Matthew 20

The Word Made Fresh

1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire people for his vineyard. 2They agreed on a daily wage, and he sent them out to work. 3At mid-morning he went out and saw others standing around in the marketplace. 4He said, ‘You also can go into my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is fair.’ So they went, too. 5About noon he went out again, and at mid-afternoon also. 6Late in the afternoon he went out yet again and found others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why are you just standing around here?’ 7They said, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He told them, ‘You can go work in my vineyard, too.’

8“At sundown the vineyard owner told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, beginning with the last ones who came and continuing on to the first ones.’

9“When the ones who were hired late in the afternoon came, they each received a day’s pay. 10When the first ones who were hired came, they thought they would be paid more, but each of them were given a day’s pay like the others. 11Then they began to complain against the landowner. 12They said, ‘You paid the ones who came and worked an hour the same as you paid us who worked all day long in the hot sun.’”

13“He told one of them, “Look, friend, I am not cheating you. Didn’t you agree to work for the usual day’s wage? 14Take your pay and go. I chose to give those who came in last the same as I gave you. 15Aren’t I allowed to choose what to do with my own money? Or are you angry with me because I did what I chose to do?’ 16So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

17On his way to Jerusalem Jesus called the twelve disciples aside. He told them, 18“Listen; we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be arrested by the chief priests and scribes. They will sentence him to death, 19and then hand him over to the Gentiles who will make fun of him and beat him and then crucify him. But on the third day he will be raised up.”

 20Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to him with them, and she knelt before him and asked a favor of him. 21Jesus asked what she wanted and she said, “Let one of my sons sit at your right hand and the other at your left hand in your kingdom.”

22Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you willing to drink from the cup I will be forced to drink?”

23They replied, “We are willing!”

Jesus said, “Yes, you will certainly drink from my cup, but it is not for me to decide who will sit at my side. That is for those for whom it has already been arranged by my Father.”

24When the other ten disciples heard about this exchange, they were furious with the two brothers. 25Jesus gathered them around and said, “You know that the Gentile’s rulers lord it over them, and that their rulers are tyrants. 26But that isn’t the way things will be with you. Whoever among you wants to be most important has to be your servant. 27Whoever wants to be above you has to be your slave. 28The Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give his own life to redeem many.”

29As they were leaving Jericho a large crowd gathered around Jesus and followed him. 30Two blind men happened to be sitting by the road, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by they shouted, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31The crowd warned them to be quiet, but they just shouted louder, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!”

32Jesus stopped and called out to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

33They said, “Lord, restore our sight!”

34Jesus was moved with compassion. He touched their eyes, and they were able to see immediately, and they followed him.


1-16: The parable of the laborers in the vineyard, in which the latecomers are paid the same as the early arrivers, is told for the purpose of illustrating the conversation with his disciples (see 19:27-30), and must be interpreted in that light. In the kingdom of heaven everyone’s contribution is valued equally.

17-19: This is the third time Jesus announces his coming crucifixion and resurrection (see 16:21-23 and 17:22-23), but this time there is no immediate reaction from the disciples.

20-28: But there is a delayed reaction. Jesus told them that they would occupy thrones in the coming kingdom (19:28), so James’ and John’s mother asks Jesus to elevate her sons to exalted positions, a perfectly natural thing for a mother to do, no? Jesus tells her that she doesn’t understand the nature of the kingdom, for it has been planned by God from the beginning and God has already made those decisions. The other disciples are indignant, but Jesus reminds them that notions of superiority are all wrong when it comes to the kingdom of heaven. Giving oneself for others is the highest honor to be had in the coming kingdom.

29-34: It has been a while since Jesus has healed anyone (17:14-21). The road they are taking to Jerusalem leads through Jericho, and there two blind men clamor for his attention. Jesus is “moved with compassion” (in Matthew Jesus is often motivated with compassion, more than in the other three gospels combined – see also 9:36, 14:14, and 15:32) and heals them on the spot. The section on teaching his disciples comes now to an end. We are about to enter Jerusalem where his teachings will be presented to the people.


Jesus knew he was heading for his arrest and crucifixion, but he didn’t shrink from the threat. There are those who would mock our faith. We must be determined to keep the faith. We are not to just be concerned about this life and how to make the best of it. Rather, we should be aware that decisions made in this life will play an important role in where we will spend eternity.