Atlanta Bible Students

The Book of Matthew

Chapter 20
Go To Verse 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

The Parable of the Penny (a.k.a. The Parable of the Eleventh Hour Worker)

[1] For 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. [2] And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. [3] And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, [4] And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard. [5] Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. [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? [7] They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard. [8] So when evening 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. [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. [11] And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, [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? [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? [16] So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Verse 1  Expanded Bible Comments

For 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.
QuestionAnswer
What is "the kingdom of heaven?" Basically it refers to anything that has to do with the development of the Church class, those who will be part of the Body of Christ in the True Kingdom of Heaven. This includes references to the nominal church because, for the most part of the Gospel age, the true church was contained within the nominal church. Also, the church nominal claimed to be the true church.
"A man that is an householder." What is a householder?
Strong's G3617
οἰκοδεσπότης
oikodespotēs
oy-kod-es-pot'-ace
From G3624 and G1203; the head of a family: - goodman (of the house), householder, master of the house.
In this parable, who is the householder? Our Lord.
What is pictured by him going out "early in the morning?" The Pastor suggested two thoughts.
1) The beginning of the Gospel Age.
2) The beginning of the Harvest of the Gospel Age.
Who are pictured by the "labourers [workers]?" Those who are hired to do the Lord's work of gathering the Lord's saints, i.e., the true church.
The work was for a day (from "early in the morning" through at least "the eleventh hour." What period of time is here pictured? There are two time periods generally discussed by the Lord's people.
1) The entire Gospel Age.
2) The Harvest of the Gospel Age.


Let us begin by reading Q258:1

Verses 2  Expanded Bible Comments

And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
QuestionAnswer
What is pictured by the vineyard? The True Church. John 15:5
What were the agreed upon wages? A penny (denarius) for the day's work in the vineyard.
Symbolically, what is represented by the penny? We will save this question until near the end of the parable.

Verses 3-4  Expanded Bible Comments

And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, [4] And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard.
QuestionAnswer
Who is "he?" The householder.
What is "the third hour?" A little later in the day than "early in the morning."
What did the householder do at the third hour? He went to the "marketplace."
What is pictured by "the marketplace?" Agora, from root meaning "to collect," means a "town meeting-place," "resort of the people," so a place where the public generally met to exchange views and wares. – Biblehub.com

Our Lord used this word when he spoke of how the Scribes and Pharisees loved greetings in the markets, and be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi (teacher, teacher.) Matt. 23:7
This is also where public religious discussions were held. Acts 17:17
Thinking symbolically this would be the spiritual marketplace, the place where public religious discussions would take place. Those who were interested in learning what the Bible taught would be found here. This is where true missionary work would be done.
What is pictured by "others standing idle in the marketplace?" There was work to be done but some who would do the work were unaware of the opportunity.
What were they told to do? What does that mean? "Go ye also into the vineyard." It means that the Lord's missionary work of spreading the true Gospel was to be done and there was opportunity for work. C224.

Verse 5  Expanded Bible Comments

Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
QuestionAnswer
When is "the sixth and ninth hour?" Later than the third hour.

Verses 6-7  Expanded Bible Comments

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? [7] They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard.
QuestionAnswer
When is "the eleventh hour?" The last hour of the work day.
What happened at the eleventh hour? Basically the same as in verses 3 and 4.
Do verses 6-7 differ from verses 3 and 4? If so, how? Yes. In the case of the eleventh hour the householder asked those standing idle why they were not working in the field. They answered him "Because no man hath hired us."

Verses 8-9  Expanded Bible Comments

So when evening 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. [9] And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
QuestionAnswer
What time of day is indicated in verse 8? Evening, i.e., at or near sunset. In other words, the work day is over.
Did "the lord of the vineyard" call the laborers to give them their hire? No. He instructed "his steward" to do this.
How much did the laborers receive in payment? A penny (denarius.)
In what order did the laborers come to receive their pay? From the last hired to the first hired.
Was there any difference in the payment amount? No.

Verses 10-12  Expanded Bible Comments

But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. [11] And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, [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.
QuestionAnswer
What was the expectation of those who were first hired when they received their payment? They expected to receive more than those who only worked near the end of the day.
Were their expectations met? No. They too received a penny.
What did those who were first hired then do? They murmered against the householder, i.e., they murmered against the Lord!
What was their reasoning? We worked longer and during the heat of the day while these eleventh hour workers only worked one hour. Why did you make their pay equal to ours? That's not fair!

Verses 13-15  Expanded Bible Comments

But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? [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?
QuestionAnswer
What is the significance to calling him "Friend?"
Strong's G2083
ἑταῖρος
hetairos
het-ah'ee-ros
From ἔτης etēs (a clansman); a comrade: - fellow, friend.

Jesus used this word only three other times.
1) Matt. 11:16 "Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows."
2) Matt. 22:12 (parable of the wedding garment) "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?"
3) Matt. 26:50 (after Judas betrayed him with a kiss) "Friend, wherefore art thou come?"
While the first reference appears to shed little if any light on this discussion, the other two indicate a close personal relation with our Lord. In the case of the Wedding garment test it indicates someone who had made a full and complete consecration to the Lord and had received the robe of His righteousness (the wedding garment) and then removed it. In the case of Judas it was in reference to the greatest betrayal in history.
(Psa. 41:9)
What was the agreed upon amount? A penny.
Was the master of the house wrong by giving a penny to all and not giving more to those who had "borne the burden and heat of the day?" Absolutely not!
What principle is here shown to us? There are at least two principles.
1) Justice.
2) Generosity.
Do we have any clues as to whether this parable applies to this side the veil or the other side? It seems unlikely that it applies to the other side the veil. Who, upon receiving a reward of life (either immortality or everlasting) from the Lord would then complain about it?
Do we have any clues as to whether this parable applies to the entire Gospel Age or to just the end of it? If this applied to the entire Gospel Age then how would we explain that the first hired were the Apostles. Would they would not be among those who murmured? This seems unlikely.
Why did the master of the house answer only one of them? The fact that the master singled out not all of those first hired but only one may suggest that it was not all those first hired. This may refer to the Great Company.
How is the "penny" used in scripture? Other than in this parable it is used in: Matt. 22:19; Mar. 12:15; Luke 20:24 which all are the same thing, i.e., "Render unto Caesar.."
The only other place is Rev. 6:6. If our understanding of the penny in Revelation 6 be correct then the Lord's giving of the penny would picture spirit-begettal and the opportunity to run for the great prize. If this be correct it would seem the only ones doing any murmering would have to be of the Great Company class (or possibly those of the 2nd death class.)
Symbolically, what is represented by the penny? To this day the brethren are debating this question. Pastor Russell pointed out that it is difficult to find an answer which completely fits all the items in this parable. There is more than one application generally discussed.
Of the four answers suggested below, Numbers 1 and 2 apply to the final reward while numbers 3 and 4 apply to this side the veil.
1) It refers to the Crown of Glory given to the Little Flock.
2) The reward of Eternal Life.
3) Probationary membership in the Little Flock.
4) The Knowledge and Understanding of Present Truth. – Perhaps equivalent to the Seal in the Forehead
(Rev. 7:2-8)

Verse 16  Expanded Bible Comments

So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
QuestionAnswer
What is meant by "the last shall be first and the first last?" The Greek for this text is:
ουτως G3779 So
εσονται G1510 exists
οι G3588 the
εσχατοι G2078 last
πρωτοι G4413 first
και G2532 and
οι G3588 the
πρωτοι G4413 first
εσχατοι G2078 last
In this case it is the last ones hired are first to receive their payment and the first hired are last to receive their payment.
Why does it say "for many be called, but few chosen?" Several translations indicate this is spurious here.

Begin Here June 18, 2017

[17] And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, [18] 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, [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.

Verses 17-19  Expanded Bible Comments

And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, [18] 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, [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.
QuestionAnswer
Where was Jesus going to next?
What did He say would happen to him there?
To whom did he tell these things?
Did they understand what he said? Luke 18:34.

[20] Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. [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. [22] But 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. [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. [24] And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. [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. [26] But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; [27] And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: [28] Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Verses 20-21  Expanded Bible Comments

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. [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.
QuestionAnswer
Who came to Jesus with a request? Mark account
What was the request?

Verse 22  Expanded Bible Comments

But 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.
QuestionAnswer
What was the first thing Jesus told them concerning their request?
What did Jesus mean by drinking of his cup?
What did he mean by being baptized with his baptism?
How did these disciples respond?

Verse 23  Expanded Bible Comments

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.
QuestionAnswer
After James and John gave their answer, what did Jesus say regarding baptism and his cup?
What did Jesus say about their request?
Is there anything in the response of Jesus that might prove difficult for a trinitarian to harmonize?

Verse 24  Expanded Bible Comments

And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
QuestionAnswer
How did the other 10 disciples react to the request of James and John?

Verses 25-28  Expanded Bible Comments

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. [26] But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; [27] And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: [28] Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
QuestionAnswer
What was the practice of the Gentile "princes?"
Strong's G2634
κατακυριεύω
katakurieuō
kat-ak-oo-ree-yoo'-o
From G2596 and G2961; to lord against, that is, control, subjugate: - exercise dominion over (lordship), be lord over, overcome.
What about Gentiles that were considered "great," how did they treat those who were not considered to be "great?"
Strong's G2715
κατεξουσιάζω
katexousiazō
kat-ex-oo-see-ad'-zo
From G2596 and G1850; to have (wield) full privilege over: - exercise authority.
Are the followers of Jesus supposed to follow the practice of the Gentiles in this matter?
What practice are they supposed to follow?
What does it mean to be a minister?
Strong's G1249
διάκονος
diakonos
dee-ak'-on-os
Probably from διάκω diakō (obsolete, to run on errands; compare G1377); an attendant, that is, (generally) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specifically a Christian teacher and pastor (technically a deacon or deaconess): - deacon, minister, servant.
Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35; John 2:5; Rom. 15:8; 16:1
What does it mean to be a servant?
Strong's G1401
δοῦλος
doulos
doo'-los
From G1210; a slave (literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency): - bond (-man), servant.
The following all use the word "servant" (G1410): Matt. 8:9; 10:24,25; 24:45; 1 Cor. 12:13
What is the difference between being a minister and being a servant? Phil. 1:1.
How do we understand our Lord's words "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister?"
Why did our Lord say "the Son of man came.. to give his life a ransom for many?" Why not "a ransom for all" as in 1 Tim. 2:6?

[29] And 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. [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. [32] And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? [33] They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. [34] So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

Verse 29  Expanded Bible Comments

And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.
QuestionAnswer
"They departed from Jericho." Does this conflict with verse 17 which says "Jesus was going up to Jerusalem?"
11 minute video found on youtube that shows the journey from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Verse 30  Expanded Bible Comments

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.
QuestionAnswer

Verse 31  Expanded Bible Comments

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.
QuestionAnswer

Verse 32  Expanded Bible Comments

And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?
QuestionAnswer

Verse 33  Expanded Bible Comments

They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.
QuestionAnswer

Verse 34  Expanded Bible Comments

So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.
QuestionAnswer

Chapter 19   Chapter 21