The parable of the labourers in the vineyard. (1-16) Jesus again foretells his sufferings. (17-19) The ambition of James and John. (20-28) Jesus gives sight to two blind men near Jericho. (29-34)
Verses 1-16 The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews. The parable may also be applied more generally, and shows, 1. That God is debtor to no man. 2. That many who begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at a great deal of knowledge, grace, and usefulness. 3. That the recompense of reward will be given to the saints, but not according to the time of their conversion. It describes the state of the visible church, and explains the declaration that the last shall be first, and the first last, in its various references. Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle: a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may be called a state of idleness. The market-place is the world, and from that we are called by the gospel. Come, come from this market-place. Work for God will not admit of trifling. A man may go idle to hell, but he that will go to heaven, must be diligent. The Roman penny was sevenpence halfpenny in our money, wages then enough for the day's support. This does not prove that the reward of our obedience to God is of works, or of debt; when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but it signifies that there is a reward set before us, yet let none, upon this presumption, put off repentance till they are old. Some were sent into the vineyard at the eleventh hour; but nobody had hired them before. The Gentiles came in at the eleventh hour; the gospel had not been before preached to them. Those that have had gospel offers made them at the third or sixth hour, and have refused them, will not have to say at the eleventh hour, as these had, No man has hired us. Therefore, not to discourage any, but to awaken all, be it remembered, that now is the accepted time. The riches of Divine grace are loudly murmured at, among proud Pharisees and nominal Christians. There is great proneness in us to think that we have too little, and others too much of the tokens of God's favour; and that we do too much, and others too little in the work of God. But if God gives grace to others, it is kindness to them, and no injustice to us. Carnal worldlings agree with God for their penny in this world; and choose their portion in this life. Obedient believers agree with God for their penny in the other world, and must remember they have so agreed. Didst not thou agree to take up with heaven as thy portion, thy all; wilt thou seek for happiness in the creature? God punishes none more than they deserve, and recompenses every service done for him; he therefore does no wrong to any, by showing extraordinary grace to some. See here the nature of envy. It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others, and desires their hurt. It is a grief to ourselves, displeasing to God, and hurtful to our neighbours: it is a sin that has neither pleasure, profit, nor honour. Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.
Verses 17-19 Christ is more particular here in foretelling his sufferings than before. And here, as before, he adds the mention of his resurrection and his glory, to that of his death and sufferings, to encourage his disciples, and comfort them. A believing view of our once crucified and now glorified Redeemer, is good to humble a proud, self-justifying disposition. When we consider the need of the humiliation and sufferings of the Son of God, in order to the salvation of perishing sinners, surely we must be aware of the freeness and richness of Divine grace in our salvation.
Verses 20-28 The sons of Zebedee abused what Christ said to comfort the disciples. Some cannot have comforts but they turn them to a wrong purpose. Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked. It is but a cup, it is but a draught, bitter perhaps, but soon emptied; it is a cup in the hand of a Father, Joh. 18:11 . Baptism is an ordinance by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant and communion; and so is suffering for Christ, ( Ezekiel 20:37 , Isaiah 48:10 ) . Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; and so is suffering for Christ, for unto us it is given, ( Philippians 1:29 ) . But they knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism. Those are commonly most confident, who are least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire of greatness. And we never find Christ's disciples quarrelling, but something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity. Our Lord speaks of his death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. It is a sacrifice for the sins of men, and is that true and substantial sacrifice, which those of the law faintly and imperfectly represented. It was a ransom for many, enough for all, working upon many; and, if for many, then the poor trembling soul may say, Why not for me?
Verses 29-34 It is good for those under the same trial, or infirmity of body or mind, to join in prayer to God for relief, that they may quicken and encourage one another. There is mercy enough in Christ for all that ask. They were earnest in prayer. They cried out as men in earnest. Cold desires beg denials. They were humble in prayer, casting themselves upon, and referring themselves cheerfully to, the Mediator's mercy. They showed faith in prayer, by the title they gave to Christ. Surely it was by the Holy Ghost that they called Jesus, Lord. They persevered in prayer. When they were in pursuit of such mercy, it was no time for timidity or hesitation: they cried earnestly. Christ encouraged them. The wants and burdens of the body we are soon sensible of, and can readily relate. Oh that we did as feelingly complain of our spiritual maladies, especially our spiritual blindness! Many are spiritually blind, yet say they see. Jesus cured these blind men; and when they had received sight, they followed him. None follow Christ blindly. He first by his grace opens men's eyes, and so draws their hearts after him. These miracles are our call to Jesus; may we hear it, and make it our daily prayer to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Matthew 20:1-16 . PARABLE OF THE LABORERS IN THE VINEYARD.
This parable, recorded only by Matthew, is closely connected with the end of the nineteenth chapter, being spoken with reference to Peter's question as to how it should fare with those who, like himself, had left all for Christ. It is designed to show that while they would be richly rewarded, a certain equity would still be observed towards later converts and workmen in His service.
1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, &c.--The figure of a vineyard, to represent the rearing of souls for heaven, the culture required and provided for that purpose, and the care and pains which God takes in that whole matter, is familiar to every reader of the Bible. ( Psalms 80:8-16 Isaiah 5:1-7 Jeremiah 2:21 Luke 20:9-16 John 15:1-8 ). At vintage time, as WEBSTER and WILKINSON remark, labor was scarce, and masters were obliged to be early in the market to secure it. Perhaps the pressing nature of the work of the Gospel, and the comparative paucity of laborers, may be incidentally suggested, Matthew 9:37 Matthew 9:38 . The "laborers," as in Matthew 9:38 , are first, the official servants of the Church, but after them and along with them all the servants of Christ, whom He has laid under the weightiest obligation to work in His service.
2. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny--a usual day's hire.
he sent them into his vineyard.
3. And he went out about the third hour--about nine o'clock, or after a fourth of the working day had expired: the day of twelve hours was reckoned from six to six.
and saw others standing idle in the market place--unemployed.
4. And said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right--just, equitable, in proportion to their time.
I will give you. And they went their way.
5. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour--about noon, and about three o'clock in the afternoon.
and did likewise--hiring and sending into his vineyard fresh laborers each time.
6. And about the eleventh hour--but one hour before the close of the working day; a most unusual hour both for offering and engaging
and found others standing idle, and saith, Why stand ye here all the day idle?--Of course they had not been there, or not been disposed to offer themselves at the proper time; but as they were now willing, and the day was not over, and "yet there was room," they also are engaged, and on similar terms with all the rest.
8. So when even was come--that is, the reckoning time between masters and laborers (see Deuteronomy 24:15 ); pointing to the day of final account.
the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward--answering to Christ Himself, represented "as a Son over His own house" ( Hebrews 3:6 ; see Matthew 11:27 , John 3:35 , 5:27 ).
Call the labourers and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first--Remarkable direction this--last hired, first paid.
9. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny--a full day's wages.
10. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more--This is that calculating, mercenary spirit which had peeped out--though perhaps very slightly--in Peter's question ( Matthew 19:27 ), and which this parable was designed once for all to put down among the servants of Christ.
11. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house--rather, "the householder," the word being the same as in Matthew 20:1 .
12. Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat--the burning heat.
of the day--who have wrought not only longer but during a more trying period of the day.
13. But he answered one of them--doubtless the spokesman of the complaining party.
and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? &c.
15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?--that is, "You appeal to justice, and by that your mouth is shut; for the sum you agreed for is paid you. Your case being disposed of, with the terms I make with other laborers you have nothing to do; and to grudge the benevolence shown to others, when by your own admission you have been honorably dealt with, is both unworthy envy of your neighbor, and discontent with the goodness that engaged and rewarded you in his service at all."
16. So the last shall be first, and the first last--that is, "Take heed lest by indulging the spirit of these murmurers at the penny given to the last hired, ye miss your own penny, though first in the vineyard; while the consciousness of having come in so late may inspire these last with such a humble frame, and such admiration of the grace that has hired and rewarded them at all, as will put them into the foremost place in the end."
for many be called, but few chosen--This is another of our Lord's terse and pregnant sayings, more than once uttered in different connections. (See Matthew 19:30 , 22:14 ). The "calling" of which the New Testament almost invariably speaks is what divines call effectual calling, carrying with it a supernatural operation on the will to secure its consent. But that cannot be the meaning of it here; the "called" being emphatically distinguished from the "chosen." It can only mean here the "invited." And so the sense is, Many receive the invitations of the Gospel whom God has never "chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ). But what, it may be asked, has this to do with the subject of our parable? Probably this--to teach us that men who have wrought in Christ's service all their days may, by the spirit which they manifest at the last, make it too evident that, as between God and their own souls, they never were chosen workmen at all.
Matthew 20:17-28 . THIRD EXPLICIT ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS APPROACHING SUFFERINGS, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION--THE AMBITIOUS REQUEST OF JAMES AND JOHN, AND THE REPLY. ( = 10:32-45 Luke 18:31-34 ).
For the exposition,
Matthew 20:29-34 . TWO BLIND MEN HEALED. ( = 10:46-52 , Luke 18:35-43 ).
For the exposition,