Matthew 20 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

Persistent Prayer

Despite the notorious dangers of roads like the one from Jericho to Jerusalem (v. 29; compare Lk 10:30), many beggars would have sought alms from Passover pilgrims there in this season (Lane 1974:387). Although Matthew, abbreviating Mark's account, omits the label "faith" here (Mk 10:52), he illustrates the same principle (Mt 9:29). While this text does not promote selfish prayers like the one illustrated in 20:20-21, it does provide principles for one with a desperate need (vv. 32-33). Like many other passages, this one provides a model for how to approach our risen Lord today.

These Suppliants Recognize Jesus' Identity (20:29-30)

They could entreat Jesus in faith because they recognized his authority. They recognized that he was Son of David-rightful ruler in God's coming kingdom (1:1; 15:22; 21:9). They also acknowledged their need of mercy (5:7; compare 6:2-4-"alms" originally literally meant "acts of mercy"), humbly depending on his favor rather than their own merit or formulas.

They Refuse to Let Others' Priorities Deter Them (20:31)

The crowd already "following" Jesus (vv. 29, 31; compare 8:1; 19:2) did not want a figure of Jesus' caliber to be interrupted by a beggar. Many probably wanted him to get on with the business of setting up the kingdom they hoped he would establish (21:9). It is easy for us to want to get on with "ministry," with what we suppose are the agendas of the kingdom, and forget that God's agendas demand that we serve people in need (20:28; compare 19:13). We must exercise sufficient faith in our Lord's authority and concern so that no one else's impatient dismissal of our need will hinder our dependence on God (compare 8:7; 15:24-26).

Compassion Is Jesus' Ultimate Motivation (20:32-34)

Although the men's need for sight was obvious, Jesus allowed them to voice their need (vv. 32-33); then he acted from his compassion (v. 34). God knows the pain in his people's lives. Whether he gives us the strength to endure pain or (quite often) heals us in response to persistent prayer, it is not because we have mastered formulas of prayer. It is because he cares for us intimately (6:8; compare 9:36; 14:14; 15:32).

Recipients of Jesus' Gifts Should Follow Him (20:34)

Responding to Jesus' compassionate healing, the formerly blind men now choose to follow him, becoming models of discipleship. We who have seen both Jesus' power and his compassion best show our love by following him as disciples (Matthew's primary sense of "follow"-8:19, 22; 19:21). We should remember, however, that following Jesus means following to the cross (20:17-28).

Previous commentary:
The Reign of a Suffering Servant

About this commentary:
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.

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