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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 20

 

 


Verses 1-16

Matthew 20:1-16. Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard.—It is possible (as it is necessary) to distinguish two interpretations of this splendid parable, (a) that intended by Jesus, (b) that suggested by the evangelist. To Mt. the vineyard is the Christian community: those who joined it early and those who join it late may expect the same reward. There will be no distinction between them at the Parousia. It is probable that we should omit Matthew 20:16 as well as the words "Many (the Jewish nation) are called, but few (the Christian community) chosen." But what Jesus meant to teach was that the eternal life is the result not of work but of grace; God is no mere timekeeper; the laws which govern admission to the Kingdom are not those which prevail in ordinary business transactions (cf. Isaiah 55:8 f.). "A little in the eyes of God may be equivalent to a great deal in the eyes of man; from unequal opportunities God will not demand equal results, but to unequal results God may give equal rewards" (Montefiore, p. 700). The parable also reflects upon the Pharisaic attitude of the professedly godly towards the penitent among the poor and outcast, as in the closing moral of the Prodigal Son. We are not to infer (a) that those who had worked fewer hours did as much in them as those who had worked all day; (b) that the actual sinner gains the Kingdom; (c) that there are no tests of entrance to it; (d) that there is absolute equality in it. In Loisy's words, eternal life is not a reward "proportioned to the time a man has passed in the practice of religious rites or to the quantity of works of piety he has performed." But it is not quite true to say that "God gives as a grace to repentant sinners what He gives to the just as a remuneration." Eternal life is in no case simply the reward of a contract, a recompense for service undertaken and fulfilled. After all, it is only by God's grace that the just man gets it. Montefiore quotes a Talmudic saying: "Some enter the Kingdom in an hour, while others hardly reach it after a lifetime," For complementary teaching see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.

Matthew 20:2. a penny: the denarius was worth about a franc (9d.), not a bad day's wage in the East; five or six shillings would be a better translation for us.

Matthew 20:3. the third hour: 9 A.M.

Matthew 20:13. Friend: or "comrade," a kindly address to one who was in the wrong (cf. Matthew 22:12, Matthew 26:50).

On the whole subject of Jesus' teaching on "The Rewards of the Christian Life" see Kent, Life and Teaching of Jesus, 202ff. (Cf. Matthew 5:11 f.*)


Verses 17-19

Matthew 20:17-19. Third Prediction of the Passion (Mark 10:32-34*, Luke 18:31-34).—Mt. omits the description of the pilgrims; he turns Mk.'s "kill" into "crucify," and "after three days" into "on the third day" (cf. Matthew 16:21*, Matthew 17:23).


Verses 20-28

Matthew 20:20-28. The Request of the Sons of Zebedee. The Christian Standard of Greatness (Mark 10:35-45*, Luke 22:24-27).—Mt. makes the mother of James and John ask the boon, but Jesus replies to them, not to her. For Mk.'s "glory" (Mat 20:37) he has "kingdom"; the meaning is the same. The references to baptism are omitted, and "my Father" is said to have prepared the places.


Verses 29-34

Matthew 20:29-34. Two Blind Men Healed (Mark 10:46-52*, Luke 18:35-43).—Mt. gives Bartimæus (?) a companion (he is fond of doubling, cf, Matthew 8:28, Matthew 9:27). But he says Jesus "touched their eyes" (cf. Mark 8:22-26). Like Mk., he places the incident as Jesus was leaving Jericho; contrast Lk.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 20:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/matthew-20.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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