Matthew 20

Listen to Matthew 20

Laborers in the Vineyard

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.'
5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
6 And 1about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?'
7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.'
8 And 2when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his 3foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.'
9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,
12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and 4the scorching heat.'
13 But he replied to one of them, 5'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14 Take 6what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.
15 7Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or 8do you begrudge my generosity?'[b]
16 So 9the last will be first, and the first last."

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 10And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them,
18 "See, 11we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will 12condemn him to death
19 and 13deliver him over to the Gentiles 14to be mocked and flogged and 15crucified, and he will be raised on 16the third day."

A Mother's Request

20 17Then 18the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and 19kneeling before him she asked him for something.
21 And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Say that these two sons of mine 20are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, 21in your kingdom."
22 Jesus answered, 22"You do not know what you are asking. Are you able 23to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able."
23 He said to them, 24"You will drink 25my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, 26but it is for those for whom it has been 27prepared by my Father."
24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.
25 But Jesus called them to him and said, 28"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles 29lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
26 30It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[c]
27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,[d]
28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but 31to serve, and 32to give his life as a ransom for 33many."

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

29 34And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him.
30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, "Lord,[e] have mercy on us, 35Son of David!"
31 The crowd 36rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!"
32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, "What do you want me to do for you?"
33 They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened."
34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

Images for Matthew 20

Matthew 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

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.

Cross References 36

  • 1. [1 Corinthians 15:8]
  • 2. Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:15
  • 3. Luke 8:3; [Matthew 24:45]
  • 4. Luke 12:55; James 1:11(Gk.)
  • 5. Matthew 22:12; Matthew 26:50
  • 6. Matthew 25:25
  • 7. [Romans 9:15-24]
  • 8. Matthew 6:23; Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 23:6
  • 9. See Matthew 19:30
  • 10. For ver. 17-19, see Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; [Matthew 16:21-28; Matthew 17:12, 22, 23]
  • 11. See Matthew 16:21
  • 12. Matthew 26:66; John 19:7
  • 13. Matthew 27:2; John 18:30, 31; Acts 3:13; [Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27; Acts 21:11]
  • 14. Matthew 27:26-31
  • 15. Matthew 26:2; Luke 24:7; John 12:32, 33; John 18:32
  • 16. Matthew 16:21; Matthew 27:63
  • 17. For ver. 20-28, see Mark 10:35-45
  • 18. Matthew 4:21; Matthew 27:56
  • 19. See Matthew 8:2
  • 20. [Matthew 19:28]
  • 21. Matthew 16:28; Matthew 25:31, 34; Luke 23:42
  • 22. [Luke 9:33; Luke 23:34]
  • 23. Matthew 26:29, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11; [Isaiah 51:22]
  • 24. [Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:10]
  • 25. Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9
  • 26. [Matthew 19:11]
  • 27. Matthew 25:34
  • 28. For ver. 25-28, [Matthew 18:1-4; Luke 22:25-27]
  • 29. 1 Peter 5:3
  • 30. Matthew 23:11; [Luke 9:48]
  • 31. John 13:4, 13-15; Philippians 2:7; [2 Corinthians 8:9]
  • 32. Isaiah 53:10; Daniel 9:26; John 10:15; John 11:51, 52; Romans 4:25; Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19
  • 33. Matthew 26:28; Isaiah 53:11, 12; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 9:28; [Romans 5:15; Revelation 5:9]
  • 34. For ver. 29-34, see Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43; [Matthew 9:27-31]
  • 35. Matthew 21:9; Matthew 22:42; See Matthew 1:1
  • 36. Matthew 19:13

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer
  • [b]. Or is your eye bad because I am good?
  • [c]. Greek diakonos
  • [d]. Greek bondservant (doulos)
  • [e]. Some manuscripts omit Lord

Matthew 20 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.