READ: Matthew 20:1-16 (19:3-30)
- One of the most significant rules in studying Scripture is to keep a text in its literary context. What goes before and after is always important. The first word of our parable is “For.” “For” is a connecting word, indicating that the previous story(ies) is the catalyst for this story. In other words, when Jesus tells the story of the generous landowner (master of the house) because of the previous conversations He’s had with the disciples.
- Not only that, but the phrase, “…many who are first will be last, and the last first,” ends the previous paragraph and the reverse phrase, “…the last will be first, and the first last,” ends the parable. It’s almost as if they are parentheses around the story. Starting in v17, Jesus is moving again, with His disciples, and announcing His impending death in Jerusalem. That is followed by a mother who wants her sons to be “first.”
- One additional contextual note is in order. Matthew 19:3 introduces the phrase, “is it lawful,” to the conversation Jesus is having with those who are around Him. In chapter 20:15, Matthew reports Jesus saying, “am I not allowed… .” That’s the same phrase. “Lawful” and “allowed” are the same term. It appears that Matthew is concluding the answer to the Pharisees’ question in v3 with Jesus’ question in v15.
- In whatever way is most helpful to you, identify those context items in your Bible (draw lines, underline, etc.).
- Why do you think keeping a verse in context is so important?
- Ponder how the parable addresses Peter’s claim, “See, we’ve left everything…” as well as the question, “what will we get?”
PRAY: Thank God for making Scripture accessible to us. Pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help you understand. Commit yourself to being a consistent student of Scripture.