Saturday 3 February 2024

     M A T T H E W.   20 v 1-16  

 Jesus, when He was preaching used parables, which are images of characters, based on Jewish culture.  In this parable, it describes the kind of thing which often happened in Palestine.

 Grapes were an importance in Jewish life and economy, and the harvest happens in or about September before the rains start.  If the rain comes before the grapes are gathered, there is a great loss, hence the farmers were desperate to ensure all were collected.  This provides work for people not otherwise employed, and any worker is used for any length of time. The pay given was the normal amount of a denarius for a day’s wage

 Men would go in early morning to the market place, which was like the modern labor exchange, ready with hope, and waiting to be hired. They would wait all day if necessary, desperate to be given work, even if for only a short period.  Th men were in the lowest class of workers, and their livelihood depended on being taken on, as life for them was precarious for they and their family faced starvation.

 The working day, was in periods of hours. The first hour was 6.0a.m. with the next period at 9.0 following periods at four  three hours increments, and the eleventh hour at 5.0pm

 The description used in the parable, was a picture of events in the market place, at the time of the grape harvest.  The Master went out at the first hour and hired some men, and went again at the third, fifth ,nineth and eleventh hours, hiring at each hour, there is a practice which is at the heart of the Christian faith in this system.

 Jesus told His disciples how fortunate they were to be part of the Christian Church at the very beginning before others joined in.  This did not entitle them to claim a special place and honor because you were a Christian before them, and no matter when they come, are equally valuable to God.

 There are people in our Churches now who think because they have been members for a long time, they are able to dictate the policy. They often resent those who are newcomers, who will have different ideas,

 A lady once asked me to guide her, as she was a warden at a Church which had the same type of service every Sunday, with Matins and chants.  She had just attended a family  service at another Church, and was impressed by the service, which had modern songs and hymns. At a parish meeting in her own Church, she proposed having such a service once a month at the last Sunday in the month. She pointed out at the meeting, that it would most likely bring some new people. She was abruptly told to forget that idea, ( I can imagine the horror she caused.) 

She asked me what I would do in that situation.  The answer of course, was that she would never have a chance to do anything as a lay person, and the Church was in an interregnum.  As a Pastor, would have gone ahead and told opponents to go elsewhere, as proclamation of the gospel is the more important, and seniority does not count.

 Jesus  gave a warning to the Jews,who knew they were God’s special people, and felt everyone should accept that, and thy looked down at any proposal of Gentiles into the Church. They thought if any were to be brought in, they would be seen to be inferiors. But Christianity does not accept such as a master race    

 God calls people from across the world. God’s chosen people of Israel were first in the Church, but over the years, people from all countries have been added.  Nations which were once thought to be against Christianity, now have immense number of Christians. In places like Russia, China, Pakistan and African nations. The members in these countries of Pakistan and Africa, in my experience are far more committed to the authority of the Bible than Western countries, where there is celebration if popular culture is given precedence over the Bible.   God will never accept older branches of the Church to look down on younger ones.  The Gentiles converted at the eleventh hour, will be valued equally with the Jews of the first hour.

 Very often a person who has been a member of the Church for many years, can become truly converted by a younger evangelical preacher. The older generation should not consider the younger people to be a lot of liberals, there must be those with sound beliefs, who could contribute much to a Church, and be a good influence generally.

 The lessons of this parable, are as relevant to us as they were centuries ago.  It teaches that when a person becomes a member of the Church at any age, they are valuable and dear to God.

 We find the compassion of  God. The poor man portrayed as waiting in the market place with such fear of hunger to him and his family, was saved by the Master who showed concern for each man.  He knew that an hour of employment meant so much.

 We see the generosity of God.  The men employed all received the same pay, although they all did not work the same amount of work.  There is a verse which states, ‘all service ranks the same with God’.  What matters is the way it is given.  A man may receive a lot of money from a rich friend, for which he is grateful.  One of his children may save money from the little he gets, and with it buys a bar of chocolate for his dad, and for a normal man, there is little doubt which pleases him most.

 God gives us grace. We can never earn grace, it is freely given from His heart, it is a gift and not a reward.

 The supreme lesson of this parable, is the way in which things are done.  The men working for the Master, possibly on contract, and their whole concern was to get as much money as they could. Those who came later accepted the work, and were grateful for what was given, leaving it for the Master to decide how much to pay.  One group were showing appreciation.

Let us all be aware of ever thinking we can put off turning to Christ and repentance, for we will never know when our last day will be.


May God bless His words to us, and may His Holy Name be forever praised.




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