About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapter 20

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ch. 20:1-16    ch. 20:17-19    ch.  20:20-28    ch. 20:29-34

The Parable Of The Workers In The Vineyard (ch,. 20:1 - 16)


The whole 16 verses of this section consists  of a parable.  The parable goes like this.  There was an owner of a vineyard who needed labourers in his field.  He went into the market place where those looking for work for the day would normally gather.  He found some and hired them for the day for a certain amount of money.


About 3 hours later the owner of the vineyard went  back and hired some more men for the same daily salary.  He did the same at the 6th and the 9th hour.  He also went back at the 11th hour and hired more men to work just one hour for the same pay as those he had hired before.  So all the men that were hired made the same amount of money despite how many hours they worked.


The owner of the vineyard had one of his workers pay the men that were hired for the day.  He began to pay those who came to work at the end of the day and work his way back to those who had worked all day.  By so doing, those who had worked longer hours saw how much money those who had worked less hours got.  They were not happy with this.  They thought it was quite unfair, them working 12 hours and making the same pay as those working one hour.


In verse 14 we note that it was the desire of the owner to pay those who came to work later the same salary. Besides, as the owner states, those who started working in the morning agreed to the money that they would make that day. 


In verse 15 the owner asks, “don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money”?   This is important because it speaks to the very nature of God.  One thing it says is that God has ultimate authority because He has created all things, and all things belong to Him, therefore, He can do what He wants with His things.  It’s His prerogative to do whatever He wants. 


The owner asks another question in verse 15 that speaks to the nature of God and that question is, “are you envious that I am so generous”?  You see, the workers who started working early agreed to the amount they would make.  If they weren’t happy with that amount, they could have refused the work.  The work they did for that day was a good salary.  But when they saw that those who worked one hour for the same amount of money, they viewed that as unfair.


The owner did not view this as being unfair, because those who began earlier than others agreed to the pay.  The owner sees his actions as being generous, not unfair, that is, generous to those who started work late.  When the owner saw these men standing in the market place he asked them why they had been standing around all day.  They told him that no one wanted to hire them.  To me this suggests that the owner of the vineyard felt sorry for these men so he brought them to work and paid them as it they worked all day.  The owner considered that to be generous. 


So what you see here is two ways of looking at the same event.  One way is worldly and selfish.  That is the way of the early workers.  The other way is full of mercy and grace, and that’s the way of the owner, which in fact is the way of God.


So Jesus concludes in verse 16 that the last will be first and the first will be last.  This is not the first time Jesus has said this.  He’s said it many times to show that the way things work in the Kingdom of God is much different than the way they work in the kingdom of men.  Those who enter the Kingdom, even if it’s late in life still inherit the Kingdom of God in the next life. 


You might also look at Jesus’ words in connection with the Gentiles.  All along in Old Testament days God promised much to Israel if they would follow him, but then later on in history He promises the same to Gentiles, something the Jews had a had time believing could or would happen.


Jesus Again Predicts His Death (ch. 20:17 - 19)


As I’ve said earlier, ever since the transfiguration Jesus spoke more of His death.  At this point He speaks of it again because it is now that He will begin His last trip, and the trip will end in Jerusalem .  He tells His followers that when they arrive in Jerusalem , He will be arrested by the Jewish leaders and be condemned to death.  Then He will be handed over to the Gentiles.  This is because the Jews had no legal authority to execute anyone, so they had to hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities to be tried, found guilty and executed.


But Jesus doesn’t end things here.  He tells His followers that He will rise on the third day.  I’m not convinced that they really understood the resurrection at this point.  If they had of understood, they would not have been so hard to be convinced after He rose from the dead, and they might have reacted much differently when Jesus was arrested.


We note here that Jesus did not speak in the first person singular about Himself here.  He did not say, “I will be put to death”.  As He did most of the time, if not all of the time when speaking of His death He said, “the Son of Man will be put to death”.  The Son of Man  is a Messianic term, therefore His followers should have clued in, at least a bit, that Jesus’ death had something to do with Him being the Messiah. 


A Mother’s Request (ch. 20:20 - 28)


In verse 20 we see the mother of Zebedee’s son make a request of Jesus.  Zebedee’s sons were James and John.  There mother, the one making the request was most likely named Salome, the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother. 


This request was more than a casual request because she fell to her knees  before Jesus as she made the request.  She certainly was hoping for a positive answer.


In verse 21 Jesus asks her what she wanted.  She responded by saying that she wanted one son to sit at Jesus’ right side, and the other at His left side in the Kingdom of God .  The phrases “sit at His side” represent a place of authority, not necessarily a chair or a throne.  What this mother was asking was that in the next life, when the Kingdom comes to earth, could James and John be the two ranking men of authority, second in command to Jesus.


This seems a strange time and place to ask Jesus such a question.  He had just told His followers that He was to die, and now this mother asks Jesus such a thing.   She might well have thought that things were soon coming to an end, and that the Kingdom of God would soon appear on earth, so now was the time to get such thinking straightened out.


It’s also strange that James and John were with their mother while she made the request.  You might think that they should be the one to ask Jesus such a question.


In verse 22 Jesus tells them, as in all of them, not just the mother, that they did not know what they were talking about.  This is clear.  Jesus’ followers for the most part did not understand much about His death, resurrection, ascension, or the coming Kingdom of God .


Jesus asks them a question.  He asks, “can you drink the cup I am going to drink”?   The cup that Jesus was speaking about was the “cup of His death”.  He often spoke of His death as being something He would drink, maybe to refer back to the Old  Testament drink offerings. The cross was truly an offering unto the Lord God.


Thos to whom this question was asked were convinced that they could drink of whatever cup that Jesus was speaking of, even though I do not believe they understood what Jesus meant by these words.


Non-the-less, in verse 23 Jesus says that they will indeed drink of this cup.  It’s my thinking that this meant that these men would suffer greatly because of Jesus, suffer even as Jesus suffered.  And this came true for those who followed Jesus.  Many of them were killed for the relationship with Jesus.


Jesus also says that it was not up to Him who would sit in a place of authority in the coming Kingdom of God .  He told them that only God the Father would make this choice.  This tells us that there will be a chain of authority in the kingdom that will come.  The Bible is clear that we will reign with Him in the next life, and now we know that some will reign in a more powerful place of authority than others.          


To be expected, in verse 24, after the other ten apostles  heard of this request, they were very upset.   I can picture them in a heated argument over this matter.


The whole mentality of the Twelve that is displayed here is one of  “authoritarianism”. It’s  a matter of pride based on the social position one finds himself in.   Each one of these men wanted to be the “top dog”.   Yet Jesus responds to them how it will be in the Kingdom of God , and how it should be now in the Kingdom of God and in the church.


In verse 25 Jesus says, “… the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them”.  This means that the rulers in the Gentile world “lord it over” the Gentiles.  They are dictators. 


Jesus goes on to say, “their officials exercise authority over them”.  The word authority is important.  The rulers are in an elevated place of authority and they use this authority in a dominating way.  The general populous is forced to submit or else.


In verse 26 Jesus makes it clear that His followers should not have this attitude by saying, “not so with you”. The mentality of Christian leadership should not be one of a dictator.  We are not to exercise authority over others as world leaders do over their domain.


Jesus then goes on to explain in verse 26 what this means, and how it works. He says, “whoever among you want to be great must become your servant”.   Greatness in the eyes of God and in His kingdom is all about serving, not lording it over others.  Leaders in the Kingdom of God and the church should be servants.  If they are not servants, they are not leading as God wants, and therefore they should not be leaders. 


In verse 27 Jesus continues by saying, “whoever wants to be first must be your slave”.  This is just the opposite to the thinking of the world.  Leaders must be servants or slaves, but this is seldom the case in the church today.


In verse 28 Jesus says that the “Son of Man”, that’s Jesus,  “did not come to be served, but to serve”.  We are to follow Jesus in this respect.  Whether we are a leader or not, we are to serve.  We should not have the attitude that we need to be served. 


One thing that Jesus is trying to do in this section, and maybe in all He teaches, but particularly here, is to get the disciples minds thinking in a new direction.  It’s no longer the Law or Moses but it’s all about Jesus, and following Him.  That’s the new direction.  


This section ends with the idea that Jesus has come to give His life “as a ransom for many”.   The whole idea of a ransom is to pay some kind of a price to set someone else free.  Kidnappers kidnap someone and demand a price in order to have their victim set free.  This is what Jesus did.  He paid the price for our freedom, freedom from sin and the result of sin.  The main result of sin is death.  We are free from eternal death.


There is one thing we need to understand concerning this ransom.  Jesus did not pay the ransom to the devil but to God.  The devil is not the one who sends people to the Lake of Fire .  God does that in the final judgment. Thus, Jesus paid the price to free us from such a fate.


Two Blind Men Receive Sight (ch. 20:29 - 34)  


In verses 29 and 30 we see Jesus leaving Jericho .  The verses don’t tell us but we know from the next chapter that He is heading towards Jerusalem .  As usual another large crowd follows Him.  This time there are two blind men that come to Jesus.  They call Him the Son of David.  The message of Jesus being the Jewish Messiah is now finally getting through to many, even though their concept of Messiahship still differs from Jesus.  The crowd is still thinking in terms of Jesus saving them from the hands of the Romans.


In verse 31 we see that the crowd rebuked these two blind men and told them to be quiet.  But they continued to beg Jesus for mercy, and they shouted even louder.  These two men were not going to give up.  They were persistent.  Such persistence is important in the Kingdom of God . 


In verse 32 Jesus stopped and asked these two men what they wanted Him to do.  Now these men were blind, and most totally blind men are visibly blind.  Everyone would know what these two men wanted from Jesus, so by asking them this question, Jesus had something specific in mind.  Jesus knew what they wanted, but often times it seems that Jesus wants us to acknowledge and verbally say what we want.  As we speak to Jesus in our request it opens up the door of trust.  It confronts us with the opportunity to trust Him.


In verse 33 the men call Jesus Lord which show the respect they have for Him, and told Jesus that they wanted to receive their sight.


In verse 34 Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on them, touched their eyes and they were healed.  There are at least two reasons why Jesus healed everyone that came in contact with Him.  One reason is stated here and that is He had compassion on people.  The other reason is that He backed up His words with these miracles.  They were proof of who He claimed to be.  Jesus did not merely heal people because they all had lots of faith.  Faith wasn’t always the issue when Jesus healed people.  Many people did not have faith in Him.  Many simply heard rumors about Jesus and hoped He would heal them, and He did.  We really wouldn’t call that saving faith. 

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