Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Matthew 20:1-21:4

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The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard - Matthew 20:1-16

Unlike many of his other parables, Jesus did not provide an interpretation for this intriguing story. As a result, there have been many different interpretations throughout the Church's history. The overall point of this story is that God is gracious and has the right to reward people as he wills and that people should not be resentful or envious when other people are blessed.

Envy – Matthew 20:15

Are you envious? The Greek phrase here says, "is your eye evil?" The evil eye is an image of envy and jealousy of others' good fortune. This way of being in the world is the opposite of what Jesus was teaching. Jesus also used the language of the "evil eye" in the Sermon on the Mount in 6:23 when speaking about not loving money more than God (Matt. 6:19-34).

Jesus Predicts His Suffering, Death and Resurrection - Matthew 20:17-19

This was the third and final time Jesus predicts his own future suffering and death (Matt. 16:21; 17:22). The first time, Peter tried to oppose Jesus (Matt. 16:22-23). The second time, the disciples were distressed (Matt. 17:23). The third time, they said nothing. This prediction comes right before the last section of Jesus' ministry — his last week in Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1–28:15).

Sit at your right hand and left hand - Matthew 20:21

One at your right hand and one at your left in your kingdom. The image of right hand and left is with Jesus sitting on a throne with his closest advisors and confidants right next to him on either side. The idea of reigning with Jesus came from Jesus' comment about the disciples sitting on twelve thrones in 19:28. The problem is that the disciples were seeking it for themselves, when they needed to trust God to appoint them to their places without being envious of others (Matt. 20:1-16).

Not mine to give – Matthew 20:23

Not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on Earth (Matt. 28:18) but he is the divine Son who remains in joyful submission to his heavenly Father (Matt. 26:39), whose role it is to determine the course and place of each person's life.

The cup of suffering – Matthew 20:23

My cup you will indeed drink. To drink from king's chalice is the image of sharing in his royal identity and benefits. There is also likely a double meaning, referring to the Old Testament image of the outpouring of God's wrath (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:15). The disciples were thinking in terms of earthly glory, but the cup Jesus will drink is one of suffering (see Matt. 26:39). See BC 16.

The Healing of Two Blind Men - Matthew 20:29-34

This little story serves as the transition from Jesus' ministry to his last week of life in Jerusalem. Matthew emphasizes again that the Jesus is the Son of David, the rightful king and also that he is full of mercy, compassion, and power. The healing of blindness is also a metaphor for going from not understanding to belief and trust.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem - Matthew 21:1

The whole story of Matthew's Gospel has been pointing to this important, final week of Jesus' life in Jerusalem. Jesus' last week starts with this happy entry into the holy city and will end with his suffering, death, and resurrection, which is the focus of Matthew's story.

Fulfillment – Matthew 21:4

Fulfilled. Fulfillment has been a central theme throughout Matthew, emphasized especially in Matt 1–2. The same idea is highlighted again as Jesus enters Jerusalem. The quotation from Zech. 9:9 is used to emphasize Jesus' kingship and humility.

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