The Laborers in the Vineyard; The Ambitious Mother.
SUMMARY.--The Householder and the Laborers.
Those Hired at the Eleventh Hour.
The Recompense to All.
The Lord's Sufferings at Jerusalem Portrayed.
The Ambition of the Mother of Zebedee's Sons.
The Baptism of Suffering.
Two Blind Men Healed at Jericho.
1. For the kingdom of heaven. This parable is added to
illustrate what was said just before, in the last chapter.
A man that is a householder. The householder represents God, the
vineyard is the kingdom of Christ, the laborers his disciples.
Went out early in the morning to hire. Said to be a common
custom in the East. Unemployed laborers gather in the market place of
the villages, waiting for an employer.
2. Agreed with the labourers for a penny a day. A denarius, about
sixteen cents, the usual full price of a day's labor at that time. It
would buy then more than a dollar will now.
3, 4. About the third hour. Nine o'clock. The hours were counted
from six o'clock.
5, 6. Went about the sixth and ninth hour. Twelve and three
About the eleventh hour. Five o'clock.
7. Because no man hath hired us. These persons were idle,
because they had no opportunity to work. This point must not be lost
sight of. There is no promise here for willful idleness.
8. Saith unto his steward. The steward, to whom the duty of
paying the laborers is assigned, probably represents Christ.
9. They received every man a penny. More than most of them
expected. God does not measure our reward by the length, but by the
faithfulness of service.
10, 11, 12. They murmured. Those who had worked all day. Like the elder
13, 14. Go thy way. The householder gave these all he had agreed. They
had no ground of complaint but envy.
15. Is thine eye evil? Envious.
16. So, etc. A special lesson, first, to the Jews. They had been
called first by God, but the Gentiles who heard the call should soon
enjoy special privileges. They would even be first in the kingdom,
of their greater readiness to receive the gospel. Our duty in the
vineyard is to go to work as soon as the Lord calls us, and to do what
he tells us.
17. Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve apart. For six
months, ever since the confession at Cæsarea Philippi, the Lord
had been trying to prepare the twelve for his death.
Mark 10:32-52; Luke 18:31-43.
He was now east of the Jordan, on his way.
18. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. They had gone to Jerusalem
ofttimes before, but never on such a mournful errand.
Shall be betrayed. By Judas, who would lead the band sent by the
Jewish rulers to seek him in the night.
Chief priests and unto the scribes. The Jewish Sanhedrim. It
included both the leaders of the priesthood, the leading scribes, or
doctors of the law, and others. The great council of the nation
condemned Jesus to die. See
19. Shall deliver him to the Gentiles. The Sanhedrim could
condemn, but had no power to inflict capital punishment, because the
government had passed into the hands of the Romans--a Gentile race.
To mock and to scourge. For comment on these words, see
The third day. This expression, which occurs often, shows the
sense in which the Jews understood the corresponding phrase, "three
days and three nights."
20. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children. Salome,
the mother of the apostles James and John, and supposed by many to be
the sister of the mother of Jesus. Compare
21. What wilt thou? We learn from
that they asked him to grant what they wished before they stated it,
after the manner of Herod to the daughter of Herodias, but he forced
them to state their ambitious desire. The mother speaks for them.
Sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy
kingdom. They still believed that he would be an earthly monarch,
notwithstanding that he had just told them of his speedy death.
22. Ye know not what ye ask. An illustration, this of ignorant
prayer. Within a month they saw the places on his right hand and left
occupied by the two thieves in the crucifixion.
Are ye able to drink of the cup? The cup is an Old
Testament image of a man's lot, or portion, as holding what of life God
pours out for him.
Be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? Baptism is the
necessary condition by which one can enjoy the privileges of the
church. The cup signifies suffering voluntarily taken, or
"drunk," and the baptism what is endured at the hands of others.
We are able. They no doubt thought they were. They loved their
Lord, as well as pre-eminence, and felt that they were willing to go
with him through suffering. They, however, overestimated their
23. Ye shall drink indeed of my cup. They cannot do it now, but
in due time they shall follow him; they shall rise to their calling,
and bravely meet all its risks and hardships. See
Acts 12:1, 2.
Is not mine to give. The highest honors of his kingdom were not
now to be disposed of by him to gratify the worldly ambition of any
For whom it is prepared. The Father had a plan in reference to
the honors of the kingdom. The lowliest would be the loftiest. They who
gave up most would get most.
24. The ten . . . were moved with indignation. The indignation
of the "ten" displayed the same spirit and motive as the request of the
sons of Zebedee. It is very common that in the very act of condemning
our brethren we are guilty of the same or worse faults than those we
25. Jesus called them to him. Evidently their indignation had
been outspoken, but not in the immediate presence of the Lord.
The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion. In order to present
the contrast between the kingdom as it would be and as they expected
it, he pointed out the nature of Gentile rule. The princes "lorded
over" the people.
26. It shall not be so among you. No such lordship, no such
authority, can be tolerated in your fraternity. The case is a rebuke of
unhallowed ambition. Men prominent in the church should be the first to
heed the admonition. Such priestly despotism as the absolute rule of
the Catholic, Greek, and of some Protestant churches is at variance
with this principle.
Whosoever will be great . . . let him be your minister. Your
deacon, servant. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven consists in
doing, rather than in
being, and in doing for others, rather than for self. Greatness
is to be found in service. Only those men are truly great who are the
servants of their race, helpers of mankind.
27. Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
In the church, the greatest one is he who serves most and best.
28. Give his life as a ransom. Our Lord came to serve. He even
gave his life. He became our ransom; that is, he redeemed us by his
29. As they departed from Jericho. He had now crossed the
Jordan. At Jericho he saved Zaccheus. Compare
Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43.
Jericho stood a few miles from the southern ford of the Jordan, on the
road to Jerusalem, which was about eighteen miles distant. He left
Jericho for Jerusalem on Friday, just a week before his crucifixion.
30. Two blind men.
Mark and Luke
name only one, blind Bartimæus, probably well known and hence
31. Have mercy on us, thou Son of David. This was virtually
acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, who was to be the Son of David.
32. Jesus stood still. He does not object now to this title.
He is now about to proclaim himself the Messiah.
34. Jesus . . . touched their eyes. The faith of the blind men
had saved them. Compare
Mark and Luke.
Faith saved. The blind Bartimæus (1) asked about Jesus as he
passed; (2) cried to him as the Son of David, the Messiah; (3) asked
for mercy; (4) kept on crying when they tried to stop him; (5) when
permitted, sprang up and hurried to Jesus; (6) asked of him to receive
his sight. This is faith in action.