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Matthew 20:1-34

Last Updated 9/10/00

CHAPTER 20:1-34 TEXT:

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire
labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have
mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.


1  For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder

This parable can be taken on a literal (p'shat) level, as well as a remez (hint) at something else. On the p'shat level, the lesson here is that salvation (represented by the payment the workers receive) is not based on how long you serve God. However, it would be incorrect to draw from this parable the idea that everyone gets the same reward in heaven. God rewards and punishes fairly, based on our works in this life.

The parable does hint (remez) at another truth, one of the mysteries that was to make itself known to those who Yeshua revealed it to. In this case, the workers of the morning, (the first called) could be considered Israel, the Jewish people. Those coming later in the day represent gentiles.

Paul alludes to this in his Ephesians letter, where he says that gentile salvation though the Messiah was a mystery revealed:

Ephesians 3:3-6 - How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

15  Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

We are not the ones to question God:

Romans 9:18-21 - Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

The "evil" eye is an idiom for "stinginess," as mentioned in our notes to Matthew 6:23.

If this parallel is taken to be that of the Jews and gentiles, then the "complaint" of the Jews would be that they have been God's chosen people, the people of the Torah, for far longer than the gentiles. The reply to this would be that although the Jew has an advantage in that they have the Torah (Romans 3:2), a great part of this advantage is in knowing that God is no respector of persons, and thus no one has an "advantage" toward salvation in this sense. This subject is discussed in our Romans study.

16  So the last shall be first, and the first last:

As mentioned in the previous section, this idiom has to do with equality (as the parable shows), not reversing the order.

22  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask.

The mother of James and John asked a question that came from her lack of understanding. (Similar to Matthew 18:1). Again, Yeshua stresses the aspects of humility and servanthood.

22  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?

A full discussion of this "cup" and baptism will be presented in chapter 26 of this study.

27  And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Again referring to the idea of the "mighty in the Kingdom," serving others in humility (with Moses being our best human example.)


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