What does it say?
The story of a man that hires workers for his vineyard at different times during the day for the same price is found only here in Matthew 20:1-16. Following this, Jesus tells his disciples once again that he will be crucified in Jerusalem (20:17-19). We have already seen Jesus’ radical teaching on leadership to resolve competition among his disciples for the most prominent positions in the kingdom (20:20-28). Mark 10:46-52 is the story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus as he leaves Jericho headed for Jerusalem. Here Matthew speaks of two blind men being healed as Jesus leaves Jericho. There are several ways to account for the apparent discrepancy. Perhaps Bartimaeus is the more prominent and vocal of two blind men healed. Or, perhaps Matthew tells of a different incident. As mentioned, there is no shortage of blind beggars.
Matthew 21 is the beginning of the end as Jesus pauses on the Mount of Olives before entering Jerusalem on a young donkey. This is what we have come to call Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (21:1-11). Jesus again cleanses the temple as he did earlier in his ministry (John 2)(21:12-16). Later, lodging in Bethany, Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree whose leaves gave the appearance of fruit (21:17-22). Coming into the temple, the Chief priests and elders challenge Jesus’ authority. Jesus responds with an unanswerable question about John the Baptist’s authority and then tells two stories that were also impossible for the religious leaders to respond to without inciting the people’s wrath.
What does it mean?
Things are happening quickly now as Jesus enters the final days of his life on earth. Everything that Jesus does is to fulfill the promises God made through his prophets. His entry into Jerusalem on a young donkey fulfills Zachariah 9. The fig tree is well known as a symbol of Israel’s national life. Jesus is symbolizing that though Israel gave the appearance of life, they were without fruit. They had all the trappings of a nation, but they failed in the mission that God gave them through Abraham (Gen 12:1-3).
The vineyard is also a symbol of Israel (Isa 5:1-7; 27:1-6) and he uses the story about the man with a vineyard to reveal the wickedness in the hearts of Israel’s leaders at this time. The stone rejected is still another symbol known to all (Isa 28:13-17; Dan 2:35-45).
How will I respond?
God has made me to be part of his mission that will result in him being glorified by all peoples. I will resolve not to ignore this mission, adjusting my life accordingly.