Friday 22 September 2023

M A T T H E W  20 v 1-16


The Gospel service on Sunday contains the parable of the laborers in the Vineyard.

 Jesus used to teach people spiritual lessons based on practices of Jewish  life, which would be familiar to His listeners. In this parable it related to workers who were laborers, the lowest class of workers, and for them life was very hard and unsure, often them and their families facing starvation. They were at the mercy of employers, and if not employed all would go hungry, to not being employed was a disaster. Every morning at first time, the men would gather in the market square, which was like our employment exchange and employers would go and select men to hire. The men would wait anxiously to be picked, and even wait all day.

 The parable may seem to describe an imaginary situation, but that is not so. There is an accurate description of life in Palestine. The harvest occurs in September, and then comes the rain.  If the harvest is not gathered in before the rain it is ruined, so there is a mad rush to collect it.  Men would go first thing in the morning with tools and hope to be enrolled to help, and some would wait all day such was the desperation for them .

 The Jewish day started at 6.0am ending at 6.0pm.  The third hour was 9,0am then 12,noon and the eleventh hour was 5.0pm. It  was at this late hour that one employer went into the town and saw some men still there. He asked them what they were doing and was told they were still hoping for work.  The man told them to go to his vineyard, and he would pay whatever he thought. When the day’s work  was finished the employer paid the men, and all were paid the samem which did not please those who had been working most of the day.

 Jesus spoke to His disciples He spoke to them in a way that it seemed to say, you had a great privilege coming into the Christian Church at the very beginning, and a time will come when others will join you, and you cannot claim a special place, all equal. There are people in the Church to-day who have been attending for a long time, and some see newcomers as an intrusion.

 Jesus is also warning the Jews. that whilst they are  a special people, but Gentiles were hoping for their destination, and if coming into the Church, must come as equals.  In God’s sight there is no such thing as a most favored clause.

 In this parable, we are taught the history of God’s dealing with the world.  The people of Israel were  called and chosen by God to be His people, and later the Gentiles were called, having heard the preaching of the Apostles.  God always accepts people in the same way, and would not allow the older people to see the young as being inferior.  His gospel holds out pardon and peace to God, through Jesus Christ.  The old war between the Jews, and the Gentiles converted at the eleventh hour, shall be taken  equally to the Jews, and shall join in the Kingdom.  The last shall be as the first.

 This follows in the Church of Christ, as Timothy worked in the Lord’s vineyard for fifty years, yet we see the thief on the ross with Jesus was in paradise later that afternoon.  The gospel lads us to believe they were equally forgiven by God. Both were justified by Christ shedding His blood on the Cross

 This doctrine is contrary to human nature, and confounds Christians as a levelling doctrine, but to reject means the gospel is rejected. True faith in Christ justifies a man after one day, as completely as the man o fifty years. Both are saved by grace.

 The parable is teaching that salvation is not earned by works, for that would be disregarding the Bible. What we as believers receive in the next world, would be solely a matter of grace.

 In the meeting  between Jews and Gentiles, there is no distinction, but Israel is still a special people God has purposes, that all saved souls  will have the same amount of glory and believers will have the righteousness of Christ, but all shall not have the same place in heaven.

 May be the older Christians may learn  from the younger ones. These were the original lessons from the parable, but now centuries later has much to add.  It means no matter when a man or woman comes to the Church, he/she are fully equal to God.  The Rabbis had  saying, some are in the Kingdom an hour,  the others hardly entered in a lifetime.

 In the holy city in the book of Revelation (in the Bible), there are twelve gates. Those in the East, which  is the direction of dawn, and can be entered in the morning of his/her days  In the West, they are facing the evening sun by which may be entered by age.  No matter when a man/woman come to Christ, they are equally drawn to Him.

 Looking wider, sometimes a person dies in an advanced age after a full life of labor, but at other times a young person is taken away before life got very far.  God gives both the same welcome, and for both Jesus is waiting to receive.

 We see the compassion of God, for there is a tenderness in this parable. In the Palestine market place there were men still waiting at the eleventh hour, for no one had hired them, but in an act of compassion, a master gave them something to do. He told them to go and work in his vineyard. When a man worked for only a few hours the less he should be paid, and this man hired so late, only completed oneour  But the master knew one hour, was of little use, so the master gave him the same as the others. The parable is telling there is the right of a man to work, and also has a right of receiving a living wage.

 So is the generosity of God. All service is seen as the same with God.  It is not the amount of service given, but the manner in which the service was made. A man may receive  a gift of one hundred pounds as a gift, but his children may have saved just enough money to buy him a few sweets . Any man with a heart would be saved by the bag of sweets. God gives to us with the fulness of His heart.  He gives not money, but the greatest gift of grace.  This is the supreme point of the parable, the whole point of work is the spirit in which it is done.

 The servants are in two classes. The first came with an agreement with the employer, we work you pay. But for those who came later, there was no contract or agreement, they just wanted to work and ready to leave the payment to the master.  There is the difference. As man is portrayed as not a Christian if his first concern is payment.  Such is what Peter asked, what shall we get out of it.  The Christian, for the joy of serving God, that is why the first will be last, and the last will be first. Many a man who earned much money ,have a low place in the Kingdom. a poor man will have a high one.

 Care must be taken that we do not take an attitude of going our own way in life, and make a death-bed eleventh hour confession.  To suppose that is a dangerous act.  The longer people refuse to listen to Christ, the less likely to be saved.  The Bible states clearly, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Few are saved from death-beds, there is a false confidence in doing so.

May God bless His Word to us, and may His Holy Name be praised







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