As we study this parable about grace its important to see it in the context of our lesson last week in §124a when Jesus first answered the rich young rulers question about how he might live eternally, and Peter’s question about their own future life, role1 and reward. It is in that context that Jesus offers his disciples another parable – a stern lesson. This is a suitable lesson for today as so many struggle to understand the justice and grace of God, and the responsibility of every disciple.

Audio: coming soon

Section 124b | Parable of the Landowner’s Sovereignty

Perea
Matthew 20:1-16
1 “For the Kingdom of Heaven2  is like a man who was the master of a household, who went out early in the morning3 to hire laborers for his vineyard.4 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day5, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 He went out about the third hour,6 and saw others standing idle in the marketplace.7 4 He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour,8 and did likewise. 6 About the eleventh hour9 he went out, and found others standing idle. He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here all day idle?’ 7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’“He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and you will receive whatever is right.’ 8 When evening10 had come, the lord of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning from the last to the first.’11 9 “When those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came, they each received a denarius. 10 When the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise each received a denarius.12 11 When they received it, they murmured against the master of the household, 12 saying, ‘These last have spent one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat!’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong.13 Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take that which is yours, and go your way. It is my desire to give to this last just as much as to you. 15 Isn’t it lawful 14 for me to do what I want to with what I own? Or is your eye evil,15 because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”16¯17


Group Dialog:

  1. What was the circumstances around the time that you first began to follow Jesus? Was it always a part of your life like the rich young ruler, as a child? Was it late in life after many sins and other priorities?
  2. How have you labored for Christ?
  3. What is it that you feel you deserve from God? What have you received? What will you receive?
  4. In what ways have you seen envy, strife and ego within the church?  What is its effect?
  5. To what specific ministry are you called? How are you living out that vocation recently?

Media: Come Labor On, Hymn, (lyrics, St. Thomas Choir, ritesong)


Notes:

  1. Jesus’ first response emphasized the importance of their vocation to continue to minister to all people. So intentional were the disciples and all converts to Christ in this vocation that the church grew significantly (World Christian Trends, Gordon-Conwell). Shortly thereafter the early church decided to borrow some of the governmental models from the region, appointing rectors and ordaining people to be deacons, exorcists and preachers (Ambrosiaster’s political theology, p.107-109).
  2. Matthew mentions Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom several times: Mat 3:2; 13:24,31,33,44,45,47; here in Mt 20:1; and also Mt 22:2; 25:1,14.
  3. Probably 6 am
  4. CR Mt 9:37-38; 13:34; 1Cor 15:58; 2Pt 1:5-10.
  5. This is the fair pay for of a day’s labor.
  6. about 9am
  7. This was the common place for day laborers to wait for work – like the today’s laborers who stand in the parking lot of Home Depot hoping for work.
  8. About noon and 3pm.
  9. About 5pm – still hoping to be hired for just a bit of work before sunset.
  10. In September the time for harvest it was between 6-8pm.
  11. Notice that moments before he had told Peter in Mt 19:30 – “many who are first will be last, and the last first.” and also vs 16 below.
  12. A full day’s wage. The first who had just worked about hour or two, while those who began at 6am had worked twelve hours.
  13. Gk. lawful, just Gk g1832 ἔξεστι exesti; see also the International Standard Bible concerning lawful, right, existi.
  14. The Greek word is envious (g4190 πονηρός ponēros).
  15. Remember that it was Peter who asked the question about their future roles, rewards and responsibilities (Mt 19:27, Mk and Lk see §124a) and Jesus’ lesson seems to have stuck with the Rock (Mt 16:18)Though he was the first of the Apostles he affirmed the priesthood of all believers (Cr 1Pt 2:9) while feeling also some duty to lead and maintain the vocation of the 12 (Acts 1:15-25). Jesus had assured Peter of his apostolic duty (Mt 19:28-29) but as for any reward and seniority (see Matt. 20:25-28) it is not earned by tenure, righteousness, gift or rank – but only as God apportions. Click here for a brief overview on the life and ministry of Peter.
  16. From here Jesus leaves Perea toward Jerusalem, via Jericho where the walls came down generations before.