1. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

This is another parable concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us always look at it in that light, and not imagine any other subject that may come to mind.

The vineyard is a common figure in the Scriptures for God’s nation of Israel. “Early in the morning” is the Greek for “together with the dawn,” and would be considered the beginning of the first hour of the day according to the Hebrew time reckoning. This would be about 6:00am by our clocks.

2. “Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

A denarius was the standard for one day’s wages, so he had certainly offered these men a fair wage.

3. “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace.

These were not “early birds,” and had not been present when he hired the other workers at dawn. The third hour is about 9:00am.

4. “and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And they went.

These are not hired at the beginning of the day, so he does not agree right off to a day’s wage. Yet he promises them to pay them fairly, and they take him at his word and go to his vineyard.

5. “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.

This would be noon and 3:00pm by our clocks. These laborers would have worked for significantly less than a day.

6. “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’

This would be immediately before the end of the day, or 5:00pm by our reckoning. Only about an hour of labor time would be left at this point. These laborers could certainly not earn a day’s wages in one short hour!

7. “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’

It seems these men have tried every employer up till now but the one who would hire them. Yet they are there waiting for work, and he gives it to them, short as the time may be. In the same way, there are some who seem to try everything else in life before they finally turn to the Lord. Yet He is gracious, and will not turn even these “latecomers” away.

8. “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’

The landowner wants to work backwards, starting with the last hired. In the same way, I believe, God will present men with their resurrection rewards in reverse order, starting with the last to die first and working his way back through history.

9. “And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.

They received a full day’s pay for one hour’s work! This was a generous reward indeed. Yet this shows that God does not hold it against those who come to Him later. His reward is for doing the work, not for how much work was done.

10. “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.

Seeing that the last men had received a denarius for one hour’s work, these men who received the normal day’s wage for a normal day’s work are upset. If the laborers who worked only an hour got a day’s pay, shouldn’t those who worked the full day get more and share in the generosity?

11. “And when they had received it, they murmured against the landowner,

Although they received what had been promised them, they are upset that their inflated expectations have not been met.

12. “saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’

This is not an unreasonable complaint. Why should those who worked one hour receive the same as those who worked twelve? This favoritism does seem unfair.

13. “But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?

This is a true statement. No injustice was done to them. They received what they had been promised.

14. “’Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.

This is the basis of the blessing: the landowner’s wish. He is not doing wrong to these first laborers, but he wishes to be generous to the later ones.

15. “’Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’

Of course, the landowner can do what he wants with his own things. The point of the parable seems to be that those who come to God late in life or late in His plans will not receive any less blessing for their services than those who may have come early in life or in His plans. God distributes blessings as He pleases, and He does not count a short time working as automatically counting one out for certain rewards. All who serve God will be rewarded on His criteria, not man’s. The important part is that we endure until the end. (II Timothy 2:11-13)

16. “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Again Christ repeats the statement about the last and the first. As I said above, this may have application to the order of resurrection, stating that those who lived first (such as the Old Testament saints) are raised from the dead and receive their reward last. At any rate, the preceding parable makes it clear that the main thrust of what He is saying is that reward will not be based the amount of time one has to serve, but merely on that fact that one did indeed serve.

17. Then Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them,

The Lord is again going to predict His death to His disciples. Notice that they are going “up” to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is always “up” in the Scriptures, first of all because it physically was on a hill, but most importantly because of its standing in God’s sight.

18. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death,

There are additional details here. He now reveals that the ones He will be betrayed to are the chief priests and the scribes. Compare this with His first prediction in Matthew 17:22-23.

19. “and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”

More extra details given here are that He will be delivered to the Gentiles, that He will be scourged, and that He will specifically be crucified. He repeats the most important prediction: that He will rise again the third day. Once again, however, they were apparently unable to believe it, as they were unprepared for these events when they actually occurred.

20. Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

It is never a good idea to agree to someone’s request before hearing it! (Remember Herod and his foolish promise to Herodias’s daughter in Matthew 14:1-13.) Perhaps James’ and John’s mother was hoping the Lord would grant her request outright without hearing it first. He was not so foolish, however.

Comparing Matthew 27:56 with Mark 15:40 seems to indicate that James’ and John’s mother’s name was Salome, although her name is not given here. She apparently was one of the women who followed the Lord.

21. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

These two disciples selfishly wanted places of power in the kingdom, and they thought to bring their mother into it to see if she could coerce this blessing out of the Lord. They were not seeking literally to fill the chairs on Jesus’ right and left hand, but rather what such a seat would symbolize, which is a position of power second and third to Christ Himself in the Kingdom. They wanted to be second only to Christ in power when He governs the earth! What a bold request! And how foolishly selfish. As if having your mother ask it could get you such a position!

22. But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

The Lord Jesus points out their utter ignorance of what they are asking, and basically asks them (in figurative language, of course) if they are able to die a horrible martyr’s death as He is about to die? That is the baptism He was about to be baptized with…the baptism of death. These men, not knowing what He was talking about, claim that they are able! It is never a good idea to make promises to the Lord when you don’t know what you are talking about.

23. So He said to them, “You will indeed drink 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 is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

Christ is willing to grant them a martyr’s death, but He tells them He does not have the power to give them these positions even if He wanted to, for it has already been given to someone else by God Himself. This request was totally inappropriate. These disciples will have most exalted positions in God’s kingdom, but it will be the positions chosen for them by Him. The positions they were asking for were not available, and they were overreaching God’s choice for them.

This passage is proof positive that both James and John were to die a martyr’s death. All have to affirm that James died such a death, for we read of it in Acts 12:2. John, however, is often held by Bible scholars today to have died of old age in Ephesus! The fact that the John of Ephesus died of natural causes is proof positive that he was not the real John, nor was he the author of John’s books. John probably died in the persecution in AD 61-62.

24. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brothers.

The other disciples are furious when they hear what these two men had done! Their request was totally unfair, and after all, why didn’t they think of that?

25. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.

The Lord sees that they are in serious need of instruction in this regard, and, calling them to Himself, He gives it to them. They are not to seek positions so that they can boss others around, or oppress those under them, as the rulers of the nations do. This passage is one that demonstrates the fact that “ethnos” means “nations,” and includes Israel, not just the Gentiles. All rulers of nations lord it over their people, and many of them oppress. This was as true of the nation of Israel as it is of any other nation. “Gentiles” here cannot exclude Israel.

26. “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27. “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—

Jesus’ words here remind me of a story by L. Frank Baum, who wrote “The Wizard of Oz” as well as numerous other Oz books. In one of his books about the lands around Oz he tells of a country called Sky Island where all the people are rich and live in fine houses. The travelers to this land are being brought to the Queen’s house, and they are all expecting something super magnificent. After all, if the common people are so rich, then what must the Queen be like? And yet, when they get to her house, it is little more than a small hut, by far the poorest house in all Sky Island! They are amazed, and ask the Queen how it is that she, the ruler of this magnificent country, lives in such a small house while her people are so rich? She responds that it is fitting for a ruler to be poor and live like a servant since, in actual fact, the ruler is the servant of all the people, and is to give her life for the good of her people! Thus, since the ruler is doing the work of a servant, is it not right that the ruler should live like a servant? What country would have it any other way?

This story, albeit totally a fantasy, is very thought provoking. I wonder if Mr. Baum got his inspiration for it from this passage? The ruler must be the servant of all! And Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was also willing to make Himself the Servant of servants. This is the example that both the disciples and we who read this book should follow.

28. “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Once again the Lord predicts His death, proclaiming the fact that He will give His life as a ransom for many. The reason this is in relation to “many” rather than “all” or “the world” (see John 3:16) is because this has special reference to His death on Israel’s behalf. One aspect of His death was that He died for that nation, and thus died for “many.” However, thank God, He also died for all, and thus we too can enjoy His salvation!

29. Now as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.

This miracle takes place as they were leaving Jericho. Some have mixed this up with healings in the other gospels of Mark and Luke taking place as Christ was just entering or just leaving Jericho, and of just one blind man at a time. Then, having confused the three accounts, they criticize them since they are all different, claiming that some of them must be in error! Yet, if we take careful note of the time and place of this healing, as well as of the number of blind men healed (two as opposed to one,) we will know that this was a miraculous healing of blind men that is recorded here and in no other gospel. See Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43, and my message on “Contradictions in Scripture: The Blind Men of Jericho.”

30. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

Perhaps they had heard the story of the blind men who were healed earlier, as we have it recorded in Matthew 9:27-31. Those blind men were to not spread the story, yet they ignored that command and spread it far and wide. Word had probably gotten around to the entire blind community of what the Lord had done, and perhaps part of the story was that the blind men who were healed had called on the Lord as the “Son of David.” Thus, every blind man hoping to be healed would have these words ready to his lips should the Lord Jesus ever pass by his begging place! We should not be surprised, then, if all the blind men of Jericho addressed the Lord in the same way. They were all working off of the same story, and hoping for the same miracle!

31. Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet: but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

These men cry to the Lord, and will not stop even when the multitude tells them to be quiet! We, too, should not stop making our requests to our Lord, even when other men may discourage us.

32. So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

When Christ takes notice, He asks them what it is that they want? I wonder how many cry to God in our day and yet could not say what they really wanted if He answered them?

33. They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”

These men know exactly what they want: to be healed of blindness.

34. So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

Christ has compassion on them and immediately fulfills their request. He does nothing special. He just touches their eyes and they are healed. No healer of our day could do such a thing, nor even come close!

When these men received this healing, they immediately followed Christ. I wonder how many in our day, upon receiving Christ’s healing touch, follow this up by merely going their own way, and never do bother to follow Him? Let all of us who have received Christ’s healing in our lives in regards to our sin respond by following the One Who did so much for us.