1For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
1 CHAPTER XX.
NOTES ON CHAP. XX.
Verse 1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man-a
householder] The very commencement of this chapter shows it to be
connected with the preceding. The manner of God's proceeding
under the Gospel dispensation resembles a householder, who went
out at day break, αμαπρωι, together with the morning; as the
light began to go out of its chambers in the east, so he went out
of his bed-room to employ labourers, that they might cultivate his
vineyard. This was what was called, among the Jews and Romans,
the first hour; answering to six o'clock in the morning.
To hire labourers] Some workmen, τωνεργατων-for he had not
got all that was necessary, because we find him going out at other
hours to hire more.
2And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
2 Verse 2. A penny] A Roman coin, as noted before, ,
worth about seven-pence halfpenny or seven-pence three farthings
of our money, and equal to the Greek drachma. This appears to
have been the ordinary price of a day's labour at that time. See
Tobit 5:14. In 1351 the price of labour was regulated in this
country by parliament; and it is remarkable that "corn-weeders and
hay-makers, without meat, drink, or other courtesy demanded," were
to have one penny per day! In 1314 the pay of a chaplain to the
Scotch bishops, who were then prisoners in England, was three
halfpence per day. See Fleetwood's Chronicon Precios, p. 123,
129. This was miserable wages, though things at that time were so
cheap that twenty-four eggs were sold for a penny, p. 72; a pair
of shoes for four-pence, p. 71; a fat goose for two-pence
halfpenny, p. 72; a hen for a penny, p. 72; eight bushels of
wheat for two shillings, and a fat ox for six shillings and
eight-pence! Ibid. In 1336, wheat per quarter, 2s.; a fat sheep
6d.; fat goose, 2d. and a pig, 1d.,p. 75.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
3 Verse 3. The third hour] Nine o'clock in the morning.
Market-place] Where labourers usually stood till they were
hired. I have often seen labourers standing in the market places
of large towns in these countries, waiting to be employed.
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
5 Verse 5. The sixth hour] Twelve o'clock. Ninth hour-three
o'clock in the afternoon.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
6 Verse 6. Eleventh] Five o'clock in the evening, when there was
only one hour before the end of the Jewish day, which, in matters
of labour, closed at six.
7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
7 Verse 7. No man hath hired us.] This was the reason why they
were all the day idle.
And whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.] Ye may expect
payment in proportion to your labour, and the time ye spend in it;
but this clause is wanting in some of the best MSS., versions, and
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
8 Verse 8. When the even was come] Six o'clock, the time they
ceased from labour, and the workmen came to receive their wages.
Steward] επιτρωπος. A manager of the household concerns under
the master. The rabbinical writers use the very same word, in
Hebrew letters, for the same office, epitropos. See
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
11 Verse 11. They murmured] The Jews made the preaching of the
Gospel to the Gentiles, a pretence why they should reject that
Gospel; as they fondly imagined they were, and should be, the sole
objects of the Divine approbation. How they murmured because the
Gentiles were made partakers of the kingdom of God; see ,
&c., and , &c.
There are many similitudes of this kind among the Jews, where
the principal part even of the phraseology of our Lord's parable
may be found. Several of them may be seen in Schoettgen. Our
Lord, however, as in all other cases, has greatly improved the
language, scope, design, and point of the similitude. He was, in
all cases, an eminent master of the sentences.
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
13 Verse 13. Friend, I do thee no wrong] The salvation of the
Gentiles can in itself become no impediment to the Jews; there is
the same Jesus both for the Jew and for the Greek. Eternal life
is offered to both through the blood of the cross; and there is
room enough in heaven for all.
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
15 Verse 15. Is it not lawful for me] As eternal life is the free
gift of God, he has a right to give it in whatever proportions, at
whatever times, and on whatever conditions he pleases.
Is thine eye evil] An evil eye among the Jews meant a
malicious, covetous, or envious person.
Most commentators have different methods of interpreting this
parable. Something was undoubtedly designed by its principal
parts, besides the scope and design mentioned at the conclusion of
the last chapter. The following, which is taken principally from
the very pious Quesnel, may render it as useful to the reader as
any thing else that has been written on it.
The Church is a vineyard, because it is a place of labour,
where no man should be idle. Each of us is engaged to labour in
this vineyard-to work out our salvation through him who worketh in us
to will and to perform. Life is but a day, whereof childhood, or
the first use of reason, is the day-break or first hour, ,
in which we receive the first CALL.
The promise of the kingdom of glory is given to all those who
are workers together with him, .
The second call is in the time of youth, which is most commonly
idle, or only employed in dissipation and worldly cares,
The third call is at the age of manhood.
The fourth, in the decline of life, .
The fifth, when sickness and the infirmities of life press upon
us. How many are there in the world who are just ready to leave
it, before they properly consider for what end they were brought
into it! Still idle, still unemployed in the things which concern
their souls; though eternal life is offered to them, and hell
moving from beneath to meet them! .
Others consider the morning the first dawn of the Gospel; and
the first call to be the preaching of John Baptist.
The second call, the public preaching of our LORD; and that of
the apostles when they got an especial commission to the Jews,
together with that of the seventy disciples mentioned .
The third call, which was at mid-day, represents the preaching
of the fulness of the Gospel after the ascension of Christ, which
was the meridian of evangelic glory and excellence.
The fourth call represents the mission of the apostles to the
various synagogues of the Jews, in every part of the world where
they were scattered; the history of which is particularly given in
the Acts of the Apostles.
The fifth call, or eleventh hour, represents the general call of
the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, when the unbelieving Jews
were finally rejected. What makes this interpretation the more
likely is, that the persons who are addressed at , say,
No man hath hired us, i.e. We never heard the voice of a prophet
announcing the true God, nor of an apostle preaching the Lord
Jesus, until now. The Jews could not use this as an argument for
their carelessness about their eternal interests.
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
16 Verse 16. So the last shall be first, and the first last] The
GENTILES, who have been long without the true God, shall now enjoy
all the privileges of the new covenant; and the Jews, who have
enjoyed these from the beginning, shall now be dispossessed of
them; for, because they here rejected the Lord, he also hath
Many are called, &c.] This clause is wanting in BL, one other,
and in the Coptic and Sahidic versions. Bishop PEARCE thinks it
is an interpolation from . The simple meaning seems to
be: As those who did not come at the invitation of the householder
to work in the vineyard did not receive the denarius, or wages, so
those who do not obey the call of the Gospel, and believe in
Christ Jesus, shall not inherit eternal life.
This place seems to refer to the ancient Roman custom of
recruiting their armies. Among this celebrated people, no one was
forced to serve his country in a military capacity; and it was the
highest honour to be deemed worthy of thus serving it. The youth
were instructed, almost from their cradle, in military exercises.
The Campus Martius was the grand field in which they were
disciplined: there, they accustomed themselves to leaping,
running, wrestling, bearing burdens, fencing, throwing the
javelin, &c., and when, through these violent exercises, they were
all besmeared with dust and sweat, in order to refresh themselves,
they swam twice or thrice across the Tyber! Rome might at any
time have recruited her armies by volunteers from such a mass of
well-educated, hardy soldiers; but she thought proper, to use the
words of the Abbe Mably, that the honour of being chosen to serve
in the wars should be the reward of the accomplishments shown by
the citizens in the Campus Martius, that the soldier should have a
reputation to save; and that the regard paid him, in choosing him
to serve, should be the pledge of his fidelity and zeal to
discharge his duty. The age of serving in the army was from
seventeen to forty-five, and the manner in which they were chosen
was the following:-
After the creation of consuls, they every year named twenty-four
military tribunes, part of whom must have served five years at
least, and the rest eleven. When they had divided among them the
command of the four legions to be formed, the consuls summoned to
the capitol, or Campus Martius, all the citizens who, by their
age, were obliged to bear arms. They drew up by tribes, and lots
were drawn to determine in what order every tribe should present
its soldiers. That which was the first in order chose the four
citizens who were judged the most proper to serve in the war; and
the six tribunes who commanded the first legion chose one of these
four, whom they liked best. The tribunes of the second and third
likewise made their choice one after another; and he that remained
entered into the fourth legion. A new tribe presented other four
soldiers, and the second legion chose first. The third and fourth
legions had the same advantage in their turns. In this manner,
each tribe successively chose four soldiers, till the legions were
complete. They next proceeded to the creation of subaltern
officers, whom the tribunes chose from among the soldiers of the
greatest reputation. When the legions were thus completed, the
citizens who had been called, but not chosen, returned to their
respective employments, and served their country in other
capacities. None can suppose that these were deemed useless, or
that, because not now chosen to serve their country in the field,
they were proscribed from the rights and privileges of citizens,
much less destroyed, because others were found better qualified to
serve their country at the post of honour and danger. Thus many
are called by the preaching of the Gospel, but few are found who
use their advantages in such a way as to become extensively useful
in the Church-and many in the Church militant behave so ill as
never to be admitted into the Church triumphant. But what a mercy
that those who appear now to be rejected may be called in another
muster, enrolled, serve in the field, or work in the vineyard?
How many millions does the long-suffering of God lead to
17 ¶ And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,
17 Verse 17. And Jesus going up] From Jericho to Jerusalem,
18Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
18 Verse 18. The Son of man shall be betrayed] Or, will be
delivered up. This is the third time that our Lord informed his
disciples of his approaching sufferings and death. This was a
subject of the utmost importance, and it was necessary they should
be well prepared for such an awful event.
19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
19 Verse 19. Deliver him to the Gentiles to mock] This was done
by Herod and his Roman soldiers. See .
To scourge, and to crucify] This was done by Pilate, the Roman
governor. The punishment of the cross was Roman not Jewish; but
the chief priests condemned him to it, and the Romans executed the
sentence. How little did they know that they were, by this
process, jointly offering up that sacrifice which was to make an
atonement for the Gentiles and for the Jews; an atonement for the
sin of the whole world? How often may it be literally said, The
wrath of man shall praise thee!
20 ¶ Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
20 Verse 20. The mother of Zebedee's children] This was Salome.
21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
21 Verse 21. Grant that these my two sons] James and John. See
. In the preceding chapter, , our Lord had
promised his disciples, that they should sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes. Salome, probably hearing of this, and
understanding it literally, came to request the chief dignities in
this new government for her sons; and it appears it was at their
instigation that she made this request, for Mark, ,
informs us that these brethren themselves made the request, i.e.
they made it through the medium of their mother.
One on thy right hand, and the other on (THY) left] I have
added the pronoun in the latter clause on the authority of almost
every MS. and version of repute.
That the sons of Zebedee wished for ecclesiastical, rather than
secular honours, may be thought probable, from the allusion that
is made here to the supreme dignities in the great Sanhedrin. The
prince of the Sanhedrin (HA-NASI) sat in the midst of two rows of
senators or elders; on his right hand sat the person termed AB
(the father of the Sanhedrin;) and on his left hand the CHACHAM,
or sage. These persons transacted all business in the absence of
the president. The authority of this council was at some periods
very great, and extended to a multitude of matters both
ecclesiastical and civil. These appear to have been the honours
which James and John sought. They seem to have strangely forgot
the lesson they had learned from the transfiguration.
22But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
22 Verse 22. Ye know not what ye ask.] How strange is the
infatuation, in some parents, which leads them to desire worldly
or ecclesiastical honours for their children! He must be much in
love with the cross who wishes to have his child a minister of the
Gospel; for, if he be such as God approves of in the work, his
life will be a life of toil and suffering; he will be obliged to
sip, at least, if not to drink largely, of the cup of Christ. We
know not what we ask, when, in getting our children into the
CHURCH, we take upon ourselves to answer for their CALL to the
sacred office, and for the salvation of the souls that are put
under their care. Blind parents! rather let your children beg
their bread than thrust them into an office to which God has not
called them; and in which they will not only ruin their souls, but
be the means of damnation to hundreds; for if God has not sent
them, they shall not profit the people at all.
And to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized, &c.]
This clause in this, and the next verse, is wanting in BDL, two
others, (7 more in ,)
Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Mr. WHEELOCK'S Persic, Vulgate, Saxon,
and all the Itala, except two. Grotius, Mill, and Bengel, think
it should be omitted, and Griesbach has left it out of the text in
both his editions. It is omitted also by Origen, Epiphanius,
Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, and Juvencus. According to the rules
laid down by critics to appreciate a false or true reading, this
clause cannot be considered as forming a part of the sacred text.
It may be asked, Does not drink of my cup, convey the same idea?
Does the clause add any thing to the perspicuity of the passage?
And, though found in many good MSS., is not the balance of
evidence in point of antiquity against it? Baptism among the
Jews, as it was performed in the coldest weather, and the persons
were kept under water for some time, was used not only to express
death, but the most cruel kind of death. See Lightfoot. As to
the term cup, it was a common figure, by which they expressed
calamities, judgments, desolation, &c.
They say unto him, We are able.] Strange blindness! You can?
No: one drop of this cup would sink you into utter ruin, unless
upheld by the power of God. However, the man whom God has
appointed to the work he will preserve in it.
23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
23 Verse 23. Is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them
for whom it is prepared of my Father.] The common translation, in
which the words, it shall be given to them; are interpolated by
our translators, utterly changes and destroys the meaning of the
passage. It represents Christ (in opposition to the whole
Scriptures) as having nothing to do in the dispensing of rewards
and punishments; whereas, our Lord only intimates that, however
partial he may be to these two brethren, yet seats in glory can
only be given to those who are fitted for them. No favour can
prevail here; the elevated seat is for him who is filled with the
fulness of God. The true construction of the words is this:-ουκ
εστινεμονδουναιαλλοιςητοιμυσταιυποτουατροςμου, To sit
on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, except to
them for whom it is prepared of my Father. According to the
prediction of Christ, these brethren did partake of his
afflictions: James was martyred by Herod, ; and
John was banished to Patmos, for the testimony of Christ,
24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
24 Verse 24. When the ten heard it, they were moved] The ambition
which leads to spiritual lordship is one great cause of murmurings
and animosities in religious societies, and has proved the ruin of
the most flourishing Churches in the universe.
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
25 Verse 25. Exercise dominion-and-exercise authority upon them.]
They tyrannized and exercised arbitrary power over the people.
This was certainly true of the governments in our Lord's time,
both in the east and in the west. I have endeavoured to express,
as nearly as possible, the meaning of the two Greek verbs,
κατακυριευουσιν, and κατεξουσιαζουσιν; and those who understand
the genius of the language will perceive that I have not exhausted
their sense, however some may think that no emphasis was intended,
and that these compound verbs are used for the simple κυριευειν,
and εξουσιαζειν. See Wakefield and Rosenmuller.
The government of the Church of Christ is widely different from
secular governments. It is founded in humility and brotherly
love: it is derived from Christ, the great Head of the Church, and
is ever conducted by his maxims and spirit. When political
matters are brought into the Church of Christ, both are ruined.
The Church has more than once ruined the State; the State has
often corrupted the Church: it is certainly for the interests of
both to be kept separate. This has already been abundantly
exemplified in both cases, and will continue so to be, over the
whole world, wherever the Church and State are united in secular
26But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
26 Verse 26. It shall not be so among you] Every kind of lordship
and spiritual domination over the Church of Christ, like that
exercised by the Church of Rome, is destructive and
Your minister] Or, deacon, διακονος. I know no other word
which could at once convey the meaning of the original, and make a
proper distinction between it and δουλος, or servant, in
. The office of a deacon, in the primitive Church, was to
serve in the agapae, or love feasts, to distribute the bread and
wine to the communicants; to proclaim different parts and times
of worship in the churches; and to take care of the widows,
orphans, prisoners, and sick, who were provided for out of the
revenues of the Church. Thus we find it was the very lowest
ecclesiastical office. Deacons were first appointed by the
apostles, ; they had the care of the poor, and preached
27And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
27 Verse 27. Your servant] δουλος the lowest secular office, as
deacon was the lowest ecclesiastical office: δουλος is often put
From these directions of our Lord, we may easily discern what
sort of a spirit his ministers should be of. 1. A minister of
Christ is not to consider himself a lord over Christ's flock. 2.
He is not to conduct the concerns of the Church with an imperious
spirit. 3. He is to reform the weak, after Christ's example, more
by loving instruction than by reproof or censure. 4. He should
consider that true apostolic greatness consists in serving the
followers of Christ with all the powers and talents he possesses.
5. That he should be ready, if required, to give up his life unto
death, to promote the salvation of men.
28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
28 Verse 28. A ransom for many.] αυτροναντιπολλων, or a ransom
instead of many,-one ransom, or atonement, instead of the many
prescribed in the Jewish law. Mr. Wakefield contends for the
above translation, and with considerable show of reason and
The word λυτρον is used by the Septuagint for the Hebrew ,
pidion, the ransom paid for a man's life: see ;
; and λυτρα is used ,
where a satisfaction (Hebrew copher, an atonement) for
the life of a murderer is refused. The original word is used by
Lucian in exactly the same sense, who represents Ganymede
promising to sacrifice a ram to Jupiter, λυτρονυπερεμου, as a
ransom for himself, provided he would dismiss him.
The whole Gentile world, as well as the Jews, believed in
vicarious sacrifices. Virgil, AEn. v. 85, has nearly the same
words as those in the text. "UNUM PRO MULTIS dabitur CAPUT,"-One
man must be given for many. Jesus Christ laid down his life as a
ransom for the lives and souls of the children of men. In the
Codex Bezae, and in most of the Itala, the Saxon, and one of the
Syriac, Hilary, Leo Magnus, and Juvencus, the following remarkable
addition is found; "But seek ye to increase from a little, and to
be lessened from that which is great. Moreover, when ye enter
into a house, and are invited to sup, do not recline in the most
eminent places, lest a more honourable than thou come after, and
he who invited thee to supper come up to thee and say, Get down
yet lower; and thou be put to confusion. But if thou sit down in
the lowest place, and one inferior to thee come after, he who
invited thee to supper will say unto thee, Go and sit higher: now
this will be advantageous to thee." This is the largest addition
found in any of the MSS., and contains not less than sixty words
In the original, and eighty-three in the Anglo-Saxon. It may be
necessary to remark, that Mr. Marshall, in his edition of the
Gothic and Saxon Gospels, does not insert these words in the text,
but gives them, p. 496 of his observations. This addition is at
least as ancient as the fourth century, for it is quoted by
Hilary, who did not die till about A. D. 367.
29And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.
30 ¶ And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.
30 Verse 30. Two blind men] , and , mention
only one blind man, Bartimeus. Probably he was mentioned by the
other evangelists, as being a person well known before and after
his cure. Blindness of heart is a disorder of which, men seldom
complain, or from which they desire to be delivered; and it is one
property of this blindness, to keep the person from perceiving it,
and to persuade him that his sight is good.
Sitting by the way side] In the likeliest place to receive
alms, because of the multitudes going and coming between Jerusalem
Cried out] In the midst of judgments God remembers mercy.
Though God had deprived them, for wise reasons, of their eyes, he
left them the use of their speech. It is never so ill with us,
but it might be much worse: let us, therefore, be submissive and
Have mercy on us] Hearing that Jesus passed by, and not knowing
whether they should ever again have so good an opportunity of
addressing him, they are determined to call, and call earnestly.
They ask for mercy, conscious that they deserve nothing, and they
ask with faith-Son of David, acknowledging him as the promised
31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.
31 Verse 31. The multitude rebuked them] Whenever a soul begins
to cry after Jesus for light and salvation, the world and the
devil join together to drown its cries, or force it to be silent.
But let all such remember, Jesus is now passing by; that their
souls must perish everlastingly, if not saved by him, and they may
never have so good an opportunity again. While there is a broken
and a contrite heart, let it sigh its complaints to God, till he
hear and answer.
They cried the more] When the world and the devil begin to
rebuke, in this case, it is a proof that the salvation of God is
nigh; therefore, let such cry out a great deal the more.
32And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?
32 Verse 32. Jesus stood] "The cry of a believing penitent," says
one, "is sufficient to stop the most merciful Jesus, were he going
to make a new heaven and a new earth; for what is all the
irrational part of God's creation in worth, when compared with the
value of one immortal soul!" .
What will ye that I shall do] Christ is at all times infinitely
willing to save sinners: when the desire of the heart is turned
towards him, there can be little delay in the salvation. What is
thy wish? If it be a good one, God will surely fulfil it.
33They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.
33 Verse 33. That our eyes may be opened.] He who feels his own
sore, and the plague of his heart, has no great need of a prompter
in prayer. A hungry man can easily ask bread; he has no need to
go to a book to get expressions to state his wants in; his hunger
tells him he wants food, and he tells this to the person from whom
he expects relief. Helps to devotion, in all ordinary cases, may
be of great use; in extraordinary cases they can be of little
importance; the afflicted heart alone can tell its own sorrows,
with appropriate pleadings.
34So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.
34 Verse 34. So Jesus had compassion on them] επλαγχνιαθεις, He
was moved with tender pity. The tender pity of Christ met the
earnest cry of the blind men, and their immediate cure was the
They followed him.] As a proof of the miracle that was wrought,
and of the gratitude which they felt to their benefactor. For
other particulars of this miraculous cure,
Reader, whosoever thou art, act in behalf of thy soul as these
blind men did in behalf of their sight, and thy salvation is sure.
Apply to the Son of David; lose not a moment; he is passing by,
and thou art passing into eternity, and probably wilt never have a
more favourable opportunity than the present. The Lord increase
thy earnestness and faith!