Matthew Chapter 20 Landowner; Jesus Nears Jerusalem

Introduction and Outline of Chapter 20

  1. Jesus took his ministry out of Galilee and into Judea beyond the Jordon (called Perea), which is east of the Jordan River (Matthew 19:1-2). He taught Pharisees (Matthew 19:3), the disciples (Matthew 19:10, 13), a questioner (Matthew 19:16), and Peter (Matthew 19:26). See Rose map 37
  2. Chapter 19 concludes with Jesus answering Peter’s question “what will there be for us?” His answer was that in the coming kingdom (regeneration, Matthew 19:28) 1. the disciples will judge the tribes of Israel, 2. those who have put service for Jesus over houses and families shall gain special reward (Matthew 19:29), and 3. those who are first in human importance will be lower in the kingdom while those low in human importance, but serving Jesus rightly, will be higher in kingdom importance (Matthew 19:30).
  3. Chapter 20 continues the lesson on the kingdom of heaven, service, and rewards in Matthew 20:1-16.
  4. After that Jesus began walking to Jerusalem. On the way, he told his disciples clearly that he would be crucified and then rise from the dead (Matthew 20:17-19).
  5. Then James’ and John’s mother asked that her two sons be ruling right next to him in the kingdom this led into a lesson on humble service (Matthew 20:20-28).
  6. Now, as he left Jericho on the way to Jerusalem for the last time he showed his Messianic credentials by giving sight to a blind man (Matthew 20:29-34).

Discussion of Matthew 20

  1. Chapter 20 teaches the lesson of the landowner as a continuation of his lessons on the kingdom of heaven, service, and rewards in Matthew 20:1-16.
    • Jesus uses first last, last first of Matthew 19:30 and last first, first last of Matthew 20:16 as bookends for this story. Peter had asked about rewards in Matthew 19:27, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you; what then will there be for us?” In this context, apparently the rewards he instructs about are those earned in the present time. 
    • Jesus said that in the coming kingdom (regeneration) he, the disciples, and others will receive appropriate rewards
    • Now in chapter 20 Jesus is expanding on rewards that Peter asked about. The details in the story include the landowner, laborers hired first, the laborers hired later, and the foreman, and the varying wages paid.
    • A denarius “was a Roman silver coin, in the time of Jesus and the apostles. It took its name from its being first equal to ten “donkeys,” a number afterward increased to sixteen. The earliest specimens are from approximately the start of the second century b.c. From this time it was the principal silver coin of the commonwealth. In the time of Augustus eighty-four denarii were struck from a pound of silver, which would make the standard weight about sixty grains. This Nero reduced by striking ninety-six from the pound, which would give a standard weight of about fifty-two grains, results confirmed by the coins of the periods, which are, however, not exactly true to the standard. In Palestine, in the New Testament period, evidence points to the denarii as mainly forming the silver currency. The denarius was the daily wage of a laborer. The only way to compute the value of New Testament coins in current values is to consider what a laborer might earn in a day in various countries of the world (see Matt. 20:2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13).” Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos, Cyril J. Barber and Merrill Frederick Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Rev. and updated ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).
    • The relation of the hour of the day in Matthew’s gospel to our concept of time is as follows: third hour is 9 am; sixth hour is 12 noon; ninth hour is 3 pm; and the eleventh hour is 5 pm.
    • The landowner hired workers at different hours and then paid them the same. The workers complained. Those who had worked longer hours thought they should be paid more than those who worked a few hours.
    • What does this teach?
      • People serving Jesus will be rewarded.
      • The basis for the rewards is God’s sovereignty, justice, grace, and mercy.
      • The basis for rewards is not legal debt, or what is owed by the landowner.
      • Time in service does not necessarily result in more reward.
      • Those who join Jesus’ disciples later in his ministry will not be penalized.
      • Outward circumstances do not determine the amount of reward.
    • Applications for us.
      • God does reward believers, and he rewards them for faithful service.
      • Time in service does not necessarily result in more reward.
      • Grace and mercy govern more reward.
      • One cannot determine rewards by looking at what another is doing. God has the right to reward as he pleases.
      • A struggling but faithful believer may have equal reward as a famous long time servant of Christ.
      • We need not be worried about reward or no reward. God will reward according to his sovereignty, justice, grace, and mercy.
  2. After that Jesus began walking to Jerusalem. On the way, he told his disciples clearly that he would be crucified and then rise from the dead (Matthew 20:17-19). In this lesson Jesus takes his disciples off alone and instructs them about his future. They will be a supporting cast in the great drama unfolding. Though he has instructed them about this before, he is very clear and forceful about it now. The time is close.
    • He also taught them this truth in Matthew 16:21 and 17:22-23. Parallel passages are Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34. He had previously spoken of the three days in Matthew 12:40 and 16:4, and then arising in Matthew 17:9.
    • Note the specific terms: Jerusalem, Son of Man, delivered over to, chief priests and scribes, condemn to death, hand over to Gentiles, mock and scourge, crucify, third day, raised.
    • All of these were precisely fulfilled.
  3. Then James’ and John’s mother asked that her two sons be ruling right next to him in the kingdom; this led into a lesson on humble service (Matthew 20:20-28). Notice the completely human request for honor and no suffering. Jesus said it did not work that way for everyone. Lessons and doctrines that Jesus is teaching are the mark of greatness, servant attitude, sacrifice, and his substitutionary payment for our sins.
    • First John and James’ mother wanted extra honor for her sons. Jesus said that was the Father’s decision.
    • The cup referred to Jesus’ suffering and death. They would drink suffering and death for Jesus.
    • The disciples’ indignation was because they also wanted the places of honor. After all this time they have missed the idea of serving others. Those who serve will also gain honor.
    • Jesus uses the current political climate to illustrate his point. Rulers want power, which is the ability to do what they want, and authority, which is the legal right to do what they want.
      • Their goal then is to Lord over others. The verb is 2634 κατακυριεύω katakuriewo in the present active indicative, 3rd plural. It means to exercise dominion. Master, subdue. The same word is used in 1 Peter 5:3 in the instructions to elders-pastors. First Peter 5:1-4 is a fast forward to those who take the disciples place in the church. The pastors have authority and are to shepherd and to oversee, but not to lord over, our same word as here.
      • And to exercise authority over others. 2715 κατεξουσιάζω katexiousiazo in the present active indicative 3rd plural. This mean use authority over others or to tyrannize. It is also in Mark 10:42. It is possible to exercise authority without tyrannizing people and without
      • We can see it all over the world. People want to be able to do what they want—power—and they want the unquestioned right to do so—authority. Even our candidates demonstrate their desire for power and authority. Who really wants to serve the people? I can think of a few, but a very few.
    • In verses 26-28 Jesus reminds the disciples that this is not the pattern for God’s kingdom. The great leaders must be servants of the people. To serve means to protect, give freedom, encourage, and help when necessary. If they want to be important and have first place in God’s eyes, they must be slaves or bond servants of people.
      • Servant is 1249 διάκονος diakonos. To serve is 1247 διακονέω diakoneo. These words emphasize service, attending, waiting on.
      • Slave is 1401 δοῦλοs doulos. This emphasizes giving oneself up to be under the authority and service of another.
      • Jesus uses himself as the example. So the lesson for them and for us is that greatness before God must follow service and serving under authority. We learn to take authority by first being under authority and serving. One thing many people do not realize is that being in authority and having power is difficult. It is not what the uninitiated think. It takes humility, service, and mistakes. Responsibility goes with it. You do not learn it from the top. You learn it from the bottom. When one gets to the top, he often will prefer serving others. The disciples did not get this yet.
    • Jesus gave himself as a ransom for others. BAGD4, says of ransom “λύτρον, ου, τό. price of release, ransom (esp. also the ransom money for the manumission of slaves, mostly in pl).”  Strong has 3083 λύτρον. Jesus paid the price to free sinners from the bondage to sin. We could not pay it. He paid it for us. How does this fit in Jesus’ lesson for the disciples and for us? Servants sacrifice for those whom they serve. Jesus sacrifices. The disciples must sacrifice. We must sacrifice.
      • For many has the preposition ἀντὶ. This emphasizes replacement or on behalf of, which means replacing. Jesus was the replacement for us.
  4. Now, as he left Jericho on the way to Jerusalem; for the last time he showed his Messianic credentials by giving sight to two blind men (Matthew 20:29-34).
    • Jesus had the authority and the power to heal the blind men. He used his authority and power in such a way that he demonstrated service (Matthew 20:28) and compassion (Matthew 20:34) by doing so. This story is also in Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43. Mark and Luke only mention one man. Mark gives one of the names, Bartimaeus. They were on the Jericho road, probably between the old and the new city—leaving one and entering the other.
    • What did the blind men call Jesus? They called him Lord, Son of David. What did they mean by that title?
      • Lord indicates that they recognized his deity. He could heal and they knew it.
      • Son of David clearly draws attention to his messianic status. Thousands of people were in David’s line. Joseph, the husband of Mary is called the son of David in Matthew 1:20. What was special about Jesus? The long awaited messiah from David’s line was unique. In Matthew 12:23, crowds watching Jesus cast out a demon from a man wondered if Jesus was the son of David. They had great expectations. There were sons of David and the son of David. Note especially 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Micah 5:2.
        • In Matthew 1:1 Jesus is called the messiah, the son of David. Important point in the genealogy. He is also called the son of David in Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9 and 15, and 22:42. It is also found in Mark 10:47 and 48, and Luke 18:38 and 39.  Mark 12:35 indicates that the scribes also knew that the messiah would be the son of David.
        • To the Jewish expectations, the messiah, son of David was the deliverer of the nation.
      • Review the line of the Messiah through the Bible.
  5. Summary Principles from Chapter 20.
    • Rewards will be given those who serve God, and they will be given based upon God’s mercy, grace, and choice, and based upon our faithfulness to the jobs God gives us within our abilities. All our cups will be full, whether large or small cups.
    • Honor in God’s kingdom comes through sacrificial service, not through authority and power.
    • Though Jesus is God, Messiah, and miracle worker, he has compassion on us.
    • The son of David is a messianic title for Jesus. The Israeli nation was anticipating this person.