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God Deals Justly
20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
This parable follows on from Peter’s statement in the previous chapter: "Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Jesus uses the illustration of a landowner who goes out early in the morning to find workers to work in his vineyard.
20:2 And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
He agreed to pay those he had hired the standard wage for those days which was a Roman penny.
20:3-4 When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’
At about nine o’clock he went to the marketplace and saw other men standing about doing nothing. He engaged them to go and work in his vineyard also and told them he would pay them a fair wage at the end of the day.
20:5 So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing.
So they went to the work. The landowner went out again to the marketplace at twelve o’clock and three o’clock and employed those who were hanging around and agreed to pay the same wage as the others.
20:6 And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’
At five o’clock in the afternoon he found other men standing around and asked them why they were not working.
20:7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’
They replied that no one had hired them so he also told them to go and work in his vineyard. The point being made at this part of the illustration is the different times of day that these men were employed.
20:8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.’
At the end of the day the owner of the vineyard told his manager to call the workers to him that he might pay them starting with the men who were hired last.
20:9-10 When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage.
He paid those who had worked the least hours a full day’s pay. The workers who had worked all day from early morning thought that they would be paid more. But each one received the standard wage.
20:11-12 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’
When they saw that they had received the same amount as those who had only worked for an hour they complained to the owner. It was not fair that those who had only worked a very short time should receive equal pay with those who had worked hard in the burning hot sun all day.
20:13 And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage?
Although this might seem unjust, the owner insists that he was acting fairly. They had agreed to work for the standard wage and that is what he paid them.
20:14-15 Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
Without further argument he told them to take their money and go. As the owner of the vineyard, he could chose to pay his workers whatever he wanted; it was no business of theirs. If he wanted to be generous why should they be jealous?
20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” For many are called, but few chosen."
The whole purpose of Jesus telling his disciples this parable may be understood from this concluding verse. The first to be called into the kingdom of heaven will have no advantage over those who enter in later. All are equal in the sight of God (Deut. 10:17; Eph. 6:9). “Many are called…” - there are many who hear the call of the gospel message but there are few in proportion that obey and are saved. It is Jesus Christ who will give out the rewards at his coming and no one can complain at what they may receive for God is a just God (Rev. 22:12).
Jesus Foretells His Death for the Third Time
20:17-18 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve aside privately and said to them on the way, “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the experts in the law. They will condemn him to death,
On their way to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them once again the reason why they were going up to the city at that time. Those who were conspiring against him would hand him over to the chief priests and scribes and they would condemn him to death.
20:19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged severely and crucified. Yet on the third day, he will be raised.”
They in their turn would hand him over to the Romans to be ridiculed, flogged and then crucified. But on the third day he would be triumphantly raised to life.
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This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew