The Fourfold Gospel
20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers1 into his vineyard2.
- A man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers. He rose early because the working day began with the
rising of the sun.
- His vineyard. The vineyard represents the Lord's field of work in the world.
20:2 And when he had agreed with the laborers for a shilling1 a day, he sent them into his vineyard2.
- A shilling. See Mark 6:37. In the parable, the "denarius" or shilling stands for the gift of eternal life.
- His vineyard. See Matthew 20:1.
20:3 And he went out about the third hour1, and saw others standing in the marketplace idle;
- About the third hour. The Jews divided the time between sunrise and sunset into twelve hours, so that the first hour would be about six
o'clock, the third about nine, the sixth noon, the ninth about three,
and the twelfth about six. As the length of the days differed, the
lengths of the hours differed. The longest day in Palestine is fourteen
hours and twelve minutes; the shortest, nine hours and forty-eight
minutes; so it would follow that an hour on the longest day would be
seventy-one minutes; and on the shortest, only forty-nine minutes. None
of the hours, therefore, would correspond exactly to ours except the
sixth or noon hour.
20:8 And when even was come1, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward2, Call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first3.
- And when even was come. The time of settlement (Leviticus 19:13 Deuteronomy 24:15). The evening represents the close of the Christian
dispensation, and the coming of Christ to judgment.
- The lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward. His overseer.
- Call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. Thus following the order indicated by Matthew 19:30.
Also see Mark 10:31. The lord paid the last first that he might
make conspicuous the fact that these received as much wages as those
who had labored all day.
20:9 And when they came that [were hired] about the eleventh hour, they received every man a shilling1.
- A shilling. See Matthew 20:2.
20:10 And when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more1; and they likewise received every man a shilling2.
- When the first came, they supposed that they would receive more. Seeing the lord's liberality to those who had worked only one hour,
they expected that they would be recipients of a like liberality
proportioned to their hours of service.
- A shilling. See Matthew 20:2.
20:11 And when they received it, they murmured against the householder2,
- Mt 20:11
- And when they received it, they murmured against the householder. The murmuring and envy of those who had labored longest is merely part
of the parabolic drapery, introduced to bring out the answer of the
householder, and to make plain the point to be illustrated. There will
be no envy among those who inherit eternal life. By thus speaking of
the envy, however, and showing how ineffectual it was, Jesus warns us
to be prepared not to cherish it.
20:12 saying, These last have spent [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us1, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
- These last have spent [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, etc. The parable as it unfolds and develops suggests that in
no case was the reward earned by the inherent merits and toil of the
laborers, but was rather bestowed because of a desire on the part of
the householder to that effect ("it is my will to give unto this last,
even as unto thee", Matthew 20:14), just as eternal life is bestowed,
not by merit, but by covenant grace (Romans 2:6,7; Romans 4:3-5; Romans 5:16-21). The
main object of the parable is to show that longer labor does not
necessarily, as the apostles and others might think, establish a claim
to higher reward. Degrees of difference there no doubt will be, but
they form no account in the general covenant of grace in which the one
great gift is offered to us all. As the gift can be "no less than
eternal life", there must of necessity be a difference in the ratio of
service which is rendered for it, since it will be bestowed on the
octogenarian and the child, upon Paul who made good the confession of
his faith through years of toil, and the dying thief who passed to his
reward while his voice of confession was, as it were, still ringing in
the ears of those who heard it (1 Corinthians 15:8-11; 2 Timothy 4:6-9).
20:13 But he answered and said to one of them1, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a shilling2?
- But he answered and said to one of them. The answer given to one is taken as an example of what he said to them all.
- A shilling. See Matthew 20:2.
20:14 Take up that which is thine, and go thy way1; it is my will to give unto this last, even as unto thee2.
- Take up that which is thine, and go thy way. Do not stop to argue.
- It is my will to give unto this last, even as unto thee. The parable is not intended to teach that the characters of men will be exactly
similar in the world to come. Paul will not be Peter, nor will Martin
Luther be identical with Hugh Latimer and John Knox. God may award
eternal life to the character which we are forming, but we should be
careful what kind of character we bring to receive the gift. The lesson
is that works are valued "qualitatively" and not "quantitatively". Nor
may the parable be rightly used to encourage hope in death-bed
repentance. It certainly does teach that, however little, the labor
which a man does in the Lord's vineyard, he will receive the final
reward if only he be really in the vineyard; that is, if he be really a
child of God. But whether a man who repents on his death-bed actually
becomes a child of God is a different question and is not touched by
the parable. Certainly the eleventh-hour laborer who had stood idle
all day only because no man had hired him, and who came into the
vineyard as soon as he was called, cannot represent the man who has
been called by the gospel every hour of his life, but had rejected
every call until his sun has sunk so low that he know he can do but
little work when he comes. In order to represent this class of sinners,
the eleventh-hour men should have been invited early in the morning,
and should have replied, "No, it is too early; we will not go now".
Then they should have been invited at the third, the sixth, and the
ninth hours, and should have made some equally frivolous excuse each
time, then, finally, at the eleventh hour, they should have said,
"Well, as you pay a man just the same for an hour's work as for a day's
work, and as we are very anxious to get your money, we believe we will
now go". Had they acted thus, it is not likely that they would have
found the vineyard gates open to them at all. Yet such is the sharp
practice which some men attempt in dealing with God.
20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? or is thine eye evil, because I am good1?
- Is thine eye evil, because I am good? The evil eye is a synonym for jealousy. It originated with the malicious leer with which jealousy
regards its object (Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 28:54,56; 1 Samuel 18:9; Proverbs 23:6-8; Proverbs 28:22; Matthew 6:23
Mark 7:22; Luke 11:34). The lord had done no wrong to those who had labored
longest, for he had paid them what they had bargained for and earned.
If he chose to be generous with those whose misfortune had prevented
them from being hired earlier in the day, no one had any just cause to
20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last1.
- So the last shall be first, and the first last. The meaning of this parable has often been misunderstood by those who fail to note the
maxim with which Jesus begins and ends it. This maxim acts as a
safeguard in the interpretation of it; the parable also in turn guards
against misunderstanding the maxim. The maxim cannot be applied to
Judas; for, though he then stood high in honor and afterwards fell into
disgrace, yet he stands outside the pale of the maxim as interpreted by
the parable, for in the parable both the first and the last were
received and rewarded by their master, while Judas was rejected of
Christ and received no reward. The term "last", therefore, must be
applied to those who were included among the accepted laborers, and not
those who were excluded from that class. Also see Mark 10:31.
20:17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem1, he took the twelve disciples apart, and on the way he said unto them,
FORETELLING HIS PASSION. REBUKING AMBITION.
Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45; Luke 18:31-34
- As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, etc. See Mark 10:32.
20:18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered1 unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death,
- The Son of man shall be delivered, etc. See Mark 10:33.
20:20 Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee1 with her sons, worshipping [him]2, and asking a certain thing of him3.
- The mother of the sons of Zebedee. Zebedee's wife's name was Salome. See Mark 15:40.
- Worshipping [him]. Giving him homage as a coming ruler, not worshiping him as a divine ruler.
- And asking a certain thing of him. See Mark 10:35.
20:21 And he said unto her, What wouldest thou1? She saith unto him, Command that these my two sons may sit2, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy kingdom.
- What wouldest thou? See Mark 10:36.
- Command that these my two sons may sit, etc. See Mark 10:37.
20:22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink1? They say unto him, We are able.
- Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink? See Mark 10:38.
20:23 He saith unto them, My cup indeed ye shall drink1: but to sit on my right hand, and on [my] left hand, is not mine to give2; but [it is for them] for whom it hath been prepared of my Father.
- My cup indeed ye shall drink. See Mark 10:39.
- But to sit on my right hand, and on [my] left hand, is not mine to give, etc. See Mark 10:40.
20:24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation concerning the two brethren1.
- When the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation concerning the two brethren. See Mark 10:41.
20:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them1, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
- Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, etc. See Mark 10:42.
20:26 Not so shall it be among you1: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister;
- Not so shall it be among you. See Mark 10:43.
20:28 even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, etc. See Mark 10:45.
20:29 And as they went out from Jericho, a great multitude followed him1.
BARTIMAEUS AND HIS COMPANION HEALED.
Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43
- And as they went out from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. See Mark 10:46.
20:30 And behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, Lord, have mercy on us, thou son of David2.
- And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side. Here Matthew tells of two, while Mark and Luke tell only of one (Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35)
--the principal one. The evangelists differ here as in the account of
the two demoniacs, and for similar reasons. See Mark 5:2.
- Have mercy on us, thou Son of David. See Mark 10:47.
20:31 And the multitude rebuked them1, that they should hold their peace: but they cried out the more, saying, Lord, have mercy on us, thou son of David.
- The multitude rebuked them, etc. See Mark 10:48.
20:32 And Jesus stood still, and called them1, and said, What will ye that I should do unto you?
- And Jesus stood still, and called them. See Mark 10:49.
- What will ye that I shall do unto you? See Mark 10:51.
20:34 And Jesus, being moved with compassion, touched their eyes; and straightway they received their sight, and followed him1.
- And straightway they received their sight, and followed him. See Mark 10:52.