Matthew 20

Thursday Evening Bible Study

March 15, 2007


Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem.  He’s left the area of the Galilee and went south to the area east of the Jordan River, probably opposite Jericho.  The typical route a person would follow would be one following the Jordan River.  Though the area around Jericho is hot and dry, being the lowest place on the planet, there is also agriculture along the Jordan valley, like vineyards.

In the last chapter, the Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus and asked about what it took to obtain eternal life.  Jesus told him to sell everything he had and follow Him.  That seemed too difficult for this young fellow.

The chapter ended with Peter wondering about the kinds of rewards they would receive since they did give up everything to follow Him.  Jesus responded by saying that they would be ruling Israel from twelve thrones and they would receive a hundred times whatever they gave up.

:1-16  Vineyard Workers

:1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

There’s nothing new – today farmers or contractors go to the areas where the laborers hang out (like Home Depot) and hire the “day-laborers”.

early in the morning – probably around 6:00am, maybe earlier

:2 "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

denariusdenarion – “containing ten”; a Roman silver coin in NT time. It took its name from it being equal to ten "asses," a number after 217 B.C. increased to sixteen (about 3.898 grams or .1375 oz.). It was the principal silver coin of the Roman empire.

It would seem that this was the typical day’s wage for a laborer.

:3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

third hour – third hour from 6:00am, this would be 9:00am

idleargos – free from labor, at leisure; lazy, shunning the labor which one ought to perform

:4 "and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went.

The landowner wants his crop to be harvested before it goes bad.  In Israel, the grape harvest usually takes place around August, before the fall (or, “latter”) rains come and possibly ruin the crop.

:5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.

sixth … ninthnoon and 3:00pm

:6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?'


:7 "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.'

rightdikaios – righteous, observing divine laws; in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God

:8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.'

:9 "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.

:10 "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.

they supposednomizo – to hold by custom or usage, own as a custom or usage, to follow a custom or usage; it is the custom, it is the received usage; to deem, think, suppose

:11 "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,

complainedgogguzo – to murmur, mutter, grumble, say anything against in a low tone; of those who discontentedly complain

:12 "saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.'

:13 "But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?

Friendhetairos – a comrade, mate, partner; in kindly address; friend, (my good friend)

:14 'Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.

:15 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?'


Everyone gets Eternal Life

Probably the main lesson – it doesn’t matter at what time in your life you become a believer, you will receive the same gift that we’ve all received, eternal life.
(John 6:29 NKJV)  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
(John 6:47 NKJV)  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
A person lying on their death bed, in the eleventh hour, has the ability to turn to Jesus.  We might run the risk of getting upset and saying, “Well that’s not fair, they shouldn’t have waited so long…”  But Jesus accepts all who come to Him.

Other Lessons

Life is not always fair.

As a parent we’re always trying to avoid playing favorites.  If we give a $30 gift to one child for Christmas, we are careful to be sure that every child gets the same value of gifts.
But sometimes we end up teaching the wrong lesson and our kids grow up getting upset at life because life isn’t fair.  But the truth is, life isn’t always fair.

God is God.  He can do what He wants.

We ought to be careful about challenging God in what He does.
We don’t see everything that God sees.
Sometimes we get upset because it looks like we’re not getting what we should get.
But be careful about judging things too quickly.  Sometimes God allows things in our life that seem unfair, but it’s only to grow us and mature us.
(2 Cor 4:7-18 NKJV)  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. {8} We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; {9} persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; {10} always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. {11} For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. {12} So then death is working in us, but life in you. {13} And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak, {14} knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. {15} For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. {16} Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. {17} For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, {18} while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Why do we get upset when someone receives grace?

Sometimes we can be gracious and thankful when someone receives a gift, when someone receives grace.
But sometimes we can be pretty petty.  Sometimes all we can think of is why we didn’t get the same thing or even better.
(Rom 12:15 NKJV)  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Sometimes we get to thinking that our “place in line” gives us certain privileges.

As a pastor, sometimes I wonder why certain things haven’t happened to our church.  Why haven’t we grown to be 20,000 people?  I sometimes get upset when some young kid comes along, starts a church, and within two years has a church twice the size of ours.  I wonder, “Hey, I’ve been in the fields working hard since before this kid was even born!”
I think we need to go back to what we originally agreed to when we signed up for this job in life.

:16 "So the last will be first, and the first last.

last … first

The last chapter ended with a similar verse:

(Mat 19:27-30 NKJV)  Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?" {28} So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. {29} "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. {30} "But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Here Peter was wondering about their rewards.  The Rich Young Ruler was reluctant to give everything up to follow Jesus, but the disciples had actually done that.  And Jesus comforts them by reminding them that in the kingdom they will receive back a hundred times whatever they gave up.
The Rich Young Ruler might have been considered “first” in this life, but he’d be “last” in the next.  The disciples might have been considered “last” in this life, but they’ll be “first” in the next.

In this section we get a little different slant on the verse.

In a sense, those that obey the call all get the same reward.

:16 For many are called, but few chosen."

called … chosen

calledkletos – called, invited (to a banquet)

choseneklektos – picked out, chosen

Jesus is talking about the difference between hearing the invitation to follow Him and responding to the invitation.

The landowner seemed to never get enough workers into the field.  Not everyone responds to the call.

:17-19 Death predicted

:17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them,

up to JerusalemJerusalem is located up in the hills.  We might think of “up” as being “north” on a map, but it has to do with going up the hill.  Jesus is coming to Jerusalem from the east, on the Jericho road.

:18 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death,

:19 "and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again."

to the Gentiles – the Jews wouldn’t carry out the sentence, the Romans would

mockempaizo – to play with, trifle with; to mock (from the word for “child”, to treat or play like a child)

scourgemastigoo – to scourge

I find it interesting that Jesus lays out such detail of what it ahead – betrayal, condemnation, the Roman involvement, mocking, scourging, crucifying, and resurrection.

Jesus knew EXACTLY what He was going to do.  Crucifixion, scourging, were all familiar to people living under the Roman rule.  He willingly died for us.

I find it interesting that the disciples still seemed so surprised when it actually happened.

:20-28 The greatest is a servant

Jewish mothers are an interesting group.  For some Jewish mothers, nothing is ever good enough for their sons…

The first Jewish President

The first Jewish President of the United States calls his mother in Brooklyn, NY. and invites her to come down for Thanksgiving. She says, “I’d like to, but it’s so much trouble...I mean, I have to get a cab to the airport, and I hate waiting on Ocean Blvd...” He replies, “Mother! I’m the President! You won’t need a cab - I’ll send a limousine for you!” His mother replies, “I know, but then I’ll have to stand on line to get my ticket at the airport, and try to get a seat on the plane, and I hate to sit in the middle... it’s just too much trouble.” He replies, “Mom! I’m the President of the United States! I’ll send Air Force One for you - it’s my private jet!” To which she replies, “Certainly, darling, I know you would but then when we land, I’ll have to schlep my luggage through the airport, and try to get a cab... at my age, it’s really too much trouble.” He replies, “Mama, listen to me!! I’m the President! I’ll send my helicopter for you! You won’t have to lift a finger, the Secret Service will handle everything.” She answers, “Yes, that’s nice... but, you know, I still need a hotel room, and the rooms are so expensive, and I really don’t like hotels...” Exasperated, he answers, “Ma! I’m the President! You’ll stay at the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom!” She responds, “Well... all right... I guess I’ll come.” The next day, she’s on the phone with her friend Esther: Esther: “Hello, Sylvia... so what’s new?” Sylvia: “I’m visiting my son for Thanksgiving.” Esther: “Really? That’s wonderful. Which son?” Sylvia: “You know my son Marvin, the DOCTOR?” Esther: “Yes.” Sylvia: “The other one.”

Jesus’ disciples all have Jewish mothers.  And several of the men even have brothers in the group, meaning that there are a couple of Jewish mothers who have TWO sons in the group with Jesus.  Oy vey!

:20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

Zebedee’s sons – James and John, also known as “the sons of thunder”

kneeling downproskuneo – to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence; among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence; in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication

Some have suggested that this isn’t the mother driving the discussion.  The boys are the ones with the ideas, mom is just the one being put up front to talk for them.  Mark (10:35) doesn’t mention the mother, just the sons.

:21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom."

She’s asking to have her sons be Jesus’ top two men in the new kingdom.  She’s a Jewish mother.  She wants the best for her sons.

:22 But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able."

It doesn’t sound as if Jesus responds to the mother, but to the sons.

cup … baptized … - Jesus is talking about the suffering and death that is coming for Him. 

I don’t know if James and John really understood what they were agreeing to.

:23 So He said to them, "You will indeed drink 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 is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."

:24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers.

greatly displeasedaganakteo (“much” + “grief”) – to be indignant, moved with indignation, be very displeased, vexed

Why were they displeased with James and John?

Because they had cut in line in front of them to ask the very same question.

They didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity to become Jesus’ right hand guy.

:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.

lord it overkatakurieuo – to bring under one’s power, to subject one’s self, to subdue, master; to hold in subjection, to be master of, exercise lordship over

exercise authoritykatexousiazo – to exercise authority, wield power

In this world, you get ahead by stepping over people.  Or stepping on people.

:26 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.

not be so … - Jesus does not want us to learn from the world.  God’s leaders aren’t supposed to act like the world’s leaders.

servantdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister

Greatness in God’s eyes is not measured by how many people you “command”.  Greatness is measured by serving.

When you walk into a room of people, do you notice how many people pay attention to you?  If you’re hurt because people aren’t paying attention to you, you’ve got your own attention on the wrong thing.  You ought to walk into a room to find out how you can serve, not how to be served.

:27 "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave;

slavedoulos – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition; this term seems a little bit lower than “servant”.  A “servant” (diakonos) might be a paid servant, the slave (doulos) is a permanent enslavement.

We don’t even serve in order to become “great” or “first”.  We serve because we’re supposed to serve.  You may find yourself in a role as a “leader”, but you still must learn to serve.  You never stop serving.

:28 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Jesus gave the ultimate example.

He’s the King of the Universe, and yet He came to die for us.

:29-34 Blind men healed

:29 Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.

Jericho is on the road from the Jordan River to Jerusalem.  If you’re walking it would probably take a day or so (15-20 miles), but driving it takes about 30-45 minutes.  It’s an uphill climb, going from Jericho (800 ft. below sea level) to Jerusalem (2500 ft. above sea level).

When you have a “great multitude” following you, you can start feeling a bit “important”.  You can find yourself not paying attention to the “small people”.

Luke tells us that while they were in Jericho, they met a wee little fellow named Zacchaeus (Luke 19).  Jesus had lunch with the small man.

And now on the way out of the city, Jesus is going to pay a lot of attention to some disgusting people that everyone wants to go away.

:30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!"

Mark tells us that one of the blind men was named Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46).

Even today you will see beggars in Jerusalem.  We came out of one of the old gates of the city and there were several beggars lined up on the street asking for money.  We were warned about some of these folks and so we very appropriately ignored them.

Jesus didn’t ignore these fellows.

:31 Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!"

They don’t want to be quiet, they want to be healed.

“Son of David” – they recognize Jesus as having a right to the throne of David, possibly as a claim to be the Messiah.

:32 So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

Their cry for “mercy” might just mean that they want a few coins.

:33 They said to Him, "Lord, that our eyes may be opened."

They know enough of Jesus that they know the right thing to ask for.  They don’t want coins, they want to be healed.

Just what do you want from Jesus?

(John 5:1-9 NKJV)  After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {2} Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. {3} In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. {4} For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. {5} Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. {6} When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" {7} The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." {8} Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." {9} And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

This man didn’t seem to answer the way we think he should.  He seemed to be making excuses.  Yet Jesus still healed him.
It’s not about whether we say the “magic words”.  God knows our heart.  If you want Him to heal you, He knows what you want.

:34 So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

compassionsplagchnizomai – to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)

touchedhaptomai – to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to

The Servant of All is moved with compassion towards these blind men.

He doesn’t just command their healing, He touches them.