Matthew 20 Questions and Answers
1. Read Matthew 20:1-16. What is the kingdom of heaven like?
- Like a landowner who goes out several times during the day (5 times) looking for unemployed men to hire to work in his vineyard. To the first group He promised to pay them a denarius for a days work, but to those hired later he promised to pay them whatever is right.
- At the end of the day, he gives each person the same wage whether they worked for 1 hour or all day.
- This is not a purely imaginatory story. This kind of thing frequently happened at certain times in Palestine. The grape harvest ripened towards the end of September and the rains came soon after. If the rains came before the harvest was in, it was ruined; so to get the harvest in any worker was welcome, even if they could only give an hour or so.
- The men who were standing in the market-place were not lazy men wasting their time. The market-place was equivalent to the labour exchange. A man would come first thing in the morning with his tools and waited until someone hired him. These men were the lowest class of workers and were at the mercy of chance employment and always living on the semi-starvation line. Unemployment for a day was disaster for his family for the children would go hungry. A day's wage was just enough to meet that days needs and not enough to save with.
2. Who is the landowner and what kind of qualities does He have?
- The landowner is a picture of God and His generosity. He extends grace (can't be earned) and love in a way that was not expected. He can give what He determines He wants to give - may not seem like equality and some may not be happy about God's generosity but He wasn't unfair because He gave the first ones what they had agreed to work for.
- God is a God of comfort - no matter when a person enters the kingdom he is equally dear to God.
- God is a compassionate God - he knew that a day's wage was barely enough to survive so if a workman went home with less because he didn't have a day's work to do, his wife would be worried and the children would be hungry. Therefore, the landowner went beyond justice and gave them more than was their due.
- God is a generous God - not all the work that the men did in the parable was the same but they got the same pay. In the same way all service ranks the same with God. It is not the amount of service but the love in which it is given that matters.
- God loves to bless us but it is not based on a merit system. We cannot earn what God gives us. What God gives is not pay but a gift; not a reward but grace. God's grace is given on the basis of overflowing love out of the free and generous heart of God.
- It does not matter at what stage of life a person comes to faith in Christ. We all will receive the gift of eternal life.
3. What application could the disciples and we make with this parable?
- The disciples received a great privilege in that they became part of Jesus' ministry right at the beginning. That does not make them or us who grew up in a Christian home more honoured or have special rights. Everyone, no matter when they come to Christ, are equally precious to God
- The Jews knew they were God's chosen people and often looked down on the Gentiles. Through this parable we can understand that no group of people will get special privileges and no one is inferior to the other.
4. Do you feel God owes you something or that you deserve certain things from God?
Do you ever compare yourself with others? Have you ever felt God has been unfair with you and not given you what you deserve or have you been surprised with God's unexpected generosity?
5. Read Matthew 20:17-19. Read also Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34. This is the third time Jesus mentions to his disciples that He as on the way to the cross. What specific details did He give and what emotions did the disciples feel?
- He was going to Jerusalem, leading the way. Deliberately and open-eyed He sets out for Jerusalem and the cross.
- Everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death. Will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, insulted, spit on and flogged and crucified.
- On the third day he will be raised to life. This should have given the disciples hope, for beyond the suffering and death was triumph and life.
- The disciples were astonished and did not understand any of it. The meaning was hidden from them and they did not know what he was talking about. At least they were loyal to Jesus and didn't seem to think about turning their backs on Jesus.
6. Read Matthew 20:20-28. James and John & their mother came knelt before Jesus to ask a favour of Him. What was it?
- That her two sons, James & John, may sit on Jesus' right and left side in His kingdom.
- What was behind the request? It is probable that James and John were closely related to Jesus. From Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40 and John 19:25 we find that James & John's mother whom Mark calls Salome and John calls her Jesus' mother's sister. So that means that James and John were cousins of Jesus; so they may have felt that this close relationship entitled them to a special place in Jesus' Kingdom.
- Why would they have made such a request - to be self-glorified. No matter how respectful she was (she knelt down), the motive of the mother of James and John was still selfish and worldly. She asked Jesus to promote her sons to sit next to him in the Kingdom. Her understanding about greatness was to lord over people. We are often confused about this concept because we see the examples around us too often. Moreover, I wonder if we mothers are selfish enough that we want only our children to be promoted before anybody else. I think in a way it is true.
7. What did Jesus think of that idea?
- She had no idea what she was asking for. He asked James & John if they could drink the cup required to be able to do that. They said "Yes". But they didn't understand what Jesus meant by the cup or didn't realize that the path to glory is suffering.
- Jesus said they would be drinking from His cup but He did not have the authority who would sit at his right and left. His Father would make that decision.
- What was their cup? James was the first of the apostles to die a martyr's death (Acts 12:2) His cup was martyrdom. John lived to an old age and died a natural death. For him the cup was be banished to the Isle of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.
- To drink the cup means to follow Christ wherever He may lead and to be like him in any situation life may bring.
- God is very much against pride and for humility. James 4:6 - God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble
8. How did the other 10 disciples respond when they found out what James and John had asked for?
- They were indignant.
- Why? Because they wanted that position too. They were still thinking of personal rewards and success without sacrifice, without the cross.
- Someone has said there is a new cross in evangelicalism today. He writes that the old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross assures. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged dramatics, but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.
9. What lesson did Jesus teach them from that experience?
- Gentile rulers and high officials lord it over others (control others) and exercise authority over them (commanding others to do things). But that isn't how Jesus wanted His disciples to act.
- If they wanted to be great, He wanted them to become servants of others (doing things for others), if they wanted to be first they needed to act like a slave. After all Jesus didn't come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. This is the complete reversal of the world's standards. However, inwardly people respect and love those who serve others.
- Am I a servant and a slave? This world is totally opposite to Jesus' teaching. We are easily influenced by it. This Jesus' teaching is very encouraging and comforting, because I cannot be great in this world, but it is possible for me to be a servant and a slave. Thank you, Jesus for reminding this precious truth to me
- They needed to learn that true greatness does not come from dominance but in service - and there is a price to be paid for greatness.
- Jesus taught them with kindness - He didn't lose patience and become irritated.
- He taught with honesty - He never coerced people to follow Him under false pretenses.
10. How did Jesus sum up His life? Vs 28 What does that mean?
- He came to give His life as a ransom for many.
- What does that mean? A ransom is something paid for, given to liberate a person from a situation from which it is impossible for him to pay to free himself. Therefore it cost the life and the death of Jesus Christ to bring men back to God. Jesus gave everything to bring men back to God. The wages of sin is death, so Jesus paid the wages of sin by dying in our place.
11. What is your goal in life, for yourself, your husband and for your children? As mothers, are we ever selfish in our motives and goals for our children? No matter what the goal what should be uppermost in our minds?
- To honour God. We should want our children to choose to honour and serve God above being great - eg. Eric Liddell. We should teach them it is better to obey and honor God than to compromise.
- To serve, to give - go beyond the call of duty
12. Read Matthew 20:29-34. (Read also Mark 10:46-52) What are some things we can learn about these 2 blind men?
- They were sitting by the roadside begging.
- When they heard Jesus was passing by, they seized the opportunity to try to get Jesus' attention so they could ask for healing (for mercy).
- They called Jesus Lord, Son of David. That meant that they believed Jesus was the Messiah - but in terms of a kingly and earthly power.
- Even though they were told to be quiet by the crowd, they kept on. That didn't discourage them.
- When Jesus asked what they wanted they didn't ask for money but for sight.
- Jesus had compassion on them so touched their eyes and they immediately received their sight.
- In gratefulness for what Jesus did for them, they followed Jesus.
13. When Jesus gives you what you desire or ask for, what do you do? Are you thankful and grateful? Do you follow Jesus even more closely and lovingly or do you just go on with life?
14. Do you think there is a parallel between physical and spiritual blindness?
- We have physical blindness and spiritual blindness. Both are miserable, but we understand the former better, and we might be ignorant or oblivious of how blind we are and how miserable that is. (Revelation 3:17-18) This scripture shows Jesus is compassionate and merciful toward our blindness. We just admit our blindness and ask Jesus to open our mind as these 2 blind men did. Jesus will open our hearts and we should follow him after that.