Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
Mt 20:1-16. Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.
This parable, recorded only by Matthew, is closely connected with the end of the nineteenth chapter, being spoken with reference to Peter's question as to how it should fare with those who, like himself, had left all for Christ. It is designed to show that while they would be richly rewarded, a certain equity would still be observed towards later converts and workmen in His service.
1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, &c.—The figure of a vineyard, to represent the rearing of souls for heaven, the culture required and provided for that purpose, and the care and pains which God takes in that whole matter, is familiar to every reader of the Bible. (Ps 80:8-16; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; Lu 20:9-16; Joh 15:1-8). At vintage time, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, labor was scarce, and masters were obliged to be early in the market to secure it. Perhaps the pressing nature of the work of the Gospel, and the comparative paucity of laborers, may be incidentally suggested, Mt 9:37, 38. The "laborers," as in Mt 9:38, are first, the official servants of the Church, but after them and along with them all the servants of Christ, whom He has laid under the weightiest obligation to work in His service.
And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
2. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny—a usual day's hire.
he sent them into his vineyard.
And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
3. And he went out about the third hour—about nine o'clock, or after a fourth of the working day had expired: the day of twelve hours was reckoned from six to six.
and saw others standing idle in the market place—unemployed.
And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
4. And said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right—just, equitable, in proportion to their time.
I will give you. And they went their way.
Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
5. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour—about noon, and about three o'clock in the afternoon.
and did likewise—hiring and sending into his vineyard fresh laborers each time.
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
6. And about the eleventh hour—but one hour before the close of the working day; a most unusual hour both for offering and engaging
and found others standing idle, and saith, Why stand ye here all the day idle?—Of course they had not been there, or not been disposed to offer themselves at the proper time; but as they were now willing, and the day was not over, and "yet there was room," they also are engaged, and on similar terms with all the rest.
They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
8. So when even was come—that is, the reckoning time between masters and laborers (see De 24:15); pointing to the day of final account.
the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward—answering to Christ Himself, represented "as a Son over His own house" (Heb 3:6; see Mt 11:27; Joh 3:35; 5:27).
Call the labourers and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first—Remarkable direction this—last hired, first paid.
And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
9. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny—a full day's wages.
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
10. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more—This is that calculating, mercenary spirit which had peeped out—though perhaps very slightly—in Peter's question (Mt 19:27), and which this parable was designed once for all to put down among the servants of Christ.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
11. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house—rather, "the householder," the word being the same as in Mt 20:1.
Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
12. Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat—the burning heat.
of the day—who have wrought not only longer but during a more trying period of the day.
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
13. But he answered one of them—doubtless the spokesman of the complaining party.
and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? &c.
Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?—that is, "You appeal to justice, and by that your mouth is shut; for the sum you agreed for is paid you. Your case being disposed of, with the terms I make with other laborers you have nothing to do; and to grudge the benevolence shown to others, when by your own admission you have been honorably dealt with, is both unworthy envy of your neighbor, and discontent with the goodness that engaged and rewarded you in his service at all."
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
16. So the last shall be first, and the first last—that is, "Take heed lest by indulging the spirit of these murmurers at the penny given to the last hired, ye miss your own penny, though first in the vineyard; while the consciousness of having come in so late may inspire these last with such a humble frame, and such admiration of the grace that has hired and rewarded them at all, as will put them into the foremost place in the end."
for many be called, but few chosen—This is another of our Lord's terse and pregnant sayings, more than once uttered in different connections. (See Mt 19:30; 22:14). The "calling" of which the New Testament almost invariably speaks is what divines call effectual calling, carrying with it a supernatural operation on the will to secure its consent. But that cannot be the meaning of it here; the "called" being emphatically distinguished from the "chosen." It can only mean here the "invited." And so the sense is, Many receive the invitations of the Gospel whom God has never "chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2Th 2:13). But what, it may be asked, has this to do with the subject of our parable? Probably this—to teach us that men who have wrought in Christ's service all their days may, by the spirit which they manifest at the last, make it too evident that, as between God and their own souls, they never were chosen workmen at all.
And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,
Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—The Ambitious Request of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr 10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).
For the exposition, see on Mr 10:32-45.
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.
Mt 20:29-34. Two Blind Men Healed. ( = Mr 10:46-52; Lu 18:35-43).
For the exposition, see on Lu 18:35-43.
And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.
And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.
And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?
They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.
So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.