindful of our death and resurrection.

Heubner:—The anticipation of the glory awaiting Him, cherished by the human soul of Jesus, was the result of His full and deep faith. This expectation, however, did not detract either from the merit or from the intensity of His sufferings, just as a similar hope in the people of God does not make their contest more easy or less glorious.

Footnotes:

FN#11 - Matthew 20:17.—Tischendorf omits μαθητάς after D, L, Z, al Lachmann retains it, and Meyer accounts for the omission from the parallel passages. [Tischendorf likewise retains it in his edit, septima critica major of1859. Dr. Lange seems to have used the smaller critical edition of1849, which omits μαθητάς.—P. S.]

FN#12 - Matthew 20:17.—[The Vatican and Sinait. Codd, and the Codd. L, Z. (which generally agree with the former), and the critical editions of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelies, and Alford read: καὶ ὲν τῇ ὁδῷ, instead of ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, καί as the Received Text has it. Dr. Lange for Internal reasons prefers here the latter, which is supported by Codd. A, C, D. and other ethcial MSS.—P. S.]

FN#13 - Matthew 20:18—Cod. B. omits θανάτῳ, but it is required by the connection. [Cod. Sinait. reads: εἱς θάνατον.—P. S.]

FN#14 - Matthew 20:19.—[Conant: “to mock, and scourge, and crucify (omitting ‘to’ twice); the proper expression of the Greek Εἰς τό with the three following infinitives. The interpolated ‘him’ is superfluous and enfeebles the expiation.”—P. S.]

FN#15 - Matthew 20:19.—The Recepta [and Lachmann, following B, C, D.]: αναστήσεται. Tischendorf [and Alford] ἐγερθησεται, after C, L, Z. The former reading seems to have arisen from the parallel passages, according to Meyer. It may be urged In favor of ἐγει θήσεται, that it sets forth the restitution of the Messiah by the Almighty power of God in contrast with His rejection by the people. [Cod. Sinait. reads here εγερθησετ , for ται,—one of the many writing errors of this ancient MS.—P. S.]


Verses 20-28

SECOND SECTION

THE PLACES AT THE RIGHT AND AT THE LEFT HAND OF HIS THRONE—AND OF HIS CROSS

Matthew 20:20-28

( Mark 10:35-45)

20Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children [of the sons of Z, τῶν νἱῶν Z.] with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring [asking, αἰτομ͂σα, comp. Matthew 20:22] a certain thing [something][FN16] of him 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant [Command][FN17] that these my two sons may [shall] sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask [αἰτεῖσθε]. 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?[FN18] 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:3 but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them [but it is for those] for whom it is prepared of [by] my Father 24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation[FN19] against the two brethren [brothers]. 25But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes [rulers, ἄρχοντες] of the Gentiles [nations] exercise dominion [lordship, κατακνριεύουσιν] over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them 26 But it shall not be so [But not so is it, οὐχ οὔτως δε ἐστίν][FN20] among you: but whosoever will be [would become, θέλῃ γενέσθαι] great among you, let him be your minister [διάκονος]; 27And whosoever will be chief [would be first, θέλῃ εἶναι πρῶτος] among you, let him be your servant [δον͂λος]: 28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for [ἀντί] many.[FN21]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Matthew 20:20. Then came to Him the mother of the sons of Zebedee.—Salome (comp. Mark 15:40; Mark 16:1; Matthew 27:56), who must accordingly be regarded as the wife of Zebedee. Most of the ancient traditions assume that she was the daughter of Joseph by a previous marriage; while others suggest that she had been the wife of Joseph, by whom he was the father of two daughters; lastly, some regarded her as a niece of Zachariah the priest, the father of John the Baptist. But a correct interpretation of John 19:25 (see Wieseler, Studien und Kritiken, 1840, iii.) shows that she was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus. Accordingly, James the Elder and John were cousins of Jesus, and Salome His aunt. The relationship subsisting between them might seem to lend additional support to the claims of Salome, based as they were open the friendship subsisting between the Lord and John, and on the general position occupied by the sons of Zebedee. A twofold meaning attaches to the word τότε, then. It refers, in the first place, to the moment when, in company with His disciples, Jesus came forth from the wilderness of Ephraim, and joined the first caravan of festive pilgrims. Probably this band consisted of the more intimate friends and followers of Jesus, who had journeyed directly from Galilee to Ephraim through Samaria, and from thence passed with the Lord to Jericho, where they met the larger caravan coming from Galilee, which had travelled through Peræa. In that company was the ardent and daring mother of the sons of Zebedee. Evidently she had not been with them in the wilderness of Ephraim. Her sons had probably communicated what had passed, and she now advanced the request mentioned in the text. Meyer suggests that she may have heard from her sons what Jesus had promised to the Apostles in Matthew 19:28. No doubt she had been informed of the announcement of His impending sufferings; and this circumstance enables us to appreciate the deeper import of the word τότε. It was immediately after that fearful declaration on the part of Jesus, concerning His impending crucifixion, that she came forward with the request, that her sons should occupy the most prominent positions in His kingdom. The circumstances under which this prayer was urged, go to a certain extent to excuse its boldness, and to deprive it of the unfavorable impression which it would otherwise produce, as if Salome had wished to advance her sons at the expense of Peter. Viewed in this light, there is even something sublime and heroic in what she says. In the midst of such gloomy prospects she seems to raise the standard of highest hope, while she expresses her confident anticipation that in the approaching contest her children would be found by the side of Jesus, and sharing in the greatest dangers. But while admitting all that is noble, there is a sad want of humble surrender to the word of the Lord.

Worshipping Him, and asking a certain thing of Him.—While Matthew represents Salome as interceding for her sons, Mark puts the request into the mouth of the sons themselves. The two accounts supplement each other. Mark lays stress or the fact, that the request of the mother was prompted by her children,—a circumstance which is implied in the indignation of die other Apostles against the two brothers, mentioned by Matthew in Matthew 20:24. On the other hand, our Gospel alludes more particularly to the form in which the request was actually made, the noble aspirations of the mother leading her to sympathize with the desire of her sons. The manner in which this prayer is urged is very significant. Salome seems the first to acknowledge the Lord as Messiah the King. Falling down before Him, she worships Him. At the same time she requests a certain thing of Him; i e., according to a frequent custom in Eastern courts, she entreats His unconditional consent to what she is about to ask (see 1 Kings 2:20). The comment of Meyer that αἰτος͂σά τι means, as one that made a request, is flat. But while it may be somewhat anticipating, with Scultetus, Maldonatus, and Fritzsche to regard τί as implying aliquid magni, it certainly conveys that she was about to urge a petition which she would fain have accorded before actually uttering it. But the reply of the Lord obliged her to express her wish in distinct language.

Matthew 20:21. Command that, or, Say that: εἶπε.—This form of her address tends to present it in a more favorable light. She seems to imply that in point of fact the matter was already decided, and that it now only required a formal declaration on the part of Jesus to have it legally established. What she requested was, that her sons might occupy the two highest places in the kingdom of the Messiah. In the East, the highest place of honor was at the right hand of the king; and next to it, that on the left (Joseph. Antiq. vi11, 9. Thus Jonathan and Abner are seated beside Saul, and the Talmud represents the Messiah and Abraham as placed beside God). According to human views of the matter, it needs no special apology, that even “the gentle and meek John should have cherished such a desire” (Meyer). If an arrangement like this had been made, John would, personally, not have gained much; for, considering that James was the elder brother, his could only have been the place at the left hand,—a distinction which would not have been withheld, even if the first place had been accorded to Peter. In fact, as matters actually were, John already occupied a higher place than this. But it is scarcely necessary to say that the views and hopes of John had still to be purified and cleared by the cross, and spiritually elevated at Pentecost.

[Luther: “The flesh ever seeks to be glorified before it is crucified; exalted before it is abased.”—P. S.]

Matthew 20:22. Ye know not what ye ask.—Different views are entertained of this reply. De Wette explains it: Your request arises from an incorrect view of the character of My kingdom, which is spiritual. Meyer paraphrases: Ye know not that the highest posts in My kingdom cannot be obtained without sufferings such as I have to endure. We explain it (comp. Leben Jesu, ii3, 1150): They had no idea what fearful honors they would have obtained if their desire had been granted. They would have occupied the place of the two malefactors who were crucified with Jesus. Truly, ye know not what ye ask! The Lord thus replied, in mercy and compassion toward that ignorance, in consequence of which His beloved disciples too frequently seek for themselves what would be dangerous, and even destructive—and, perhaps still more frequently, what is unbecoming. The rebuke of Christ was not merely directed against the ignorance which led them to covet the place of the two malefactors, but also against the presumptuous selfishness which made them forget the other disciples. Still, the answer of the Lord shows that He also had regard to that noble feeling which prompted them to desire a share in His impending sufferings.

Are ye able to drink of the cup? כֹּיס.—“A metaphorical designation for fate in general, and more especially for sufferings; Gesenius on Isaiah 51:17; Knobel on Isa. p355.” Meyer. But the term is here purposely chosen, with an allusion, on the one hand, to the cup on the royal table, and, on the other, to the cup of sufferings ( Matthew 26:39). The same twofold import attaches to the expression βάπτισμα in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark. It may signify a festive bath, but also the baptism of blood which awaited the Lord. Hence the term at the same time expressed the views of the Apostles, and those of the Lord Himself.

We are able, δυνάμεθα.—The sons of Zebedee now come forward in their own names. As from the first they had intended to express their readiness to undergo the deepest sufferings for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, in which they coveted the first places, they now declare their assent to the view set before them by the Lord, that the royal cup must, in the first place, be a cup of suffering—His kingly bath a baptism of blood. Accordingly they express their willingness to suffer with Christ But this statement implied an over-estimate of their own strength, or rather a want of knowledge of their weakness and impotence which afterward became manifest during the night of Christ’s betrayal. Still it cannot be questioned that they were the most courageous among the disciples, as appears from John’s going into the high priest’s palace without denying His master, and from the fact that James was the first martyr of Christ.

Matthew 20:23. Ye shall drink indeed of My cup.—Our Lord does not discuss the question, how far they were capable of bearing suffering. The great question connected with the sufferings of the cross was not one of human heroism, or of the capability of endurance, but of inward, divine, and holy preparation. As yet the two disciples were incapable of making this distinction. Hence the Lord declined their sharing His sufferings in the former sense; while at the same time He pointed forward to the period when they should have part in them, in the higher and only true sense (the future tense is here used by way of antithesis to the present moment). The reply of Christ must therefore be regarded in the light of a correction implying an admission of their calling to suffer with Him; the fact of their being at present unable, in the spiritual sense, to share in His sufferings, being graciously presented in the form of an affirmation that the time for this should arrive. The admission to which we refer is all the more fully made, that the Lord has to add, “But to sit on My right hand, and on My left,” etc. This fellowship of suffering with Christ appeared more distinctly in the case of James than in that of any other of the Apostles. And although John died a natural death, at a very advanced age (see the article in the different Encyclops.; the Histories of the Apostolic Age, and the Fathers, Irenæus, Matthew 2:22; Matthew 2:5; Eusebius, 3:23, etc.), yet in a spiritual sense his was the longest and deepest martyrdom among the Apostles,—not to speak of the fact, that for the sake of Christ he underwent many and severe outward sufferings. Meyer correctly observes, that the apocryphal legend, to the effect that John had emptied a cup of poison without sustaining any harm, may probably have been derived from a misinterpretation of this passage.

[Wordsworth: “Our Lord here describes the two kinds of Christian martyrdom; and all Christians must be prepared for one or the other of them. Every one must be a James or a John.” Similarly Pope Gregory, who distinguishes the martyrium in mente, and the martyrium in mente et actione, so that we may become martyrs, and yet, like St. John, die a natural death.—P. S.]

But to sit on My right hand, etc.—Different views have been taken of this difficult passage: 1. Chrysostom, Castellio, Grotius, and others, regard the word ὰλλά as used instead of εἰ μή, except,i.e., it does not become Me to bestow it upon others than those to whom it is granted.[FN22] To this de Wette objects—(a) that this is incompatible with the real meaning of οικ ἔτιν ἐμόν; (b) that the word ἀλλά implies an antithesis. At any rate the meaning would be unsuitable2. Augustine interprets: It is not Mine, in My capacity as Prayer of Manasseh 3. Bengel paraphrases: Before My exaltation by suffering4. Fritzsche remarks: The Father has prepared the kingdom ( Matthew 25:34); to which de Wette replies, that Christ was certainly the Founder and Ruler of the kingdom5. De Wette attempts to combine the views of Augustine and Bengel, and holds that Jesus here speaks of Himself as the human individual who was destined to be the Messiah, but had not yet been perfected as such. But in that case Christ would have expressed it: It is not yet Mine, but will be so at a future period6. Meyer holds that the Messianic administration of Christ was not strictly absolute, but limited by His relationship toward the Father7. My own view is thus expressed in the Leben Jesu, iii2, Matthew 1151: “The statement refers not merely to the dispensation of an earthly fate, which cometh from the Father, and according to which two malefactors were to be crucified with Christ, but also especially to the eternal predestination of eternal positions in the kingdom of God.” In other words, Christ here distinguishes between the economy of the Father—creation, and its ideal basis, election to different degrees of glory—and the economy of the Song of Solomon, or redemption, and an official call to labor in the vineyard. The prominent positions in the kingdom of God depend on certain relationships connected with original creation, and are not bestowed in consequence of office. This explanation is not inconsistent with the fact of a correspondence between chosen spirits and their official position in the kingdom, far less does it imply that the Sons of Thunder did not occupy a high place in the kingdom of Christ. But it conveyed the truth, that this position was not a part of the work of redemption (which was designed only to realize and to manifest the mystery of election)—far less that it depended on official position in the kingdom of Christ. The statement of the Lord thus serves as an introduction to what immediately follows. Spiritual aristocracy must prove its claims by humility, greatness by littleness, and the highest exaltation by the deepest self-abasement. The place which each of us is to hold in the eternal kingdom, is the result of our eternal destination, and intimately connected with the state of our minds and hearts.—For whom it is prepared, οἶς ἡτοίμασται.—That question has been decided before the foundation of the world.

Matthew 20:24. And when the ten heard it, ἠγανάκτη αν, they became indignant, or, were much displeased.—Not in the sense of holy indignation, but as partaking of the same spirit of ambition which had prompted the request. It deserves notice that on this occasion Peter does not seem to have prominently come forward. Of course, we do not mean that he formed on exception to the others. They all shared the same jealousy and indignation, as appears from the general tenor of the rebuke of the Lord. [The ten, including St. Matthew, 23who here records his own weakness together with that of his colleagues, as St. Peter recommends the epistles of his brother Paul ( 2 Peter 3:15-16), in one of which his own inconsistency is severely censured ( Galatians 2:11). A proof of humility and truthfulness.—P. S.]

Matthew 20:25. The rulers of the nations.—The expression τῶν ἐθνὼν in this passage does not refer exclusively to the Gentiles. Luther: Secular princes. Κατακνριεν́ονσκ, κατεξονσιάζουσιν. In this instance the two verbs have the additional meaning of pride and violence, which κατακυρ. has in 1 Peter 5:3; Psalm 10:5 (Sept.); al hough the word may also simply mean to bear rule. But from the addition of the ἄπαξ λεγόμενον, κατεξουσ., we infer that it bears the meaning above indicated (similarly m Diod. Sicul14, 66).—De Wette suggests that οίἄρχοντες refers to the kings, their substitutes and officers (in the Gospel of Mark the expression of οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν is used with special allusion to the symbolical import and the legal validity of the secular power), and that οἱ μεγάλοι applies merely to the officers of state. Bengel explains the employment of the stronger verb in connection with οίμεγάλοι, because the latter are: ipsis sœpe dominis imperiosiores. As the term μεγάλοι primarily refers to persons great or powerful in themselves, perhaps the expression princes may allude to the legitimate rulers, and the term great to illegitimate usurpers and conquerors. Hence also the use of the stronger verb in the second clause.

Matthew 20:26. But not so is it among you.—The reading έστίν is very significant. Christ had already prepared them for this order of things, which was so different from that prevailing in the world. The order and succession in His kingdom was not to be settled according to any legal determination. Jesus had introduced a new and spiritual life, in direct opposition to secular monarchies and hierarchies. Hence also the reading of the future tense (ἔσται), instead of the imperative (ἔστω), is more suitable in the sentence next following.

Matthew 20:26-27. Whoever would become great.—De Wette observes that μέγας =μέγιστος, and πρῶτος in the next clause. Meyer questions the correctness of this view, on the ground of the corresponding antithesis. Evidently, διάκονος corresponds to μέγας, and δον͂λος to πρωτος. Comp. Matthew 18:1. In this instance, then, the “minister” and the “servant,” or “slave,” are intended as emblems of the greatness which the disciples should covet, even as formerly the little child set in the midst of them. In other words, deep humility appearing in service of love was to be the measure of their greatness.

Matthew 20:28. Even as the Son of Man came not to he ministered to.—In Matthew 18 greatness was spoken of in the sense of dignity. Accordingly, Christ placed a little child in the midst of them, and ultimately appealed to His own example: “The Son of Man has come to seek that which was lost.” But the greatness referred to in this passage refers to rule or dominion. Hence the Lord points His disciples to ministers or slaves; while He once more referred to His own work and mission, who “had come, not to be ministered to, but to minister.” The expression, “not to be ministered to,” refers to all merely outward rule, whether in the shape of monarchy or hierarchy; in other words, to exercise authority over others for His own interest, for His own glory, or even by external means. Accordingly, the expression, to minister, applies to His submission or obedience. Viewing it in connection with its blessed motive, the passage implies: In His infinite love toward men, the Saviour has come to serve them; and He does so in obedience to the demands of the law and to the will of God, in order thus to redeem them. Hence the addition, and to give His life; which must be regarded as a further explanation, and indicates the climax of the service in which He was engaged. Comp. Philippians 2:6 : obedient—obedient unto death on the cross. The term ministering expresses the spirit of the life of Christ. His sufferings and death illustrated and displayed the submission of His whole course; they shed the fullest light on the object of His life. The Holy Servant of God surrendered His life; and that unto death (the φνχὴ). He gave His life a ransom of life, λύτρον=כֹּפָר; Exodus 30:12; Numbers 35:31; Proverbs 13:8. This price of redemption He gave ἀντί, and not merely ν̔πέρ, in the wider sense, i.e., instead of, in exchange of, or as a substitute; Matthew 17:27; Hebrews 12:16. This redemption at the price of His life was made ἀντὶ πολλῶν The expression many is not intended to indicate a exclusive minority, or a smaller number as compared with all,—for the latter expression occurs in Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4. The term is intended rather by way of antithesis to the one whose life was the ransom of the many. At the same time, it undoubtedly indicates not only the objective bearing, but also the subjective efficacy of this ransom, by which many (a great multitude) are in reality redeemed. Comp. Romans 5:15; Matthew 26:28.—The state from which these many are redeemed may readily be inferred from the figure employed. De Wette supplies—from death or from the misery of sin; Meyer—from eternal ἀπώλεια. Both commentators are right; but we would express their meaning more definitely. The death or the άπώλεια is here referred to as spiritual bondage or slavery. Comp. John 8:34-36; Hebrews 2:14.

[Similarly Alford: λν́τρον ὰντὶ πολλῶν is a plain declaration of the sacrificial and vicarious nature of the death of our Lord…It is here=ἀντίλντρον ὕπὲρ πάντων, 1 Timothy 2:6. No stress should be laid on this word πολλῶν as not being πάντων here; it is placed in opposition to the one life which is given—the one for many—and not with any distinction from πάντων. ΙΙάντων is the objective, πολλῶν the subjective designation of those for whom Christ died. He died for all, objectively; subjectively, the great multitude whom no man could number, πολλοί, will be saved by Him in the end.”—P. S.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The Evangelists record three distinct instances in which the disciples seem to have contended for rank and position. (1) In Matthew 18:1, their dispute referred to the highest dignity. Then our Lord placed among them a little child, and taught them that He Himself watched over the little ones, and was the Shepherd of the lost. (2) In the passage under consideration, the reference seems more particularly to supreme rule. The Lord now directs them to the office of minister, and to the position of a slave; He Himself being that Holy Servant of God who had given Himself for the service of Prayer of Manasseh, and redeemed them from the bondage of destruction, at the price of His own life. (3) According to Luke 22:24, another similar discussion took place during the celebration of the Eucharist. The Evangelist records, indeed, but few traits connected with this event. Still, even the circumstance that our Lord washed the feet of the disciples ( John 13), shows that some occurrence of this kind must have taken place. Properly speaking, this service of love should have been performed by the master of the house. In this case he was not present; nor does any of the disciples seem to have been disposed to do it for the others. Contrary to the common custom, they were already seated at the table with unwashed feet, when the Lord Himself girt the linen towel about Him. From the words of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 22:27, we infer that this formed the commencement of another dispute. But, if the first discussion referred to pre-eminence of dignity, the second to pre-eminence of office and rule,—the third and last dispute probably referred to personal pre-eminence, or a higher place among those who were officially placed on the same level. But even this pre-eminence of personal (in opposition to official) position should give place to voluntary and mutual subordination, prompted by love.

2. “So long as this world shall, for its training, require secular authority and power, the Lord will, in His providence, raise up princes and great ones to administer rule and government. But the Apostles of the Lord were neither to imitate this rule, which was only intended for a preparatory state of things, nor to substitute their own domination in its stead, nor to attempt supplementing it.” Comp. the remarks of James at the council in Acts 15:21 : “Moses has of old time in every city them that preach him;” in other words, the servants of Christ in the Church are not called upon to attend to the legal administration of the law: this is the business of the servants of Moses in the synagogue. Let us beware of confounding Moses and Christ, or the secular government and the ministry of the Church.

3. The statement of Christ, “Whoever among you would be great,” etc, conveys, that the only superiority of authority in His kingdom is that which springs from the service of love, and the only superiority of power is that which appears in ministering to the Church. This, however, does not imply that there is to be no order of office in His Church. But it does convey that anything like difference of rank or tyranny over the Church is incompatible with the will of Christ, and that all ecclesiastical offices are to lead to spiritual services of love. They are intended to subserve and advance the liberty, not the bondage, of the Church. In other words, their tendency is to be toward freedom. It is otherwise with the rule of this world, whether it appear in the form of monarchy or of hierarchy. Every hierarchy requires, more or less, the aid of despotism, and in fact contains the germ of it; while despotism always relies on the support of a hierarchy, or else itself attempts to exercise hierarchical domination over the conscience. Hence also these powers will at last become the instruments of the kingdom of darkness (see the corresponding passages in Dan. and Rev.; also 1 Peter 1:18-19). From all such powers of the world, Christ has redeemed the souls of His people. Hence it were the grossest self-contradiction to attempt introducing the forms of this bondage into the administration of the kingdom of grace.

[Origen: As all carnal things are done by compulsion, but spiritual things by free-will, so those rulers who are spiritual ought to rest their power in the love of their subjects, not in their fears.—Chrysostom: High place courts him who flies from it, and shuns him who courts it…. Men become masters in this world that they may exercise domination over their inferiors, and reduce them to slavery, and rob them, and employ them even to death for their own profit and glory…. But men become governors in the Church that they may serve those who are under them, and minister to them whatever they have received of Christ, that they may postpone their own convenience, and mind that of others, and not refuse even to die for those beneath them. To seek therefore a command in the Church is neither righteous nor profitable….How much soever you humble yourself, you cannot descend so far as did your Lord. Translation taken from the Oxford edition of Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea, 1841, vol 1 part2pp696, 697).—P. S.]

4. It admits of no question that the word ἀντί in the text implies a vicarious atonement or redemption by a substitute. Still, viewed in its connection, the passage primarily refers to redemption in the narrower sense, and not to the atonement itself. The following three elements may be distinguished in the work of redemption: 1. The καταλλαγὴ, which may be called the prophetic element in redemption; or, the announcement of the grace of God, and its sealing by the death of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. Klaiber, Stier, and others, even in our own day, do not go beyond this2. The ἱλασμός, 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10 : the atonement or propitiation; or, the high-priestly act of redemption, wrought out when Christ gave Himself a sacrifice to the judgment of God pronounced upon the ancient world, thereby converting that judgment into salvation. Anselm has developed this idea, although not with sufficient clearness in the distinction of terms3. The ἀπολν́τρωσις, Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:14 : the redemption of man from the bondage of destruction by the λν́τρον of the blood of Christ; or, the royal act of redemption, which Christ accomplished when He surrendered His life to the powers of the world and to the power of darkness, thereby redeeming Himself and His people from the rulers of darkness, 1 Peter 1:18-19; Acts 10:38; Acts 26:18. The older Fathers chiefly dwelt on the last-mentioned element, as constituting redemption. During the Middle Ages exclusive stress was laid on the priestly element (to which Athanasius and Gregory of Naz. were the first prominently to call attention); while of late, theologians have chiefly insisted on the prophetical element in redemption. The defect of all these systems consists in their not distinguishing, and at the same time combining, all the three elements in the work of redemption. In Scripture they are generally presented more or less combined under one aspect (see the author’s “Positive Dogmatik,” pp858,893). Still, one or other of these elements is generally referred to in a more peculiar manner. Thus, in the passage under consideration, there is special reference to the royal office of Christ in redemption which He accomplished in the form of a servant. He gave His life as a ransom to redeem mankind from the power of darkness and to make us His own property. Hence the office of publishing this work of redemption was not to be transformed into a rule over His free Church, 1 Corinthians 7:23. (“Least of all by cruel despotism and the shedding of the blood of His members.”)

5. If there were any truth in the Romish doctrine of the primacy of Peter, our Lord would have given a very different reply to the sons of Zebedee. He would have said in effect: You know that in Cœsarea Philippi I have already accorded the first place unto Peter. But how different was the answer of Jesus!

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Salome and her sons; or, the difference between the noblest aspirations of mere natural enthusiasm and the spiritual courage of holy humility.—The projects of parents with reference to their children must be tried and purified in the light of the Lord.—Salome and her sons as compared with Mary and her sons, Matthew 12:46.—Christ proving Himself the heavenly King at His first public recognition in that character: 1. By His grace; 2. by His impartiality; 3. by the exercise of His prerogative (both in granting and in withholding); 4. by His holiness and justice (guarding and preserving the rights of the Father).—How the thoughts of the Lord are infinitely high above the thoughts even of His people.—Christ both correcting and offering up our petitions.—Ye know not what ye ask; or, the ignorance and the dangers connected with many of our dearest earthly wishes, as illustrated by the request of the sons of Zebedee: 1. They sought the place of the two malefactors; 2. they requested, so to speak, something which had only existence in their imagination (worldly honors in the kingdom of Christ); 3. they sought something which, in its higher import, had already been given away—perhaps to themselves, perhaps to others—viz, special degrees of election.—The threefold administration in the economy of God.—How Christ in His administration always shed a glorious light on that of the Father.—The work of redemption completing that of creation.—“When the ten heard it;” or, how ambition[FN24] and jealousy frequently evoke each other even in the Church of Christ.—The second dispute about pre-eminence among the disciples.—Its relation to the first and the third disputes.—“Jesus called them unto Himself;” or, the teaching of Christ concerning the character of hierarchy, as addressed to the first council of His disciples.—Secular government in its relation to ecclesiastical order: 1. It is recognized without being approved in every particular; 2. it cannot serve as a model for the Church of Christ, or be adopted in the form of a hierarchy; 3. far less may it exercise rule over the Church itself (Cæsaropapacy).—How the government of the Church of Christ must be a ministry in the strictest sense: 1. He that is not willing to be a minister has no place in it; 2. every genuine minister will be great in proportion as he serves; 3. if we are willing to be servants or slaves in this house, i.e., to devote ourselves, body and soul, to its interests, we shall be first.—Only that arrangement has the approbation of the Lord which combines order with liberty in the Church.—The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, etc.; or, the Church is to be formed according to the model which Christ set before us in His life and death.—How Christ’s humiliation condemns the ambition of those who call themselves His servants.—No tyranny over the conscience may interpose between Christ, the kingly Redeemer, and His royal bride, the Church.—Christ has redeemed His people with His precious blood from, not to, the bondage of this world.—“Ye are bought with a price; be ye not the servants of men.”—As every other association or body, so the Church has its appropriate organization, corresponding to its nature. Thus the plant would die if it were subject to the conditions of the crystal; the animal, if it were subject to those of the plant; Prayer of Manasseh, if he were subject to those of the animal; and the kingdom of heaven, if subject to those of the world. Or rather, the plant has burst through the conditions of the crystal, and passed beyond it, etc.; and the kingdom of heaven through the conditions and forms of this world.—They would fain have established an order in the Church, by which the forms of an unredeemed world would have been forced upon the redeemed: 1. They would have attempted to present spiritual life under shadows and in emblems; 2. knowledge and spiritual power under law and tradition; 3. redemption or liberty under constraint; 4. spiritual blessedness under force and restraint.—How the sufferings of Christ on the cross have given a right form and order to His kingdom: 1. They have converted the lowest depth into the most glorious height (reproach into honor, sorrow into well-being, service into dignity, apparent weakness into power). 2. They have subjected to His sway all the powers of the world (banished secular authority from the Church, and exalted Him to be the King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 1:5).

On the two preceding sections combined.—The difference between the Lord’s prospect and that of His disciples: He sees the cross where they see thrones of honor; He sees the resurrection and eternal life, where they see only night and darkness.—The human nobility in the aspiration of the sons of Zebedee: the good in it (they express an unlimited hope in the Lord’s cause, and would forever unite their destiny with His); the evil in it (they over-estimate their enthusiasm, and approach too nearly a violation of the obedience due to the Lord, and the love due to their fellow-disciples).—The glance at the Lord’s cross sanctifies the wish of the disciples.

Starke:—Cramer: Christian parents! seek not too lofty things for your children.—Zeisius: It is not only vain, but also most foolish, to seek from Christ temporal honor and glory.—It seems as if Christ here (by the cup and the baptism) had referred to the two great sacraments of the New Testament, which bind us to the imitation of Christ.—Quesnel: The weakness of man betrays itself even in his prayers, Romans 8:26.—First the suffering, then the crown, 1 Peter 4:13.—Osiander: Every Christian has his portion of tribulation assigned: let him take it as a salutary cup and healthy medicine.—The best men may make great mistakes as to the extent of their ability.—Lord Jesus! make me worthy to drink of Thy cup, and then place me where Thou wilt.—Canstein: One offence soon draws others after it (then were the ten displeased).—In the kingdom of Christ there are only ministers, servants, and brethren.—O how far is the external Church fallen from this purity!—Langii Opus: This declaration throws the whole papistical hierarchy to the ground.—Quesnel: Preachers must serve after the example of Christ.

Gerlach:—A warning to all in the Church who are higher than others, that they should remember the foundation of their power; lest it should be mere empty form, ruinous to themselves and the Church.

Heubner:—The sons of Adam gladly bow down when worldly honor is to be attained.—Vain maternal love often leads greatly astray.—To sit on Thy right hand: how much disposed the heart is to make religion the means of furthering worldly interests.—The higher a man looks, the greater the danger.—To partake of the highest honor with Jesus is to suffer with Him.—He who knows nothing of the cup of Christ’s passion will have no part in the cup of joy.—Hence we see how ambition exasperates others against us.—Wouldest thou rule, learn first to serve.

Footnotes:

FN#16 - Matthew 20:20.—[Dr. Lange adds in small type and in parenthesis: a royal favor, following Maldonatus and Fritzsche who and in τι aliquid magni, by way of anticipation. See his Exeg. Notes.]

FN#17 - Matthew 20:2.—[So Conant, who correctly observes that εἰπέ has here the sense of authoritative direction, as in Matthew 4:8 : “Command that these stones be made bread,” and in Luke 10:40 : “Bid her therefore that she help me.” Lunge: Sprich’s aus.—P. S.]

FN#18 - Matthew 20:22-23.—The words: καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα, ἐγὼ βαπτίζουαι, βαπτισθῆςαι in Matthew 20:22. and the corresponding addition: καὶ …. βαπτισ θήσεσθε in Matthew 20:23, are wanting in Codd. B, D, L, Z. [and i Cod. Sinait, which belongs to the same class of MSS.], and in many ancient versions [and in all critical editions]. They were in all probability inserted from the parallel passages in Mark 10:38-39.

FN#19 - Matthew 20:24.—[Or: were much displeased, ήγανάκτησαν, as the verb is rendered Mark 10:14; Mark 10:41, and by Conant in this place.—P. S.]

FN#20 - Matthew 20:26.—Lachmann, with B, D, L, Z, and other authorities, reads: ἐστίν. So also Meyer: “The Recepta ἔσται is a change with the view to conform it to Matthew 20:26-27. where ἔσται occurs twice (instead of ἔστω, Fritzsche), according to Lachmann and the preponderance of authorities.” [Tischendorf reads ἔσιαι in Matthew 20:26, and afterward twice: ἔστω. God Sinait. twice: εστε.—P. S.]

FN#21 - Matthew 20:28.—[Codd. D, Z, al, have a lengthy apocryphal addition to this verse. which resembles Luke 14:8 sqq. See the critical apparatus in Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford; also the Com. of Meyer, p875.—P. S.]

FN#22 - So also Alford, who translates ἀλλ’ οἶς: except to those for whom—Wordsworth explains: It is not for Me to give, but it is for Me to adjudge; it is not a boon to be gained by solicitation, but it will be assigned to those for whom it is prepared, according to certain laws prescribed by God.—P. S.]

FN#23 - Bengel: Decem. In his ingenuus evangelista.—P. S.]

FN#24 - Not: reverence, as the Edinb. translator has it, who thoughtlessly read: Ehrfurcht for Ehrsucht (und Eifersucht), and thus made Lange responsible for the nonsense that a fundamental virtue begets an evil passion and vice verse.—P. S.]


Verses 29-34

THIRD SECTION

THE WRETCHED KEPT BACK FROM THE LORD, THE KING OF MERCY

Matthew 20:29-34.

( Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43; Luke 19:1-10.)

29And as they departed from [were going out of][FN25] Jericho, a great multitude followed him 30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by [was passing by, παράγει], cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David [Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David].[FN26] 31And the multitude rebuked them, because [that, ἵνα] they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David [Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David].232And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do33, unto [for] you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened 34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched [Then Jesus, moved with compassion, touched, [σπλαγχνισθεὶς δὲ Ἰσ. ἥψατο] their eyes: and immediately their eyes [they][FN27] received sight, and they followed him.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Chronology.—According to John 12:1, Jesus came to Bethany six days before the Passover. As the feast fell upon the 15 th of Nisan, or began on the evening of the 14 th, this note of time takes us back to the 9 th of Nisan. The day of the crucifixion was the 15 th;[FN28] and therefore the 9 th was the Sabbath previous. The Jewish customs at the feast throw much light upon all these events. On Friday, the 8 th of Nisan, in the year 783 from the foundation of Rome, or in the year30 of our common reckoning (Wieseler, in his Chronol. Synopse, p176, shows that the first day of the Passover fell on a Friday in that year), Jesus went, with His disciples and some friends, from Ephraim to Jericho. Here He remained in the house of Zacchæus. Thus the procession set out too late to reach Jerusalem before sunset, that Isaiah, before the Sabbath. He therefore tarried, for the quiet observance of the festive day, in the customary tents near the Mount of Olives. Whether He spent the night in these tents, or in Bethany, cannot be decided,—at any rate, John dates from the next day; for on the evening of the next day, probably when the Sabbath was ended, that feast was prepared for Him in the house of Simon the leper, at which Martha served and Mary anointed Him, and to which many friends from Jerusalem had come to salute Him. On the following Sunday, early in the morning, the festal company set out from Bethany and from the tents, and assumed the form of a triumphant procession. After considering all these points, it will appear only an inexactness, and by no means a discrepancy, in the first three Evangelists to conduct the procession without any break from Jericho to Jerusalem, and to insert the anointing afterward: Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3. They had a definite motive for the transposition of this supplementary narrative of the anointing. It was their purpose to show how the idea of the betrayal ripened in the soul of Judas through the effect produced by the anointing; and also to connect the history of the anointing with the indication of the traitor at the Paschal feast. At the same time, they would bring the anointing as near as possible to the Supper, on account of its internal prophetical relation to that holy ordinance.

Matthew 20:29. And as they were going out of Jericho.—Luke records the delay in Jericho, and the Lord’s stay in the house of Zacchæus, Matthew 19:1; as also, the parable of the ten servants and the ten pounds, which was connected therewith. Jericho, יְרִיחֹח,יְרֵהוֹ,יְרִיחוֹ; variously written in the Greek also. According to the first form, it signified “the fragrant city;” according to the second, “the city of the moon.” The former, however, is the more probable derivation. It lay not far from the Jordan (60 stadia, or two hours), and was separated from Jerusalem by a waste and wretched wilderness.[FN29] It was in the tribe of Benjamin, on the borders of Ephraim. The district was a blooming oasis in the midst of an extended sandy plain, watered and fruitful, rich in palms, roses, and balsam: hence probably the name (from רֵיח, scent, odor). It is true that the poisonous serpent was not wanting in this paradise also. The city was built by the Canaanites, and taken and destroyed by Joshua ( Joshua 6:26). At a later date it was built again and fortified, and became the seat of a school of the prophets. Herod the Great beautified it, and at this time it was one of the most pleasant places in the land. The balsam trade required that a chief publican should be there; and it was also inhabited by priests and Levites. In the twelfth century scarcely a vestige of the place remained; there is now a wretched village, Richa or Ericha, with about200 inhabitants. Robinson, however, locates the old Jericho in the neighborhood of the fountain of Elisha [two miles north-west of Richa]. The palms have all vanished, and the climate is hot and unhealthy. [Robinson: “Only a single palm-tree now remains of the ‘City of Palms.’ ”—P. S.]

Matthew 20:30. Two blind men sitting by the way side.—Here occurs one of the most marked of the apparent discrepancies of the Gospels. According to Matthew, Jesus healed two blind men on departing; according to Mark, one blind man on departing; according to Luke, one blind man on entering the city. The older Harmonists assumed that there were two miracles: that one blind man was healed at the entrance, and two at the departure, of Christ; and that Mark gave prominence to Bartimæus as the better known of the two persons. Ebrard thinks that Matthew combined the two accounts of Mark and Luke, and placed them in the departure from the city. (So also Wieseler.) It may simplify the matter, if we consider that Jesus did not enter Jericho by the Jordan gate from Peræa, but came from Ephraim; and therefore, probably, made His exit by the same gate through which He entered. The blind man cried out upon Jesus, was threatened and restrained; he cried louder, and Jesus then regarded and healed him. But the Lord might have kept the blind man waiting till His return, to test him; and thus the Evangelists record the same event,—the one, however, connecting it with the entrance, the other with the exit.[FN30] Further, it is not difficult to suppose that in the interval another blind man joined company with the first, Bartimæus; and that both encouraged each other in the louder cry.

Matthew 20:31. That [not: because] they should hold their peace.—This is a feature of the narrative that could not have been invented. It marks the feeling of the great festal procession, which was disposed to regard the cry of these wretched blind men, at such an hour, as an impertinent interruption. It was as if a multitude of courtiers should strive to keep the interruption of misery from throwing a discordant element into a royal feast. Hence the tone is characteristically changed, when Jesus stood still, and commanded the blind to be brought to Him; it is now:—Be of good courage, rise; He calleth thee: Mark 10:49.

Matthew 20:32. And Jesus stood still.—At the cry, Lord, Son of David; which was, according to Luke, on His festal departure from Jericho at the head of the people. This also shows evidently that that great crisis of the Lord’s life was come to which we have already made allusion. He suffers Himself now to be publicly appealed to as the Messiah, in the presence of all the people, which He had never done before: compare Matthew 9:27. The time for His acceptance of, and sympathy with, the Messianic hope of His people had now arrived.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Joshua proceeded from Jericho to the conquest of the promised land—without, however, entirely effecting it. From Jericho, the city of palms, the Messianic procession set out; and it ended with His being delivered over to the Gentiles. But in a higher sense, the conquest of the promised inheritance with the sword of the Spirit was now decided.

2. The history of the blind man at Jericho symbolical of the endeavors of the great in God’s kingdom to interpose between Christ’s throne and the wretched.

3. John J. Owen: “This miracle of healing the blind men has often been employed to illustrate the spiritual blindness of men, the earnestness with which they must apply to Christ (who, by His Spirit, is always passing by) for His healing mercies, and the readiness of the Saviour, on any such application made in penitence and faith, to put forth His healing power. Thousands have read this simple and touching story as a truthful history of their own spiritual blindness, and its removal through the abounding grace of Jesus Christ.”—P. S.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The procession of the Lord from Jericho to Jerusalem the great turning-point in His life1. What it signified—the Lord’s acceptance of His people’s Messianic hopes; He suffered Himself to be publicly heralded as the Messiah2. How the Lord’s friends regarded it—as a coronation procession, which no cry of misery should disturb3. How Christ Himself treated it—as a journey of redemption for believers.—The difference between a legal procession, and the journey of Christ led by the Spirit: the one would fanatically prevent disturbance by anything in the way; the other makes every seeming interruption augment its festal character, Acts 2:13.—The difference between a worship which repels the wretched, and that which attracts them.—The coronation journey of Christ is glorified by every seeming interruption.—The Holy King and His unholy courtiers.—Christ, even through the multitude of noises, detects the individual cry of the petitioner.—What will ye that I should do unto you? Christ’s kingly word to the mendicant blind.—He whose eyes are opened by Christ, lifts them first upon His regal procession.—They who receive their sight from Christ follow Him in the way.—The fellowship of misery: two blind men, ten lepers; and so throughout the evangelical narrative.—The Church is a fellowship both of the needy and the saved.—The gift of the eve: 1. It is the revelation of the soul to the world; 2. the revelation of the world to the soul; 3. the symbol of the inner light of knowledge; 4. of the illumination from above.—The true procession of Christ a swelling stream of the grateful saved.—The wilderness of Jericho changed into a figure of Christ’s work in the world: 1. Once a corner of robbers and murderers, now enlivened by the cry of salvation; 2. once the scene of Christ’s temptation, now the scene of His glorification.—How and wherefore the Lord permitted the joyful acclamation of His people before His sufferings.—The self-renunciation in which the Lord, with the presentiment of His cross upon Him, surrenders Himself to the joy of His disciples: they did not understand the whole issue, which He clearly foresaw; they erred concerning the nearest issue; but in a higher sense they were right, inasmuch as the final issue could be no other than His glorious reign.

Starke:—They who are one in misery should unite their prayer.—The loss of physical sight is to man a great distress; but he is not so much troubled about his soul’s blindness.—Zeisius: We must not be hindered in our prayers by the devil or the world, by flesh and blood.—Cramer: Turn not away your eyes and ears from the cry of the wretched.—Christ is much more willing to help than we to ask Him.—The following of Christ is the best gratitude.

Rieger:—He who easily yields his point to threats, is for the most part without the strong urgency of a true heart.—Happy he whom nothing restrains in his faith and believing cry.

Footnotes:

[With this chapter closes Mr. Edersheim’s translation in the Edinb. edition. The remaining chapters of the Commentary on St. Matthew were translated by the Rev. W. B. Pope (or some inferior assistants), as we learn from a note on the back of the title-page to vol2—P. S.]

FN#25 - Matthew 20:29.—[The strict rendering of ἐκπορευομένων αὐτῶν. In Mark 10:46 the E. V. has: As he went out of Jericho. Luke says ( Matthew 18:35): As he was come nigh unto Jericho On this chronological discrepancy between Matthew and Luke, see the Exeg. Notes on Matthew 20:30.—P. S.]

FN#26 - Matthew 20:30.—[Text. rec: Ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, κύριε, υἱὸς Δαβίδ. But the best authorities read: Κύριε, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, υἱὸς Δαυείδ, Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David. Cod. Sinait. reads in Matthew 20:30 : ελεησον ημας ιησου υιε Δ., and in Matthew 20:31 : κυριε ελεησον ημας υιε Δ.—P. S.]

FN#27 - Matthew 20:34.—The words: αὐτῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί (their eyes) after ἀνέβλεψαν are wanting in Codd. B, D, L, Z, [and Cod. Sinait. which generally agrees with the Codd. just named], and in the Latin Vulgate. They are omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf [not in the large ed. of1859, where the words are retained. Alford omits them, but in his apparatus he neglects to notice the difference of reading.—P. S.]

FN#28 - According to others, the 14 th of Nisan. See Introduction to Matthew 26 below.—P. S.]

FN#29 - We have here corrected the original, which makes evidently a mistake (faithfully copied, as usual, in the Edinb. trsl.), by stating the distance of Jericho from Jerusulem (instead of from Jordan) to be two hours. According to Winer, Bibl. Realwörterbuch. i. p543 (3d ed.), and Robinson Palestine, vol. i. p565, Jericho was60 stadia west from the river Jordan, and150 stadia east from Jerusalem; according to other statements, 5 English miles from the Jordan, and18 or20 miles east-north-east of Jerusalem. The difference arises in part from the uncertainty of the site of ancient Jericho. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem is exceedingly difficult and dangerous, ascending through narrow and rocky passes amid ravines and precipices, and infested by robbers, as in the time of the good Samaritan ( Luke 10:30-34).—P. S.]

FN#30 - Similarly Wordsworth, who assumes that the blind man was not healed till the next day, and that Luke in his account anticipated the result by a prolepsis not uncommon in Scripture. He adds the remark that the frequent practice of anticipation and recapitulation agrees with the divine author of the Bible, to whom all time is present at once. Rabbi Jarchi, in Genesis 6, applies to the Bible what is said of God: “Non est prius, aut posterius, in Scriptura.”—P. S.]

 


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 20:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/matthew-20.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology