The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
We must be careful, in studying yet another of the Kingdom parables, to note to whom and under what circumstances our Lord spoke in parables. The one before us was addressed to the disciples, heirs of the Kingdom, upon the occasion, directly after Peter's question, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt. 19:27). Our Lord had assured the disciples that they should "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" in the regeneration when He should take His place upon the throne of His glory. Then, that they might know that rewards should be made according to His will, He said: "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first" (Matt. 19:30).
Since the verse above, Matthew 19:30, introduces the parable, and since the parable concludes with "So the last shall be first, and the first last," we are fully justified in interpreting that the teaching has to do with those things about which the Lord Jesus had been speaking.
"For the Kingdom of the heavens is like unto a man that is an householder ..." and the parable follows, verses one to sixteen. First, who is the householder? In the last parable of Matthew thirteen, the householder is the Lord, and consequently we may be sure that it is again He in this instance. There are some who have taught that the servants are sinners, and that no matter when they receive the Lord Jesus as Saviour, their reward is eternal salvation. This interpretation can hardly be so, for salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and cannot be earned. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).
Also, such an interpretation would be taking the parable out of its context, which has to do with reward for service and not with salvation.
The householder is the Lord Jesus; the servants are His disciples, children of the Kingdom. The disciples had become occupied with their future position, the rewards for their faithfulness. In His loving way the Lord was reminding them that everything that they were, or should be, was a result, not of their self-efforts, but of God's grace. He, in His divine sovereignty, alone could give the rewards, and He would do so according to His will, and not according to their thoughts. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25).
And by His Word, the parable before us, He is reminding us also that all that we have is a result of grace. There is only one foundation: Jesus Christ. One day He shall judge the believers for their works, when "Every man's work shall be made manifest" (1 Cor. 3:13). But though this be so, our Lord does not want us to dwell upon our rewards, but upon the riches of His grace by which He made us free. One simple truth is taught here; a man's reward shall be, not according to the length of his service, nor according to the notoriety of his service, but under the will of God according to his faithfulness to the opportunity afforded him. "Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be (the) called, but few chosen" (Matt. 20:15-16).
"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, 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, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall rise again." Little comment is needed. Gradually, but surely His hour was drawing near, when He should fulfil that which had been in the mind of God from Eternity. His disciples did not understand; the full realization of what He should suffer was hid from them (Luke 18:34). But He knew all that the bitter cup should mean. Matchless love!
"Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him. 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" (Matt. 20:20, 21). They could not have understood His words, or they would never have come in this fashion. While the mother of James and John is here mentioned, the chief censure should be upon James and John. In Mark's record of the event, they asked the favour, and our Lord's answer here was to them, indicating that they had a part in the request, and were at fault. But we repeat, they could not have fully understood the previous statement of the Lord. Again no rebuke came from the mouth of our Lord, but He answered, "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." Had they understood, they would never have so answered. They desired to sit the one on the right hand, and the other on the left, in the Kingdom. Were they able to drink of the cup that our Lord should drink of, would they have been willing to hang one on the right hand, and the other on the left, in the place of the thieves at Calvary? Yes, later they were able. The Lord said: "Ye shall indeed drink of the cup" -- but would they have been able then? No -- it was His death and resurrection which empowered them to face martyrdom and exile. As yet they were not able, but "they understood none of these things."
"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" (Matt. 20:23). The Lord Jesus came in humiliation, to do the will of, and to exalt, the Father in Heaven. Consequently, even the bestowal of the honoured places shall be left to God the Father. The Lord is now raised and seated in Heaven awaiting the completion of His Body, the Bride, but He is subject to His Father. When every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, it will be to the glory of God the Father. "And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him Who put all things under Him, that God may be All in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
"And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren" (not the mother). But the Lord Jesus called them to Him. He said that in the Gentile world the princes and the great exercise authority over others. "But it shall not be so among you (heirs of the Kingdom): but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. 20:26, 27). The Kingdom is not like the world; those who are greatest in God's sight are those who humble themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the greatest of all, "came not to be ministered unto, but to give His life a ransom for many." "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 8:8, 9).
"And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the wayside, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David. ... So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him" (Matt. 20:29, 30, 34). This was the last act in the public ministry of the Lord Jesus before He formally presented Himself to His own people Israel in His own city, Jerusalem. Recorded as it is in this Gospel, it has a deeper significance than simply the account of another miracle. The multitudes were following the Lord, but they did not recognize Him as Messiah, the Son of David. It is true that in the excitement of His entry into Jerusalem they cried out: "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord." But there was no meaning, but hysteria, in this, for not long after the same voices were screaming: "Crucify Him." By the wayside sat two blind men who heard that Jesus was passing. What was their cry? "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David." They recognized Him as the One for Whom they had been looking, though they could not see Him, and He opened their eyes that the fact that He is the Lord, Son of David, might be established in the mouths of two or more witnesses, according to law (Deut. 19:15).These men are also a type of the remnant of Israel at the end of the age, after the Church has been taken, who, in darkness will cry to the Lord Jesus as the Son of David, calling upon Him to deliver them. Though Israel will not see Him, they will believe on Him as the promised One. Then He will enter Jerusalem in honour and glory, and the remnant of Israel shall behold Him and will sing praises to His Name: "Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord."