Matthew 20: Jesus Again Defines Greatness

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 28–29

Do you like to feel important? What helps you feel important? Recognition? A position of leadership? Money? Success? The Pharisees of Jesus’ day thought they were very important. The reasons why they thought so are similar to the ways people define greatness and who or what is important today. As you read Matthew 20, however, be aware of what Jesus did and said that helps us understand what is important and what greatness is in His kingdom. It may also be helpful to realize that what was said and done in Matthew 20 was in the last month—perhaps even the last two weeks—before Jesus was crucified.

Other Accounts of What You Read in Matthew 20

Matthew 20:17–34Mark 10:32–52; Luke 18:31–43

Understanding the Scriptures

Matthew 20

Householder (v. 1)Home owner 
Idle (vv. 3, 6)Doing nothing, not working 
Even (v. 8)Sundown, evening 
Steward (v. 8)A person who is in charge of things that belong to another 
Murmured (v. 11)Complained 
Wrought (v. 12)Worked 
Take that thine is (v. 14)Take what belongs to you—what you agreed to 
Scourge (v. 19)To beat with a whip that has jagged pieces of bone or stone in the ends 
Zebedee’s children (v. 20)James and John, the Apostles 
Indignation (v. 24)Strong displeasure 
Exercise dominion (v. 25)To be master over 
Minister (vv. 26, 28)Someone who serves and looks after the needs of another 
Ransom (v. 28)Payment (for those who are captive and need to be freed) 
Rebuked (v. 31)Encouraged strongly to stop 

Whip used in scourging

Studying the Scriptures

Do either activity A or B as you study Matthew 20.

Activity A iconThe Parable of the Laborers

worker gathering grapes

The parable in Matthew 20:1–16 seems to be in response to the conversation Jesus had with Peter at the end of Matthew 19. Peter had asked about what his reward would be for the sacrifice he felt he made to serve in the kingdom. Notice that the parable ends in much the same way Matthew 19 ends.

  1. 1.

    Make a chart in your notebook like the one below. Fill it in with information you learn in Matthew 20:1–16.

The hour the laborers were hired

How much the man agreed to pay them

Hours worked

How much they were actually paid





















  1. 2.

    What do we learn from this parable about serving in the Lord’s kingdom?

  2. 3.

    What message of comfort can this parable have for converts to the Church?

Activity B iconHow You Can Become Great

In Matthew 20:20–28 we read what Jesus said after the mother of James and John asked Him if her sons could have an important place in the kingdom of God.

  1. 1.

    Choose what you think are three of the most important words or phrases in the Savior’s response to her request and explain why you chose each word or phrase.

  2. 2.

    List examples from Matthew 20:17–19, 28–34 of how the Savior showed the kind of greatness He spoke of.