In His Judean ministry, the Lord placed the weight of His teachings on who will enter into God’s kingdom and on the consummation of God’s kingdom when He returns. He also concentrated His last teachings and deeds on strengthening, correcting, and building up the disciples so that they would be good and faithful servants until He comes again. At this point, however, the disciples still had a false notion of God’s kingdom. So in this passage, He once again taught them what it is to be truly great in the kingdom of heaven.
Did You Know...?
- Denarius (20:9): The usual daily wage. A Roman soldier alsoreceived one denarius a day. [ref]
- Third hour = 9 AM, sixth hour = 12 noon, ninth hour = 3 PM, eleventh hour = 5 PM.
- Jericho (20:29): A very ancient city located five miles west of the Jordan and about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ time OT Jericho was largely abandoned, but a new city, south of the old one, had been built by Herod the Great. [ref]
- Landowner, Laborers, and Wages (20:1-16)
- Third Prediction about Suffering, Death, and Resurrection (20:17-19)
- Being Great and Being Servant (20:20-28)
- Healing the Two Blind Men (20:29-34)
According to the Lord’s own words, what is the point of the parable?Hide Answer
Many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Who are the ones that are last but will be first?Hide Answer
Either the new believers in Christ, who have done comparatively less, or the repentant sinners, who receive God’s grace and forgiveness in “the eleventh hour” and therefore labor much less for the kingdom of God. By their humble acceptance of and trust in God’s grace, they become first in the kingdom (in vs 4 and 7 we see that these laborers trusted that the landowner would do for them whatever was right).
Who are first that will become last?Hide Answer
These are the ones who seem to have preeminence in the religious community, be they leaders or early converts. They have worked much for God, but because they have exalted themselves to be the first and took God’s grace for granted (they were once unemployed but now hired by the landowner), they become the least in God’s eyes. Some even reject the kingdom because of their pride in being the first.
How is this parable contrary to common sense and expectations?Hide Answer
Common sense tells us that whoever works less should be paid less.
What does the paying of wages represent? Explain your reason.Hide Answer
It represents the grace of God. Although in the parable the laborers seemed to have earned the wages, the fact that everyone received the same amount tells us that the wages were not earned. These unemployed laborers were promised the wages simply for agreeing to work in the vineyard, regardless of how much effort they would put in.
What does this parable teach about the nature of salvation and about God?Hide Answer
We cannot claim any merit in our salvation, even if we work hard for the Lord, because we have received it as a free gift (Eph 2:8,9; Rom 3:27,28; Tit 3:4,5). From this parable, we learn the abounding grace of God. He does not show favoritism in the giving of grace (Acts 10:34). But this is not to suggest that it makes no difference how diligent we work for God, for the Bible teaches that everyone will be rewarded according to his labor (1Cor 3:8; 15:58).
Does this parable contradict the teachings of 1Cor 3:8?Hide Answer
The parable is not teaching that everyone will have the same reward, but that we are all saved by God’s grace. Even the rewards that we will receive for our labor are made possible because of God’s grace.
Compare this prediction with the first two (16:21; 17:22-23).Hide Answer
This final prediction is the longest and most detailed. It speaks of the trial by the Sanhedrin and the handing over to the Roman authorities. It also describes the kinds of suffering the Lord would endure.
To whom was the prediction given? Why did He do so?Hide Answer
To the disciples. The prediction served to teach them the mission of the Messiah and to prepare the disciples so that they might remember and believe when all these things have taken place (cf. Jn 14:29;16:4). But the disciples did not fully comprehend the meaning of the prediction even after the resurrection.
Mk 10:35 tells us that James and John were the two disciples in question. What was their mother’s and their expectation?Hide Answer
To share in the glory and power of Christ and be the greatest in God’s kingdom.
Why did the Lord say to her, “you do not know what you ask”? What was it that she did not know?Hide Answer
She did not know that one must suffer in order to receive glory (Rom 8:17; 2Tim 2:12). She did not know that we must humbly receive God’s grace according to His sovereign will (23). She did not know that being great means being slaves to others and laying down one’s life for others (26-28).
What does the other disciples’ great displeasure indicate?Hide Answer
The rest of the disciples were indignant because they also wanted to be great and did not want to “lose out” on being the greatest.
What is the “cup” or the “baptism” that the Lord referred to?Hide Answer
The Old Testament Scripture uses the “cup” to refer to the judgment of God (Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17,18; Jer 25:15-28). The Lord Jesus Himself called His suffering and death “this cup” because God was about to pour out His wrath on the sacrificial Lamb (Mt 26:39).
How can we drink the Lord’s cup and be baptized with the baptism he received?Hide Answer
We must deny ourselves, take up His cross and follow Him (cf16:24-25; Lesson 24, Question 13). We must humble ourselves (Php 2:5-8), deny our desires, suffer for the Lord (1Pet 4:1-2; Gal 5:24), and sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others (1Jn 3:16).
What does being servant or slave involve? What can we learn from the Lord in this respect?Hide Answer
It involves taking away our pride and wishes, and humbly doing what it takes to meet the needs of others. By right, Jesus could demand service from us because He is the King. But He chose to be a servant and even gave His life for us in the way that a slave would die for His master. His selfless sacrifice compels us to do the same for our brothers.
In what ways can you be a servant of others?
What can we learn from the two blind men?Hide Answer
Although they were blind, they knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David. Their persistence and crying out despite the crowd’s rebuke showed their great faith. They humbly asked for mercy. They followed the Lord after they received sight.
Observe very carefully what the Lord did and said. How was He a servant (see 28)?Hide Answer
Despite the important mission ahead of Him, He was willing to stop and care for the needs of two people whom others scorned. This was an act of great compassion (34). He said, “What do you want me to do for you?” These are the words of a servant ready to serve his master. Then He touched their eyes, showing that He cared enough to do something for them, even though He could have simply healed them with a word.
What can you learn from the Lord Jesus in this miracle?