Thursday, June 8th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible Barnes' Notes
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bnb/ matthew-20.html. 1870.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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For the kingdom of heaven ... - The word “for” shows that this chapter should have been connected with the preceding. The parable was spoken expressly to illustrate the sentiment in the last verse of that chapter: “Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” The kingdom of heaven means here the church, including, perhaps, its state here and hereafter. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. It has reference to rewards, and the meaning may be thus expressed: “Rewards shall be bestowed in my kingdom, or on my followers, in the same manner as they were by a certain householder - in such a way that the last shall be equal to the first, and the first last.”
A householder - A master of a family. One at the head of family affairs.
His vineyard - No inconsiderable part of Judea was employed in the culture of the grape. Vineyards are often used, therefore, to represent a fertile or well-cultivated place, and hence the church, denoting the care and culture that God has bestowed on it. See the notes at Isaiah 5:7. Compare Jeremiah 12:10. For the manner of their construction, see the notes at Matthew 21:33.
A penny a day - The coin here referred to was a Roman coin, equal in value, at different periods, to 15 cents or 17 cents (7 1/2 d. to 8 1/2 d.) (circa 1880’s). The original denotes the Roman denarius δηνάριον dēnarion, a silver coin, which was originally equivalent to ten ases (a brass Roman coin), from which it gets its name. The consular denarius bore on one side a head of Rome, and an X or a star, to denote the value in ases, and a chariot with either two or four horses. At a later period the casts of different deities were on the obverse, and these were finally superseded by the heads of the Caesars. Many specimens of this coin have been preserved.
It was probably at that time the price of a day’s labor. See Tobit 5:14. This was the common wages of a Roman soldier. In England, before the discovery of the mines of gold and silver in South America, and consequently before money was plenty, the price of labor was about in proportion. In 1351 the price of labor was regulated by law, and was a penny a day; but provisions were of course proportionally cheap, and the avails of a man’s labor in articles of food were nearly as much as they are now.
About the third hour - The Jews divided their days into twelve equal parts, or hours, beginning at sunrise and ending at sunset. This was, therefore about nine o’clock in the morning.
Standing idle in the market-place - A place where provisions are sold in towns. Of course, many resort to such places, and it would be the readiest place to meet persons and find employers. They were not, therefore, disposed to be idle, but were waiting in the proper place to find employers.
Whatsoever is right - Whatsoever it shall appear you can earn. The contract with the first was definite; with this one it depended on the judgment of the employer.
The sixth and ninth hour - That is, about twelve o’clock and three o’clock.
The eleventh hour - About five o’clock in the afternoon, or when there was but one working hour of the day left.
When even was come - That is, when the twelfth hour had come; the day was ended, and the time of payment was come.
The steward - A steward is one who transacts business in the place of another. He was one who had the administration of affairs in the absence of the householder, who provided for the family, and who was entrusted with the payment of laborers and servants. He was commonly the most trusty and faithful of the servants, raised to that station as a reward for his fidelity.
Beginning from the last unto the first - It was immaterial where he began to pay, provided he dealt justly by them. In the parable this order is mentioned to give opportunity for the remarks which follow. Had those first hired been first paid, they would have departed satisfied, and the point of the parable would have been lost.
They received every man a penny - There was no agreement how much they should receive, but merely that justice should be done, Matthew 20:4-5, Matthew 20:7. The householder supposed they had earned it, or chose to make a present to them to compensate for the loss of the first part of the day, when they were willing to work, but could not find employment.
They supposed that they should have received more - They had worked longer - they had been in the heat; they supposed that it was his intention to pay them, not according to contract, but according to the time of the labor.
Murmured - Complained; found fault with.
The goodman of the house - The original here is the same word which in Matthew 20:1 is translated householder, and should have been so translated here. It is the old English way of denoting the father of a family. It expresses no moral quality.
The burden and heat of the day - The burden means the heavy labor, the severe toil. We have continued at that toil in the heat of the day. The others had worked only a little while, and that in the cool of the evening, and when it was fax more pleasant and much less fatiguing.
Friend, I do thee no wrong - I have fully complied with the contract. We had an agreement: I have paid all that I promised. If I choose to give a penny to another man if he labors little or not at all if I should choose to give all my property away to others, it would not affect this contract with you: it is fully met; and with my own with that on which you have no further claim I may do as I please. So, if Christians are just, and pay their lawful debts, and injure no one, the world has no right to complain if they give the rest of their property to the poor, or devote it to send the gospel to the pagan, or to release the prisoner or the captive. It is their own. They have a right to do with it as they please. They are answerable, not to people, but to God, and infidels, and worldly people, and cold professors in the church have no right to interfere.
Take that thine is - Take what is justly due to you what is properly your own.
Is thine we evil because I am good? - The Hebrews used the word evil, when applied to the eye, to denote one envious and malicious, Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 23:6. The eye is called evil in such cases, because envy and malice show themselves directly in the eye. No passions are so fully expressed by the eye as these. “Does envy show itself in the eye? is thine eye so soon turned to express envy and malice because I have chosen to do good?”
So the last shall be first ... - This is the moral or scope of the parable. “To teach this it was spoken.” Many that, in the order of time, are brought last into the kingdom, shall be first in the rewards. Higher proportionate rewards shall be given to them than to others. “To all justice shall be done.” To all to whom the rewards of heaven are promised they shall be given. Nothing shall be withheld that was promised. If, among this number who are called into the kingdom, I choose to raise some to stations of distinguished usefulness, and to confer on them special talents and higher rewards, I injure no other one. They shall enter heaven, as was promised. If, amid the multitude of Christians, I choose to signalize such men as Paul, and Martyn, and Brainerd, and Spencer, and Summerfield - to appoint some of them to short labor but to wide usefulness, and raise them to signal rewards, I injure not the great multitude of others who live long lives less useful and less rewarded. All shall reach heaven, and all shall receive what I promise to the faithful.
Many be called, but few chosen - The meaning of this, in this connection, I take to be simply this: “Many are called into my kingdom; they come and labor as I command them; many of them are comparatively unknown and obscure; yet they are real Christians, and shall all receive the proper reward. A few I have chosen for higher stations in the church. I have endowed them with apostolic gifts or with superior talents, and suited them for wider usefulness. They may not be as long in the vineyard as others; their race may be sooner run; but I have chosen to honor them in this manner, and I have a right to do it. I injure no one, and have a right to do what I will with my own.” Thus explained, this parable has no reference to the call of the Gentiles, nor to the call of aged sinners, nor to the call of sinners out of the church at all. It is simply designed to teach that in the church, among the multitudes who will be saved, Christ makes a difference. He makes some more useful than others, without regard to the time which they serve, and he will reward them accordingly. The parable teaches one truth, and but one; and where Jesus has explained it, we have no right to add to it, and say that it teaches anything else. It adds to the reason for this interpretation, that Christ was conversing about the rewards that should be given to his followers, and not about the numbers that should be called, or about the doctrine of election. See Matthew 19:27-29.
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem - Jesus assured them that what they feared would come to pass, but he had, in some measure, prepared their minds for this state of suffering by the promises which he had made to them, Matthew 19:27-30; Matthew 20:1-16. In all their sufferings they might be assured that eternal rewards were before them.
Shall be betrayed - See Matthew 17:22. “Unto the chief priests and scribes.” The high priest, and the learned men who composed the Sanhedrin or the Great Council of the nation. He was thus betrayed by Judas, Matthew 26:15. He was delivered to the chief priests and scribes, Matthew 26:57.
And they shall condemn him to death - They had not power to inflict death, as that power had been taken away by the Romans; but they had the power of expressing an opinion, and of delivering him to the Romans to be put to death. This they did, Matthew 26:66; Matthew 27:2.
Shall deliver him to the Gentiles - That is, because they have not the right of inflicting capital punishment, they will deliver him to those who have to the Roman authorities. The Gentiles here means Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers. See Matthew 27:2, Matthew 27:27-30.
To mock - See the notes at Matthew 2:16.
To scourge - That is, to whip. This was done with thongs, or a whip made for the purpose, and this punishment was commonly inflicted upon criminals before crucifixion. See the notes at Matthew 10:17.
To crucify him - That is, to put him to death on a cross - the common punishment of slaves. See the notes at Matthew 27:31-32.
The third day ... - For the evidence that this was fulfilled, see the notes at Matthew 28:15. Mark and Luke say that he would be spit upon. Spitting on another has always been considered an expression of the deepest contempt. Luke says Luke 18:31, “All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” Among other things, he says he shall be “spitefully entreated;” that is, treated with spite or malice; malice, implying contempt. These sufferings of our Saviour, and this treatment, and his death, had been predicted in many places. See Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:26-27.
Even as the Son of man ... - See the notes at Matthew 8:20. Jesus points them to his own example. He was in the form of God in heaven, Philippians 2:6. He came to people in the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7. He came not with pomp and glory, but as a man in humble life; and since he came he had not required them to minister to him. “He labored for them.” He strove to do them good. He provided for their needs; fared as poorly as they did; went before them in dangers and sufferings; practiced self-denial on their account, and for them was about to lay down his life. See John 13:4-5.
To give his life a ransom for many - The word “ransom” means literally a price paid for the redemption of captives. In war, when prisoners are taken by an enemy, the money demanded for their release is called a ransom; that is, it is the means by which they are set at liberty. So anything that releases anyone from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom. People are by nature captives to sin. They are sold under it. They are under condemnation, Ephesians 2:3; Romans 3:9-20, Romans 3:23; 1 John 5:19. They are under a curse, Galatians 3:10. They are in love with sin They are under its withering dominion, and are exposed to death eternal, Ezekiel 18:4; Psalms 9:17; Psalms 11:6; Psalms 68:2; Psalms 139:19; Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:6-9. They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could he rescued. This was done by the death of Jesus - by giving his life a ransom. The meaning is, that he died in the place of sinners, and that God was willing to accept the pains of his death in the place of the eternal suffering of the redeemed. The reasons why such a ransom was necessary are:
1.That God had declared that the sinner shall die; that is, that he would punish, or show his hatred to, all sin.
2.That all people had sinned, and, if justice was to take its regular course, all must perish.
3.That man could make no atonement for his own sins. All that he could do, were he holy, would be only to do his duty, and would make no amends for the past. Repentance and future obedience would not blot away one sin.
For many - See also Matthew 26:28; Joh 10:15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1Jo 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 2:9.
And touched their eyes - Mark and Luke say he added, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” Thy “confidence, or belief” that I could cure, has been the means of obtaining this blessing.
Faith had no power to open the eyes, but it led the blind men to Jesus; it showed that they had just views of his power; it was connected with the cure. So “faith” has no power to save from sin, but it leads the poor, lost, blind sinner to him who has power, and in this sense it is said we are saved by faith. His “touching” their eyes was merely “a sign” that the power of healing proceeded from him.
Here was an undoubted miracle.
1. From the parable at the beginning of this chapter Matthew 20:1-16 we learn that it is not so much the time that we serve Christ as the “manner,” that is to entitle us to high rewards in heaven. Some may be in the church many years, yet accomplish little. In a few years, others may be more distinguished in the success of their labors and in their rewards.
2. God will do justice to all, Matthew 20:13. He will give to every one of his followers all that he promised to give. To him entitled to the least he will give everything which he has promised, and to each one infinitely more than he has deserved.
3. On some he will bestow higher rewards than on others, Matthew 20:16. There is no reason to think that the condition of people in heaven will be “equal,” any more than it is on earth. Difference of rank may run through all God’s government, and still no one be degraded or be deprived of his rights.
4. God does as he pleases with his own, Matthew 20:15. It is his right to do so - a right which people claim, and which God may claim. If he does injustice to no one, he has a right to bestow what favors on others he pleases. In doing good to another man he does no injury to me. He violated none of my rights by bestowing great talents on Newton or great wealth on Solomon. He did not injure me by making Paul a man of distinguished talents and piety, or John a man of much meekness and love. What he gives me I should be thankful for and improve; nor should I be envious or malignant that he has given to others more than he has to me. Nay, I should rejoice that he has bestowed such favors on undeserving people at all; that the race is in possession of such talents and rewards, to whosoever given; and should believe that in the hands of God such favors will be well bestowed. God is a sovereign, and the Judge of all the earth will do that which is right.
5. It is our duty to go into the vineyard and labor faithfully when ever the Lord Jesus calls us, and until he calls us to receive our reward, Matthew 20:1-16. He has a right to call us, and there are none who are not invited to labor for Him.
6. Rewards are offered to all who will serve him, Matthew 20:4. It is not that we deserve any favor, or that we shall not say at the end of life that we have been “unprofitable” servants, but He graciously promises that our rewards shall be measured by our faithfulness in His cause. He will have the glory of bringing us into His kingdom and saving us, while He will bestow rewards on us according as we have been faithful in His service.
7. People may be saved in old age, Matthew 20:6. Old people are sometimes brought into the kingdom of Christ and made holy, but it is rare. Few aged people are converted. They drop into the grave as they lived; and to a man who wastes his youth and his middle life in sin, and goes down into the vale of years a rebel against God, there is a dreadful probability that he will die as he lived. It will be found to be true, probably, that by far more than half who are saved are converted before they reach the age of 20. Besides, it is foolish as well as wicked to spend the best of our days in the service of Satan, and to give to God only the poor remnant of our lives that we can no longer use in the cause of wickedness. God should have our first and best days.
8. Neither this parable nor any part of the Bible should be so abused as to lead us to put off the time of repentance to old age. It is “possible,” though not “probable,” that we shall live to be old. Few, few, of all the world, live to old age. Thousands die in childhood. The time, the accepted time to serve God, is in early life; and God will require it at the hands of parents and teachers if they do not train up the children committed to them to love and obey Him.
9. One reason why we do not understand the plain doctrines of the Bible is our own prejudice, Matthew 20:17-19. Our Saviour plainly told his disciples that he must die. He stated the manner of his death, and the principal circumstances. To us, all this is plain, but they did not understand it (Luke). They had filled their heads with notions about his earthly glory and honor, and they were not willing to see the truth as he stated it. Never was there a more just proverb than that “none are so blind as those who will not see.” So to us the Bible might be plain enough. The doctrines of truth are revealed as clear as a sunbeam, but we are filled with previous notions - we are determined to think differently; and the easiest way to gratify this is to say we do not see it so. The only correct principle of interpretation is, that the Bible is to be taken “just as it is.” The meaning that the sacred writers intended to teach is to be sought honestly; and when found, that, and that only, is religious truth.
10. Mothers should be cautious about seeking places of honor for their sons, Matthew 20:20-22. Doing this, they seldom know what they ask. They may be seeking the ruin of their children. it is not in posts of honor that happiness or salvation are certainly secured. Contentment and peace are found oftenest in the humble vale of honest and sober industry - in attempting to fill up our days with usefulness in the situation where God has placed us. As the purest and loveliest streams often flow in the retired grove, far from the thundering cataract or the stormy ocean, so is the sweet peace of the soul; it dwells oftenest far from the bustle of public life, and the storms and tempests of ambition.
11. Ambition in the church is exceedingly improper, Matthew 20:22-28. It is not the nature of religion to produce it. It is opposed to all the modest, retiring, and pure virtues that Christianity produces. An ambitious man will be destitute of religion just in proportion to his ambition, and piety may always be measured by humility. He that has the most lowly views of himself, and the highest of God - that is willing to stoop the lowest to aid his fellow-creatures and to honor God has the most genuine piety. Such was the example of our Saviour, and it can never be any dishonor to imitate the Son of God.
12. The case of the blind men is an expressive representation of the condition of the sinner, Matthew 20:30-34.
(1)People are blinded by sin. They do not by nature see the truth of religion.
(2)It is proper in this state of “blindness” to call upon Jesus to open our eyes. If we ever see, it will be by the grace of God. God is the fountain of light, and those in darkness should seek him.
(3)Present opportunities should be improved. This was the first time that Jesus had been in Jericho. It was the last time he would be there. He was passing through it on his way to Jerusalem. So he passes among us by his ordinances. So it may be the last time that we shall have an opportunity to call upon him. While he is near we should seek him.
(4)When people rebuke us and laugh at us, it should not deter us from calling on the Saviour. There is danger that they will laugh us out of our purpose to seek him, and we should cry the more earnestly to him. We should feel that our eternal all depends on our being heard.
(5)The persevering cry of those who seek the Saviour aright will not be in vain. They who cry to him, sensible of their blindness, and sensible that he only can open their eyes, will be heard. He turns none away who thus call upon him.
(6)Sinners must rise and come to Jesus. They must cast away everything that hinders their coming. As the blind Bartimeus threw off his “garments,” so sinners should throw away everything that hinders their going to him everything that obstructs their progress and cast themselves at his feet. No man will be saved while “sitting still.” The command is, “Strive to enter in;” and the promise is made to those only who “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock.”
(7)Faith is the only channel through which we shall receive mercy. According to our faith - that is, our confidence in Jesus, our trust and reliance on him so will it be to us. Without that, we shall perish.
(8)They who apply to Jesus thus will receive sight. Their eyes will be opened and they will see clearly.
(9)They who are thus restored to sight should follow Jesus. They should follow him wherever he leads; they should follow him always; they should follow none else but him. He that can give sight to the blind cannot lead us astray. He that can shed light in the “beginning” of our faith, can enlighten our goings through all our pilgrimage, and even down through the dark valley of the shadow of death.