Saint Matthew – Chapter 20

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Matthew

Chapter 20


1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.


After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.


Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,


2 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’


So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.


Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’


They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’


3 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’


When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.


So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.


And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner,


saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’


He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. 4 Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?


5 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?


(Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’


6 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


7 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve (disciples) aside by themselves, and said to them on the way,


“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death,


and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”


8 Then the mother 9 of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.


He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”


Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. 10 Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.”


He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left (, this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”


When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.


But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.


But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;


whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.


Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom 11 for many.”


12 As they left Jericho, a great crowd followed him.


Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “[Lord,] 13 Son of David, have pity on us!”


The crowd warned them to be silent, but they called out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!”


Jesus stopped and called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”


They answered him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”


Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight, and followed him.

1 [1-16] This parable is peculiar to Matthew. It is difficult to know whether the evangelist composed it or received it as part of his traditional material and, if the latter is the case, what its original reference was. In its present context its close association with ⇒ Matthew 19:30 suggests that its teaching is the equality of all the disciples in the reward of inheriting eternal life.
2 [4] What is just: although the wage is not stipulated as in the case of those first hired, it will be fair.
3 [8] Beginning with the last . . . the first: this element of the parable has no other purpose than to show how the first knew what the last were given (⇒ Matthew 20:12).
4 [13] I am not cheating you: literally, “I am not treating you unjustly.”
5 [14-15] The owner’s conduct involves no violation of justice (⇒ Matthew 20:4, ⇒ 13), and that all the workers receive the same wage is due only to his generosity to the latest arrivals; the resentment of the first comes from envy.
6 [16] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 19:30.
7 [17-19] Cf ⇒ Mark 10:32-34. This is the third and the most detailed of the passion predictions (⇒ Matthew 16:21-23; ⇒ 17:22-23). It speaks of Jesus’ being “handed over to the Gentiles” (⇒ Matthew 27:2), his being “mocked” (⇒ Matthew 27:27-30), “scourged” (⇒ Matthew 27:26), and “crucified” (⇒ Matthew 27:31, ⇒ 35). In all but the last of these points Matthew agrees with his Marcan source, but whereas Mark speaks of Jesus’ being killed (⇒ Mark 10:34), Matthew has the specific “to be . . . crucified.”
8 [20-28] Cf ⇒ Mark 10:35-45. The request of the sons of Zebedee, made through their mother, for the highest places of honor in the kingdom, and the indignation of the other ten disciples at this request, show that neither the two brothers nor the others have understood that what makes for greatness in the kingdom is not lordly power but humble service. Jesus gives the example, and his ministry of service will reach its highest point when he gives his life for the deliverance of the human race from sin.
9 [20-21] The reason for Matthew’s making the mother the petitioner (cf ⇒ Mark 10:35) is not clear. Possibly he intends an allusion to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon; see ⇒ 1 Kings 1:11-21. Your kingdom: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 16:28.
10 [22] You do not know what you are asking: the Greek verbs are plural and, with the rest of the verse, indicate that the answer is addressed not to the woman but to her sons. Drink the cup: see the note on ⇒ Mark 10:38-40. Matthew omits the Marcan “or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized” (⇒ Matthew 10:38).
11 [28] Ransom: this noun, which occurs in the New Testament only here and in the Marcan parallel (Matthew 10:45), does not necessarily express the idea of liberation by payment of some price. The cognate verb is used frequently in the LXX of God’s liberating Israel from Egypt or from Babylonia after the Exile; see ⇒ Exodus 6:6; ⇒ 15:13; ⇒ Psalm 77:16 (76 LXX); ⇒ Isaiah 43:1; ⇒ 44:22. The liberation brought by Jesus’ death will be for many; cf ⇒ Isaiah 53:12. Many does not mean that some are excluded, but is a Semitism designating the collectivity who benefit from the service of the one, and is equivalent to “all.” While there are few verbal contacts between this saying and the fourth Servant Song (⇒ Isaiah 52:13-⇒ 53:12), the ideas of that passage are reflected here.
12 [29-34] The cure of the blind men is probably symbolic of what will happen to the disciples, now blind to the meaning of Jesus’ passion and to the necessity of their sharing his suffering. As the men are given sight, so, after the resurrection, will the disciples come to see that to which they are now blind. Matthew has abbreviated his Marcan source (Matthew 10:46-52) and has made Mark’s one man two. Such doubling is characteristic of this gospel; see ⇒ Matthew 8:28-34 (⇒ Mark 5:1-20) and the note on ⇒ Matthew 9:27-31.
13 [30] [Lord]: some important textual witnesses omit this, but that may be because copyists assimilated this verse to ⇒ Matthew 9:27. Son of David: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 9:27.