Mat 20 outline:
Mat 20:1-16, The parable of the workers in the vineyard
Mat 20:17-19, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection
Mat 20:20-28, Ruling in the kingdom of heaven
Mat 20:29-33, Jesus heals two blind men
Mat 20:1-28 chiastic structure:
1a) Mat 20:1-16, The parable of the workers in the vineyard (the last first and the first last);
1a) Mat 20:1-7, The landowner hired laborers for his vineyard, agreeing upon a denarius a day;
1b) Mat 20:8, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first;’
central axis) Mat 20:9-10, The last laborers received a denarius, the same as the first laborers;
2b) Mat 20:11-12, When the first laborers received their wages, they complained against the landowner;
2a) Mat 20:13-15, The landowner answerd them, Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
conclusion) Mat 20:16, So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
central axis) Mat 20:17-19, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection;
2a) Mat 20:20-28, The greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all (the first last and the last first).
1a) Mat 20:20-21, The mother of Zebedee’s sons asked Jesus that her sons sit on His right and left in the kingdom;
1b) Mat 20:22a, But Jesus answered, “Are you able to drink My cup + baptized with My baptism?”
central axis) Mat 20:22b, They said to Him, “We are able;”
2b) Mat 20:23a, “You will indeed drink My cup + be baptized with My baptism;”
2a) Mat 20:23b, “But to sit on My right + left hand is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father;”
conclusion) Mat 20:24-28, Those great in the kingdom will be the servants of all, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve + give His life a ransom for many.
At first I couldn’t see how the parable of the workers in the vineyard would pair with the mother of James and John asking for thrones for her sons. But here is the common theme between the two:
In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the laborers who were hired first thought they would receive greater compensation than the other workers. But no, those who were hired last received their compensation first, and it was equal to the compensation of everyone else. Jesus told His disciples, The last will be first, and the first last (vs. 16).
The mother’s request for her sons, was for greater authority or recognition than the other disciples. She had essentially the same expectation, or was hoping for the same outcome, that the first laborers in the vineyard had. But no, those who wished to be great, must instead serve. Jesus told His disciples, Whoever desires to be first among you, let him be the last (the slave, vs. 27).
I sometimes wonder if the one who desires greatness, recognition, and advancement, who covets or craves to be above others, can truly serve as slaves of all. First, it seems to me, God works with that person to excise that desire from them, so that they can be truly like Jesus, who is gentle and lowly in heart, not coveting recognition and proclamation and the praise of men.
And I realized that the principle of the first last, and the last first, is why the Jews are the last to receive the gospel of Yeshua Messiah – because they were the first people of God, the first to recognize Him as Creator and take Him to be their God.