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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verse 1. For the kingdom of heaven, etc. The word "for" shows that this chapter should have been connected with the preceding. The parable was spoken expressly to illustrate the sentiment in the last verse of that chapter. The kingdom of heaven means here the church, including perhaps its state here and hereafter. See Barnes "Matthew 3:2". It has reference to rewards; and the meaning may be thus expressed: "Rewards shalt be bestowed in my kingdom, or on my followers, in the same manner as they were by a certain householder, in such a way as that the last shall be equal to the first, and the first last."

An householder. A master of a family. One at the head of family affairs.

His vineyard. No inconsiderable part of Judea was employed in the culture of the grape. Vineyards are often used, therefore, to represent a fertile or well cultivated place; and hence the church, denoting the care and culture that God has bestowed on it, Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 12:10. For the manner of their construction, see See Barnes "Matthew 21:33".

{w} "householder" Song of Solomon 8:11,12

Verse 2. A penny a day. The coin here referred to was a Roman coin, equal in value to about 14 cents, [about 7d.] The original denotes the Roman denarius, \~dhnariou\~ a silver coin, which was originally equivalent to ten asses, (a brass Roman coin,) whence its name The consular denarius bore on one side a head of Rome, and an X or a star to denote the value in asses, and a chariot with either two or four horses. At a later period the casts of different deities were on the obverse; and these were finally superseded by the heads of the Caesars. Many specimens of this coin have been preserved. The preceding cuts will show the usual appearance of the coins.

It was probably at that time the price of a day's labour. See Tobit v. 14. This was the common wages of a Roman soldier. In England, before the discovery of the mines of gold and silver of South America, and consequently before money was plenty, the price of labour was about in proportion. In 1351, the price of labour was regulated by law, and was a penny a day. But provisions were of course proportionally cheap; and the avails of a man's labour in articles of food were nearly as much as they are now.

{x} "penny" Matthew 18:28

Verse 3. About the third hour. The Jews divided their days into twelve equal parts, or hours, beginning at sunrise, and ending at sunset. This was, therefore, about nine o'clock in the morning.

Standing idle in the marketplace. A place where provisions are sold in towns. Of course many resort to such places; and it would be the readiest place to meet persons, and find employers. They were not, therefore, disposed to be idle, but were waiting in the proper place to find employers.

Verse 4. Whatever is right. Whatsoever it shall appear you can earn. The contract with the first was definite; with this one it depended on tho judgment of the employer.

Verse 5. The sixth and ninth hour. That is, about twelve and three o'clock.

Verse 6. The eleventh hour. About five o'clock in the afternoon; or when there was but one working hour of the day left.

{y} "all the day idle" Proverbs 19:15; Ezekiel 16:49; Acts 17:21; Hebrews 6:12

Verse 7. No Barnes text on this verse.

{z} "unto them" Ecclesiastes 9:10; John 9:4

Verse 8. When even was come. That is, when the twelfth hour was come; the day was ended, and the time of payment was come.

The steward. A steward is one who transacts business in the place of another. He was one who had the administration of affairs in the absence of the householder; who provided for the family; and who was entrusted with the payment of labourers and servants. He was commonly the most trusty and faithful of the servants, raised to that station as a reward for his fidelity.

Beginning from the last unto the first. It was immaterial where he began to pay, provided he dealt justly by them. In the parable, this order is mentioned to give opportunity for the remarks which follow. Had those first hired been first paid, they would have departed satisfied, and the point of the parable would have been lost.

{a} "and give" Luke 10:7

Verse 9. They received every man a penny. There was no agreement how much they should receive, but merely that justice should be done, Matthew 20:4,5,7. The householder supposed they had earned it, or chose to make a present to them to compensate for the loss of the first part of the day, when they were willing to work but could not find employment.

{b} "eleventh hour" Luke 23:40-43

Verse 10. They supposed that they should have received more. They had worked longer; they had been in the heat; they supposed that it was his intention to pay them, not according to contract, but according to the time of the labour.

Verse 11. Murmured. Complained. Found fault with.

The good man of the house. The original here is the same word which, Matthew 20:1, is translated householder, and should have been so translated here. It is the old English way of denoting the father of a family. It expresses no moral quality.

{c} "against the good man" Luke 15:29,30

Verse 12. The burden and the heat of the day. The burden means the heavy labour, the severe toil. We have continued at that toil, in the heat of the day. The others had worked only a little while, and that in the cool of the evening, and when it was far more pleasant and much less fatiguing.

{1} "have wrought", or, "have continued one hour only"

Verse 13. Friend, I do thee no wrong. I have fully complied with the contract. We had an agreement; I have paid it all. If I choose to give a penny to another man if he labours little or not at all; if I should choose to give all my property away to others, it would not affect this contract with you. It is fully met. And with my own-- with that on which you have no further claim--may do as I please. So, if Christians are just, and pay their lawful debts, and injure no one, the world has no right to complain if they give the rest of their property to the poor, or devote it to send the gospel to the heathen, or to release the prisoner or the captive. It is their own. They have a right to do with it as they please. They are answerable not to men, but to God. And infidels, and worldly men, and cold professors in the church, have no right to interfere.

{d} "Friend" Matthew 22:12

Verse 14. Take that thine is. Take what is justly due to you--what is properly your own.

{e} "go thy way" John 17:2

Verse 15. Is thine eye evil because I am good? The Hebrews used the word evil, when applied to the eye, to denote one envious and malicious, Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 23:6. The eye is called evil in such cases, because envy and malice show themselves directly in the eye. No passions are so fully expressed by the eye as these. "Does envy show itself in the eye; is thine eye so soon turned to express envy and malice, because I have chosen to do good?"

{f} "Is it not" Romans 9:15-24; James 1:18
{g} "Is thine eye" Matthew 19:30

Verse 16. So the last shall be first, etc. This is the moral or scope of the parable. To teach this, it was spoken. Many that, in the order of time, shall be brought last into the kingdom, shall be first in the rewards. Higher proportionate rewards shall be given to them than to others. To all justice shall be done. To all to whom the rewards of heaven were promised, they shall be given. Nothing shall be withheld that was promised. If among this number who are called into the kingdom I choose to raise some to stations of distinguished usefulness, and to confer on them peculiar talents and higher rewards, I injure no other one. They shall enter heaven as was promised. If amidst the multitude of Christians, I choose to signalize such men as Paul, and Martyn, and Brainerd, and Spencer, and Summerfield--to appoint some of them to short labour, but to wide usefulness, and raise them to signal rewards--I injure not the great multitude of others who live long lives less useful, and less rewarded. All shall reach heaven, and all shall receive what I promise to the faithful.

Many be called, but few chosen. The meaning of this, in this connexion, I take to be simply this: "Many are called into my kingdom; they come and labour as I command them; they are comparatively unknown and obscure; yet they are real Christians, and shall receive the proper reward. A few I have chosen for higher stations in the church. I have endowed them with apostolic gifts, or superior talents, or wider usefulness. They may not be so long in the vineyard; their race may be sooner run; but I have chosen to honour them in this manner; and I have a right to do it. I injure no one; and have a right to do what I will with mine own." Thus explained, this parable has no reference to the call of the Gentiles; nor to the call of aged sinners; nor to the call of sinners out of the church at all. It is simply designed to teach that in the church, among the multitudes that shall be saved, Christ makes a difference. He makes some more useful than others, without regard to the time which they serve; and he will reward them accordingly. The parable teaches one truth, and but one. And where Jesus has explained it, we have no right to add to it, and say that it teaches anything else. It adds to the reason for this interpretation, that Christ was conversing about the rewards that should be given to his followers, and not about the numbers that should be called, or about the doctrine of election. See Barnes "Matthew 19:27-29".

{h} "the last shall be first" Matthew 19:30
{i} "for many" Matthew 22:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; James 1:23-25

Verses 17-19. See also Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34. And Jesus going up to Jerusalem. That is, doubtless, to the passover. This journey was from Galilee, on the east side of Jordan, probably to avoid the Samaritans, Matthew 19:1. At this time he was on this journey to Jerusalem, probably not far from Jericho. This was his last journey to Jerusalem. He was going up to die for the sins of the world.

Took the twelve disciples apart. All the males of the Jews were required to be at this feast, Exodus 23:17. The roads, therefore, on such occasions, would probably be thronged. It is probable also, that they would travel in companies, or that whole neighbourhoods would go together. See Luke 2:44. By his taking them apart is meant his taking them aside from the company. He had something to communicate which he did not wish the others to hear. Mark adds, "And Jesus went before them: and they_were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid," Matthew 10:32. He led the way, He had told them before, (Matthew 17:22) that he should be betrayed into the hands of men, and be put to death. They began how to be afraid that this would happen, and to be solicitous for his life and for their own safety.

{k} "And Jesus" Matthew 16:21; Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31; John 12:12

Verses 18,19. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. Jesus assured them that what they feared would come to pass. But he had in some measure prepared their minds for this state of suffering, by the promises which he had made to them, Matthew 19:27-30; 20:1-16. In all their sufferings they might be assured that eternal rewards were before them.

Shall be betrayed. See Matthew 17:22.

Chief Priests and Scribes. The high priest, and the learned men who composed the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation. He was thus betrayed by Judas, Matthew 26:15. He was delivered to the chief priests and scribes, Matthew 26:57.

And they shall condemn him to death. They had not power to inflict death, as that was taken away by the Romans; but they had the power of expressing an opinion, and of delivering him to the Romans to be put to death. This they did, Matthew 26:66; 27:2.

Shall deliver him to the Gentiles. That is, because they have not the right of inflicting capital punishment, they will deliver him to those who have--the Roman authority. The Gentiles here mean Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers. See Matthew 27:2,27-30. To mock, See Barnes "Matthew 2:16".

To scourge. That is, to whip. This was done with thongs, or a whip made on purpose; and this punishment was commonly inflicted upon criminals before crucifixion. See Barnes "Matthew 10:17".

To crucify him. That is, to put him to death on a cross, the com- mon punishment of slaves. See Matthew 27:35.

The third day, etc. For the evidence that this was fulfilled, see Matthew 28:1 and following. Mark and Luke say that he shall be spit upon. Spitting on another has always been considered an expression of the deepest contempt. Luke says, Luke 18:31, "All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished." Among other things, he says he shall be "spitefully entreated;" that is, treated with spite or malice: malice implying contempt. These sufferings of our Saviour, and this treatment, and his death, had been predicted in many places. See \\Is 53:1-12 Da 9:26,27\\.

Verse 19. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 20:17"; See Barnes "Matthew 20:18"

{l} "And shall" Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:28; Acts 3:13
1 Corinthians 15:3-7

{m} "to scourge" Isaiah 53:5

Verse 20. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children, etc. This was probably Salome, Mark 15:40; 16:1.

With her sons. The names of these were James and John, Mark 10:35. Mark says they came and made the request. That is, they made it through the medium of their mother; they requested her to ask it for them. It is not improbable that she was an ambitious woman, and was desirous to see her sons honoured.

Worshipping him. Showing him respect; respectfully saluting him. In the original, kneeling. See Barnes "Matthew 8:2".

{n} "Then came" Mark 10:35

Verse 21. Grant that these my two sons may sit, etc. They were still looking for a temporal kingdom. They expected that he would reign on the earth with great pomp and glory. They expected that he would conquer as a prince and a warrior. They wished to be distinguished in the day of his triumph. To sit on the right and left hand of a prince was a token of confidence, and the highest honour granted to his friends, 1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 110:1; 1 Samuel 20:25. The disciples here had no reference to the kingdom of heaven, but only to the kingdom which they supposed he was about to set up on the earth.

Verse 22. Ye know not what ye ask. You do not know the nature of your request, nor what would be involved in it. You suppose that it would be attended only with honour and happiness if the request was granted; whereas, it would require much suffering and trial.

Are ye able to drink of the cup, etc. To drink of a cup often, in the Scriptures, signifies to be afflicted, or sometimes to be punished, Isaiah 51:17,22; Psalms 75:8. The figure is taken from a feast, where the master of a feast extends a cup to those present. Thus God is represented as extending to his Son a cup filled with a bitter mixture --one causing deep sufferings, John 18:11. This was the cup to which he referred.

The baptism that I am baptized with. This is evidently a phrase denoting the same thing. Are ye able to suffer with me---to endure the trials and pains which shall come upon you and me in endeavouring to build up my kingdom? Are you able to be plunged deep in afflictions, to have sorrows cover you like water, and to be sunk beneath calamities as floods, in the work of religion? Afflictions are often expressed by being sunk in the floods, and plunged in the deep waters, Psalms 59:2; Isaiah 43:2; Psalms 124:4,5; Lamentations 3:54.

{o} "baptism" Luke 12:50

Verse 23. Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, etc. You are truly attached to me, you will follow me, and you will partake of my afflictions, and will suffer as I shall. This was fulfilled. James was slain with the sword by Herod, Acts 12:2. John lived many years. But he attended the Saviour through his sufferings, and was himself banished to Patmos, a solitary island, for the testimony of Jesus Christ --a companion of others in tribulation, Revelation 1:9.

Is not mine to give, etc. The translation of this place evidently does not express the sense of the original. The translation expresses the idea that Jesus has nothing to do in bestowing rewards on his followers. This is at variance with the uniform testimony of the Scriptures, Matthew 25:31-40;; John 5:22-30. The correct translation of the passage would be, "To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, except to those for whom it is prepared of my Father." The passage thus declares that Christ would give rewards to his followers; but only to such as should be entitled to them according to the purpose of his Father. Much as he might be attached to these two disciples, yet he could not bestow any such signal favours on them out of the regular course of rewards. Rewards were prepared for his followers, and in due time they should be bestowed. He would bestow them according as they had been provided from eternity by God the Father, Mt 25:34. The correct sense is seen by leaving out that part of the verse in Italics; and this is one of the places in the Bible where the sense has been obscured or perverted by the introduction of words which have nothing to correspond with them in the original. See a similar instance in 1 John 2:23.

{p} "Ye shall drink" Acts 12:2; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:7; Revelation 1:9

Verse 24. The ten heard it. That is, the ten other apostles.

They were moved with indignation. They were offended at their ambition, at their desire to be exalted above their brethren. The word "it" refers not to what Jesus said, but to their request. When the ten heard the request which they had made, they were indignant.

Verses 25-27. But Jesus called them unto him. That is, he called all the apostles to him, and stated the principles on which they were to act. The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them; that is, over their subjects. "You know that such honours are customary among nations. The kings of the earth raise their favourites to posts of trust and power. They give authority to some over others. But my kingdom is established in a different manner. There are to be no ranks; no places of dominion. All are to be on a level. The rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, the bond, the free, are to be equal. He will be the most distinguished that shows most humility, the deepest sense of his unworthiness, and the most earnest desire to promote the welfare of his brethren."

Gentiles. All who were not Jews--used here to denote the manner in which human governments are constituted.

Minister. A servant. The original word is deacon--a word meaning a servant of any kind; one especially who served at the table; and, in the New Testament, one who serves the church, Acts 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:8. Preachers of the gospel are called ministers because they are the servants of God and the church, 1 Corinthians 3:6; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; Ephesians 4:12; an office, therefore, which forbids them to lord it over God's heritage; which is the very opposite of a station of superiority, and which demands the very lowest degree of humility.

{q} "Ye know" Luke 22:25,26

Verse 26. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 20:25"

{r} "be so" 1 Peter 5:3
{s} "But whosoever" Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43

Verse 27. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 20:25"

Verse 28. Even as the Son of man, See Barnes "Matthew 8:20". Jesus points them to his own example. He was in the form of God in heaven, Philippians 2:6. He came to men in the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7. He came not with pomp and glory, but as a man in humble life. And since he came, he had not required them to minister to him. He laboured for them. He strove to do them good. He provided for their wants, fared as poorly as they did, went before them in dangers and sufferings, practised self-denial on their account, and for them was about to lay down his life. See John 13:4,5.

To give his life a ransom for many. The word ransom means, literally, a price paid for the redemption of captives. In war, when prisoners are taken by an enemy, the money demanded for their release is called a ransom. That is, it is the means by which they are set at liberty. So anything that releases any one from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom. Men are by nature captives to sin. They are sold under it. They are under condemnation, Ephesians 2:3; Romans 3:9-20,23; 1 John 5:19. They are under a curse, Galatians 3:10. They are in love with sin. They are under its withering dominion, and are exposed to death eternal, Ezekiel 18:4; Psalms 9:17; Psalms 11:6; 68:2; 139:19; Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:6-9. They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could be rescued. This was done by the death of Jesus; by giving his life a ransom. The meaning is, that he died in the place of sinners, and that God was willing to accept the pains of his death in the place of the eternal suffering of the redeemed. The reasons why such a ransom was necessary are,

1st. that God had declared that the sinner should die--that is, that he would punish, or show his hatred to all sin.

2nd. That all men had sinned; and if justice was to take its regular course, all must perish.

3rd. That man could make no atonement for his own sins. All that he could do, were he holy would be only to do his duty, and would make no amends for the past. Repentance and future obedience would not blot away one sin.

4th. No man was pure, and no angel could make atonement. God was pleased, therefore, to appoint his only-begotten Son to make such a ransom. See John 16:10; 1 John 4:10; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Revelation 13:8; John 1:29; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 7:27; Isaiah 53:1-12. This is commonly called the atonement. See Barnes "Romans 5:11".

For many. See also Matthew 26:28; John 10:16; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Hebrews 2:9.

{t} "but to minister" Luke 22:27; John 13:1-38,; 4:14; Philippians 2:7
{u} "and to give" Isaiah 53:5,8,11; Daniel 9:24,26; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:28
1 Peter 1:18,19; Revelation 1:5

Verses 29-34. See Mark 10:40-52; Luke 18:36-43; 19:1: where this account of his restoring to sight two blind men is also recorded. And as they departed from Jericho. This was a large town about eight miles west of the Jordan, and about nineteen miles north-east from Jerusalem. Near to this city the Israelites crossed the Jordan, when they entered into the land of Canaan, Joshua 13:16. It was the first city taken by Joshua, who destroyed it to the foundation, and pronounced a curse on him who should rebuild it, Joshua 6:20,21,26. This curse was literally fulfilled in the days of Ahab--nearly five hundred years after, 1 Kings 16:34. It afterwards became the place of the school of the prophets, 2 Kings 2:6. In this place Elisha worked a signal miracle, greatly to the advantage of the inhabitants, by rendering the waters near it, that were before bitter, sweet, and wholesome, 2 Kings 2:21. In point of size it was second only to Jerusalem. It was sometimes called the city of palm-trees, from the fact that there were many palms in the vicinity. A few of them are still remaining. 2 Chronicles 28:15; Judges 1:16; 3:13. At this place died Herod the Great, of a most wretched and foul disease. See Barnes "Matthew 2:10". It is now a small village, wretched in its appearance, and inhabited by a very few persons, and called Riha, or Rah, situated on the ruins of the ancient city, (or, as some think, three or four miles east of it,) which a modern traveller describes as a poor, dirty village of the Arabs. There are perhaps fifty houses, of rough stone, with roofs of bushes and mud; and the population, two hundred or three hundred in number, is entirely Mohammedan. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho lies through what is called the wilderness of Jericho, and is described by modern travellers as the most dangerous and forbidding about Palestine. As lately as 1820, an English traveller, Sir Frederick Henniker, was attacked on this road by the Arabs, with fire-arms, who left him naked and severely wounded. See Barnes " :". Jesus was going to Jerusalem. He had left Samaria, and crossed the Jordan, Matthew 19:1. His regular journey was therefore through Jericho.

As they departed from Jericho. Luke says, "As he was come nigh unto Jericho." The original word used in Luke, translated was come nigh, commonly expresses approach to a place. But it does not of necessity mean that always. It may denote nearness to a place, whether going to it or from it. It would be here rendered correctly, "when they were near to Jericho," or when they were in the vicinity of it, without saying whether they were going to or from it. Matthew and Mark say they were going from it. The passage in Luke 19:1, "And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho," which seems to be mentioned as having taken place after the cure of the blind man, does not necessarily suppose that. That passage might be intended to be connected with the account of Zaccheus, and not to denote the order of time in which these events took place; but simply that, as he was passing through Jericho, Zaccheus sought to see him, and invited him to his house. Historians vary in the circumstances and order of events. The main facts of the narrative are observed. And such variations of circumstances and order, where there is no palpable contradiction, show the honesty of the writers; show that they did not conspire together to deceive, and are in all courts, of justice considered as confirmations of the truth of the testimony.

Verse 30. Two blind men. Mark and Luke mention but one. They do not say, however, that there was no more than one. They mention one because he was probably well known; perhaps the son of a distinguished citizen reduced to poverty. His name was Bartimeus. Bar is a Syriac word, meaning son; and the name means, therefore, "the son of Timeus." Probably Timeus was a man of note; and as the case of his son attracted most attention, Mark and Luke recorded it particularly. Had they said there was only one healed, there would have been a contradiction. As it is, there is no more contradiction or difficulty than there is in the fact that the evangelists, like all other historians, often omit many facts which they do not choose to record.

Heard that Jesus passed by. They learned who he was by inquiring. They heard a name, and asked who it was, (Luke.) They had doubtless heard much of his fame, but had never before been where he was, and probably would not be again. They were therefore more earnest in calling upon him.

Son of David. That is, Messiah, or Christ. This was the name by which the Messiah was commonly known. He was the illustrious descendant of David, in whom the promises especially centered, Psalms 132:11,12; 89:3,4. It was the universal opinion of the Jews that the Messiah was to be the descendant of David. See Matthew 22:42. On the use of the word Son, See Barnes "Matthew 1:1".

{v} "And, behold" Matthew 9:27; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35

Verse 31. And the multitude rebuked them, because, etc. They chid or reproved them, and in a threatening manner told them to be silent.

They cried the more. Jesus standing still, ordered them to be brought to him, (Mark.) They then addressed the blind men, and told them that Jesus called. Mark adds, that Bartimeus cast away his garment, and rose and came to Jesus. The garment was not his only raiment, but was the outer garment, thrown loosely over him, and commonly laid aside when persons laboured or ran. See Barnes "Matthew 5:40". His doing it denoted haste, and earnestness, in order to come to Jesus.

Verse 32. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 20:29"

Verse 33. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 20:29"

Verse 34. And touched their eyes. Mark and Luke say he added, "Thy faith hath saved thee," Thy confidence, or belief that I could cure, has been the means of obtaining this blessing. Faith had no power to open the eyes, but it led them to Jesus; it showed that they had just views of his power; it was connected with the cure. So faith has no power to save from sin, but it leads the poor, lost, blind sinner to him who has power; and in this sense it is said we are saved by faith. His touching their eyes was merely a sign that the power of healing proceeded from him.

Here was an undoubted miracle.

(1.) These blind men were well known. One, at least, had been long blind.

(2.) They were strangers to Jesus. They could not have, therefore, feigned themselves blind.

(3.) The miracle was in the presence of multitudes, who took a deep interest in it, and who could easily have detected the imposition, if there had been one.

(4.) The men followed him. They praised or glorified God, (Mark and Luke.) The people gave praise to God also, (Luke.) They were all satisfied that a real miracle was performed.


(1.) From the parable at the beginning of this chapter, Matthew 20:1-16 we learn that it is not so much the time that we serve Christ, as the manner, that is to entitle us to high rewards in heaven. Some may be in the church many years, yet accomplish little; others in a few years may be more distinguished in the success of their labours and in their rewards.

(2.) God will do justice to all, Matthew 20:13. He will give to all his followers all that he promised to give. He will give to him entitled to the least, everything which he has promised, and infinitely more than he has deserved.

(3.) On some he will bestow higher rewards than on others, Matthew 20:16. There is no reason to think that the condition of men in heaven will be equal, any more than it is on earth. Difference of rank may run through all God's government, and still no one be degraded, or be deprived of his rights.

(4.) God does as he please's with his own, Matthew 20:15. It is his right to do so--a right which men claim, and which God may claim. If he does injustice to no one, he has a right to bestow what favours on others he pleases.

(5.) In doing good to another man, he does no injury to me. He violated none of my rights by bestowing great talents on Newton, or great wealth on Solomon. He did not injure me by making Paul a man of distinguished talents and piety, or John a man of much meekness and love. What he gives me I should be thankful for, and improve; nor should I be envious or malignant, that he has given to others more than he has to me. Nay, I should rejoice that he has bestowed such favours on undeserving men at all; that the race is in possession of such talents and rewards, to whomsoever given; and should believe that in the hands of God such favours will be well bestowed. God is a sovereign; and the Judge of all the earth will do that which is right.

(6.) It is our duty to go into the vineyard and labour faithfully, whenever the Lord Jesus calls us, and till he calls us to receive our reward, Matthew 20:1-16. He has a right to call us, and there are none who are not invited to labour for him.

(7.) Rewards are offered to all who will serve him, Matthew 20:4. It is not that we deserve any favour, or that we shall not say at the end of life that we have been unprofitable servants; but he graciously promises that our rewards shall be measured by our faithfulness in his cause. He will have the glory of bringing us into his kingdom and saving us, while he will bestow rewards on us according as we have been faithful in his service.

(8.) Men may be saved in old age, Matthew 20:6. Old men are sometimes brought into the kingdom of Christ, and made holy. But it is rare. Few aged men are converted. They drop into the grave as they lived. And to a man who wastes his youth and his middle life in sin, and goes down into the vale of years a rebel against God, there is a dreadful probability that he will die as he lived. It will be found to be true, probably, that by far more than half who are saved are converted before they reach the age of twenty-five. Besides, it is foolish as well as wicked to spend the best of our days in the service of Satan, and to give to God only the poor remnant of our lives, that we can no longer use in the cause of wickedness. God should have our first and best days.

(9.) Neither this parable, nor any part of the Bible, should be abused, so as to lead us to put off the time of repentance to old age. It is possible, though not probable, that an old man may repent; but it is not probable that we shall live to be old. Few, few of all the world, live to old age. We may die in youth. Thousands die in childhood. The time, the accepted time to serve God, is in childhood. There are more reasons why a child should love the Saviour, than why he should love a parent. He has done much more for us than any parent. And there is no reason why he may not be trained up to love him, as well as his parents. And God will require it at the hands of parents and teachers, if they do not train up the children committed to them to love and obey him.

(10.) One reason why we do not understand the plain doctrines of the Bible is our prejudice, Matthew 20:17-19. Our Saviour plainly told his disciples that he must die. He stated the manner of his death, and the principal circumstances. To us all this is plain; but they did not understand it, (Luke.) They had filled their heads with notions about his earthly glory and honour, and they were not willing to see the truth as he stated it. Never was there a juster proverb than that, "None are so blind as those who will not see." So to us the Bible might be plain enough. The doctrines of truth are revealed clear as a sunbeam, but we are filled with previous notions; we are determined to think differently; and the easiest way to gratify this is to say we do not see it so. The only correct principle of interpretation is, that the Bible is to be taken just as it is. The meaning that the sacred writers intended to teach is to be sought honestly; and where found, that and that only is religious truth.

(11.) Mothers should be cautious about seeking places of honour for their sons, Matthew 20:20-22. Doing this, they seldom know what they ask. They may be seeking the ruin of their children. It is not posts of honour that secure happiness or salvation. Contentment and peace are found oftenest in the humble vale of honest and sober industry-- in attempting to fill up our days with usefulness, in the situation where God has placed us. As the purest and loveliest streams often flow in the retired grove, far from the thundering cataract or the stormy ocean, so is the sweet peace of the soul; it dwells oftenest far from the bustle of public life, and the storms and tempests of ambition.

(12.) Ambition in the church is exceedingly improper, Matthew 20:22. It is not the nature of religion to produce it. It is opposed to all the modest, retiring, and pure virtues that Christianity produces. An ambitious man will be destitute of religion just in proportion to his ambition; and piety may always be graduated by humility.

(13.) Our humility is the measure of our religion, Matthew 20:26-28. Without humility we can have no religion, He that has the most lowly views of himself, and the highest of God--that is willing to stoop the lowest to aid his fellow-creatures, and to honour God-- has the most genuine piety. Such was the example of our Saviour, and it can never be any dishonour to imitate the Son of God.

(14.) The case of the blind men is an expressive representation of the condition of the sinner, Matthew 20:30-34.

1st. Men are blinded by reason of sin. They do not by nature see the truth of religion.

2nd. It is proper in this state of blindness to call upon Jesus to open our eyes. If we ever see, it will be by the grace of God. God is the fountain of light, and those in darkness should seek him.

3rd. Present opportunities should be improved. This was the first time that Jesus had been in Jericho. It was the last time he would be there. He was passing through it on his way to Jerusalem. So he passes among us by his ordinances. So it may be the last time that we shall have an opportunity to call upon him. While he is near, we should seek him.

4th. When people rebuke us and laugh at us, it should not deter us from calling on the Saviour. There is danger that they will laugh us out of our purpose to seek him, and we should cry the more earnestly to him. We should feel that our eternal all depends or our being heard.

5th. The persevering cry of those who seek the Saviour aright will not be in vain. They who cry to him sensible of their blindness, and sensible that he only can open their eyes, will be heard, He turns none away who thus cry to him.

6th. Sinners must "rise" and come to Jesus. They must cast away everything that hinders their coming. As the blind Bartimeus threw off his "garments," so sinners should throw away everything that hinders their going to him--everything that obstructs their progress--and cast themselves at his feet. No man will be saved while sitting still. The command is, "Strive to enter in;" and the promise is made to those. Only who "ask," and "seek}" and "knock."

7th. Faith is the only channel through which we shall receive mercy. According to our faith--that is, our confidence in Jesus--our trust and reliance on him--so will it be to us. Without that we shall perish.

8th. They who apply to Jesus thus will receive sight. Their eyes will be opened, and they will see clearly.

9th. They who are thus restored to sight should follow Jesus. They should follow him wherever he leads; they should follow him always; they should follow none else but him. He that can give sight to the blind cannot lead us astray. He that can shed light in the beginning of our faith, can enlighten our goings through all our pilgrimage, and down through the dark valley of the shadow of death.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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