The Gospel according to Matthew

20:1“Let me tell you about the kingdom of the heavens: It’s like a landowner who went out one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.20:2He offered the usual amount for a day’s work and they agreed, so he sent them off to his vineyard.20:3About three hours later he went out and saw others loitering in the marketplace,20:4so he said to them, ‘Go out to my vineyard and I’ll pay you a fair wage.’

20:5“They went off to work, and then after about another three hours he repeated this, and again three hours after that.20:6Even a couple hours after that he still found more people standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing around all day, doing nothing?’

20:7“ ‘No one has hired us,’ they replied.

“ ‘Come to my vineyard,’ he said.

20:8“Now when evening came the owner said to his paymaster, ‘Call in the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last hired and ending with the first.’20:9Then the last ones hired came and were given a full day’s wages,20:10so the first ones hired expected to be given more. But when they too were given a full day’s wages,20:11they complained to the landowner:20:12‘These who only worked one hour were given the same pay as we who did the bulk of the work and endured the scorching heat!’

20:13“So the landowner explained to one of the workers, ‘Buddy, I have not cheated you. Didn’t you agree to a day’s wages?20:14Take your pay and go; isn’t it my business if I want to give the last hired the same pay as you?20:15Can’t I do what I want? Are you angry with me because I am kind?’20:16“And so it will be: the last will be first, and the first will be last.”1

20:17Then Jesus went up toward Jerusalem, and along the way he took the Twelve aside and spoke to them privately:20:18“Look, we’re about to enter Jerusalem, where the Human will be handed over to the ruling priests and scripture scholars. They will condemn him to death20:19and hand him over to the non-Judeans, who will jeer at him and flog him and crucify him. But he will arise on the third day.”

20:20Then he was approached by the mother of Zebedee’s sons, who brought them to him and knelt down before him to ask him something.

20:21“What is it you want?” asked Jesus.

“Grant that these two sons of mine will sit beside you in your kingdom, one at the right and one at the left,” she said.

20:22“Neither of you realize what you’re asking,” Jesus replied. “Can you drink from the same cup I must drink from?”

“Yes!” they said.

20:23“Indeed you will!” Jesus responded. “But it is not up to me to say who will sit at my right and left. Those places are for the ones predetermined by my Father.”

20:24When the Ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.20:25So Jesus called them all to himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations exercise mastery over their people, and their high officials wield authority over them.20:26But it must not be this way among you! For whoever wants to be in charge of you must become your servant,20:27and whoever wants to be the most prominent among you must be your slave.20:28After all, the Human did not come to be waited on but to be the waiter, and to give his life as a ransom payment for many.”

20:29As he left Jericho, a large crowd followed along.20:30At one point they came to two blind people sitting beside the road, and when the blind ones heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted out, “Have pity on us, Sir, Descendant of David!”20:31The crowd told them to shut up but they shouted all the louder, “Have pity on us, Sir, Descendant of David!”

20:32Jesus stopped and called to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

20:33“Sir, we want to see!” they replied.

20:34Jesus, moved with compassion, touched their eyes, and instantly they could see. So they followed him.

  1. 1On the surface it appears that Jesus is teaching that God will take advantage of those who work the hardest for him. But the emphasis is on the compassion of God, who won’t punish people simply for not being made the offer as early as others. Note that it was not the fault of the late hires that they hadn’t worked; they would have, if they’d been made the offer earlier. Note also that the previous chapter ended with the same ”first/last“ statement, so the two serve as “bookends” on the whole teaching.