Parable of day laborers disputing salary
- 20:1 "Let me describe the Kingdom of Heaven this way. A landowner went out early in the morning to hire some day laborers to work in his vineyard.
- 20:2 He negotiated a salary of one silver coin1 for the day’s work.
- 20:3 Later in the morning, around nine o’clock, he went to the village marketplace and noticed some men standing around with nothing to do.
- 20:4 He went over to them and said, ‘Go on over to my vineyard and join the other workers. I’ll pay you fairly.’
- 20:5 Off they went to the vineyard. The man continued recruiting workers off and on throughout the day. He went out again at noon and at three o’clock.
- 20:6 At about 5 o’clock he noticed some men just standing around. He went over to them and asked, ‘Why on earth have you been standing here doing nothing all day long?’
- 20:7 They said, ‘We’re standing here because no one hired us.’ He told them, ‘You’re hired. Head on over to my vineyard and get to work with the others.’
- 20:8 That evening, the vineyard owner told his foreman, ‘Call in all the workers and pay them their salary. Start with the people who came late in the day, and then work your way up to the people who started working early in the morning.’
- 20:9 The people hired at five o’clock came up and got their salary: one silver coin.
- 20:10 The people hired early in the morning saw that. And when they step forward to get their salary they expected more than one silver coin. But what they got was one silver coin.
- 20:11 Standing there with their silver coin in their hand, they started to grumble, criticizing the landowner.
- 20:12 They said, ‘What’s up with this? Those other guys worked one measly hour. You paid them as much as you paid us, and we worked all day in scorching heat hotter than blazes.’
- 20:13 The man said, ‘Buddy, I’ve been fair with you. Didn’t you agree to work for me today for one silver coin?
- 20:14 Take your money and head on home. I decided to give the workers who came last as much as I gave you. It was my choice to make.
- 20:15 Can’t I do what I want with my own stuff? Or are you jealous because I’m more generous than you are?’
- 20:16 So do you see? People who seem to be last and least get promoted to first. And people who seem to be first and most important get demoted to last.2
Jesus: I’m going to die soon
- 20:17 Traveling up to Jerusalem, Jesus pulled his 12 disciples aside. He told them,
- 20:18 “We’re headed up to Jerusalem now. There, the Son of Humans will get arrested and handed over to the top priests and scholars.3 They’ll sentence him to death.
- 20:19 Then they’ll hand him over to people who aren’t Jews. They’ll do this so those people can ridicule him, beat him, and crucify him. Three days after that, he will be raised from the dead.
Disciple mom asks a favor
- 20:20 The mother of Zebedee’s boys4 came to Jesus with a request. She brought her sons with her and knelt by Jesus.
- 20:21 Jesus asked her, “What would you like?” She said, “Promise me that when you become king and sit on your throne in glory, you’ll give my sons top positions of authority, reporting directly to you.”
- 20:22 Jesus said, “You don’t understand what you’re asking.” Speaking to James and John, Jesus asked, “Do you really think you can drink from the bitter cup of suffering that’s waiting for me?” They said, “Yes we do.”
- 20:23 Jesus said, “And you will. You will drink from that cup. But it’s not up to me who will sit in places of greatest honor. My Father has reserved those seats for the people who will sit there.”
- 20:24 When the other 10 disciples heard about this, they were anything but happy.
- 20:25 Jesus called the disciples together and told them, “You’ve seen how rulers of other nations work. They flaunt their authority and dominate their people.
- 20:26 That’s not how it’s going to work for you. If you want to become a great leader, you have to become a great servant.
- 20:27 If you want the top position, assume the servant’s position.
- 20:28 The Son of Humans didn’t come here so everyone could serve him. He came to serve them. He’s here giving his life in a ransom payment to liberate a lot of people.”
Jesus heals blind men in Jericho
- 20:29 Jesus and his disciples headed out of Jericho, followed by a large crowd.
- 20:30 Sitting beside the road were two blind men. When they heard that Jesus was approaching, they started to yell, “Teacher. Son of David, please help us!”
- 20:31 The people near the men told them to shut up. But they yelled even louder, “Teacher. Son of David, please help us!”
- 20:32 Jesus stopped and called out to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”
- 20:33 They said, “Teacher, we want to see.”
- 20:34 Jesus was moved by the scene. He touched the eyes of the men. Instantly, they could see. They followed him.
The coin was a Roman denarius, weighing about 4 grams. That’s about the weight of a nickel or half of a euro. A silver denarius was apparently a common salary at the time for a day’s work.
More literally, “So the last will be first and the first will be last.” Jesus seems to be reinforcing what he said earlier in 19:30, “Many people who were last and least in this world will be first and foremost in the world to come.”
James and John.
1In the parable Jesus tells about day laborers working in a vineyard (20:1-16), the God character doesn’t seem to come across as the good guy. Sure, he is generous enough to pay the folks who worked a short day the same as he paid the folks who worked a long day. But he set up the payment scenario in a way guaranteed to irritate people who had worked the long day. What do you think is the reason Jesus created this story? Pick a point you think Jesus was trying to make, or create a guess of your own.
- God is in charge and he can do what he wants.
- God is generous.
- People who are saved at the end of their life will get the full reward of heaven, like those who were believers all their life.
- “Many people who were last and least in this world will be first and foremost in the world to come” (19:30).
Clearly, Jesus told his disciples he was going to die: “The Son of Humans will get arrested and handed over to the top priests and scholars. They’ll sentence him to death… Ridiculed him beat him, and crucify him” (20:18). Yet the crucifixion will seem to catch them completely off guard. Why do you think they didn’t get what Jesus said?
Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going to be killed but that after three days “he will be raised from the dead” (20:19). We know he’s talking about rising from the dead. All we know about the disciples is that they didn’t know what Jesus was talking about. Mark’s version of this event says “they were too afraid to ask” (9:32). What do you think they may have thought he was talking about?
Mark’s version of this story tells of just one blind man (Mark 10:46-52). And Mark presents it with a funny-odd twist. When the man calls out for Jesus, Jesus calls out for the man. Jesus says he wants to see him. Then when Jesus asks what he can do to help the blind man, the blind man says he wants to see Jesus. Get it? The man calls for Jesus, then Jesus calls for the man. Jesus wants to see the man, then the man wants to see Jesus. What do you think we should make of this? Pick one of the following.
- Nothing. We shouldn’t make anything of it.
- Allegory. Maybe we should see Jesus in the man. What Jesus wanted, the man wanted. What the man wanted, Jesus wanted. At the end of the story, the man goes with Jesus toward Jerusalem.
- Symbolism. Maybe we should see ourselves in the blind man. Here we sit on the side of the road abandoned, helpless, calling out to Jesus. Then he calls for us, heals us, and takes us on the journey with him to forever.
- Nightcap. All of this is stretching a short little story intended only to show the power and compassion of Jesus. So maybe we should have a sip of brandy and go to bed. Or a sip of milk with a cookie.
Zebedee’s boys, with their mom’s help, asked Jesus for top jobs when Jesus sets up his kingdom. They apparently presumed he was going to become a king, like King David. When the other disciples found out about it, they got mad. Among the criticisms the disciples could have made, which one of the following do you think might best reflect the level of hostility that developed between James and John and the other 10 disciples?
- “You want the top jobs in a nation, but you take your mommy on the job interview?”
- “You do know that Peter is the leader among the disciples. His name will probably always appear first in lists that show up in the New Testament that someone will eventually write.”
- “Back stabbers.”
- “If you want the top jobs, assume the servant’s position like Jesus said. Wash my dirty feet.”
When the blind beggar called out for help from Jesus, why do you think he added the title “Son of David” (20:30)?
LIFE APPLICATION. The disciples of Jesus seemed to think that he was going to set up a kingdom on earth. That’s why two of his best friends, James and John—with the help of their mother—asked for top assignments in the new government. “Promise me that when you become king and sit on your throne in glory, you’ll give my sons top positions of authority, reporting directly to you” (20:21). Instead, Jesus gave them a lecture on humility: “If you want the top position, assume the servant’s position” (20:27). How exactly does that work?