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May 7, 2017

"Laborers in the Vineyard"

TEXT: Matthew 20: 1-16
READING:  Psalm 91: 1-16

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SUBJ: The equity of God’s dealings even when the first are placed last and the last first and this declared to prevent trying to equate the Kingdom of Heaven with any earthy system.

AIM: That we might focus on the Lord and His promises as they appear to us and not to compare ourselves with others or to question the Lord’s dealings with us or others.

INTR: This passage shows an aspect of the Lord’s dealings with us that runs counter to ordinary thought in that we have a deeply embedded sense of fairness and especially if we are personally affected.
1. The Lord will do as He wills with His own and none will ever be able to say that they have been treated unfairly. This He would drive home to his disciples.
2. How easily we are given to comparisons which comes as a result of pride and is characteristic of our “old man.”
3. Our Lord would show that His Kingdom was not like any other in this world and would perfectly accommodate all in the future with no complaints.

THESIS: The idea of first and last and the distinction between called and chosen is to show that all is graciously under His control and all who perceive of the grace of God and that which He has given in their behalf will rejoice at mercy and not clamor for position or recognition.

I. The Kingdom of Heaven compared (v. 1)
1. To see the aim of our Lord in this passage it is necessary to see that this is a continuation of the previous chapter.
2. Some important issues had been raised in the last part of the chapter:
1) The encounter with the rich young ruler and the exposure of the conflict of pride and trusting in riches.
2) A strong statement regarding the impossibility of a rich man entering the Kingdom
3) The question of the disciples as to “Who then can be saved?”
4) The answer of the Lord – “with God all things are possible.”
3. But, it is Peter’s remark that seems to trigger our Lord’s use of the parable before us:
1) Peter spoke of their own personal sacrifice and then as what they would get for it.
i. This betrayed the persistence of Messianic thought and a material kingdom then.
ii. Therefore, the disciples continued to bicker among themselves about positions in the government of that Kingdom that was not in the divine plan at all.
2) In 19:28-30 our Lord described an outpouring of spiritual wealth that would be far more than any earthly reward.
4. The first being last and the last being first and so the Lord’s reversal of human thinking.
5. And so, the parable ensues and powerfully declares an order men do not understand.

II. The parable unfolded (vv. 2-15)
1. The Jewish day went from 6 to 6 and so was a long time indeed – The householder or owner was up early and about to hire laborers.
1) A job is to be done and he essentially contracts with them for a penny – a fair wage
2) All parties concerned agreed and so the day began.
2. For whatever reason, he determined that more workers were needed and so at the third hour he saw others idle in the marketplace and directed them to the vineyard only promising to give them whatever was right.
1) Another group followed this, in the same manner at the sixth and ninth hours.
2) And them, at the eleventh hour he sends yet more into the field after their rejoinder that no one had hired them.
3. Then came the reckoning:
1) Those who had labored for one hour were given a penny and so until they came to those first hired.
2) It is to be noted that no wage had been set for the others – only these first
i. They were paid in accordance with their agreement and
ii. The others benefited from the generosity of the goodman of the house!
iii. The first ones contracted – the last ones trusted the man!
iv. The blow was so landed on the pride of the disciples who would, no doubt, remember this in time to come.
4. It is thought that the idea that a rich moral person such as the rich young lawyer should have been considered as a prime candidate for salvation and divine favor.
5. Sovereign grace will tend to rankle those who think that good is being unfairly render (v. 15)

III. The Last first and the first last (v. 16)
1. The favor and blessings of the Lord will not be determined by human sacrifice or extended labor. It is all of grace – the thief went into the fulness of the divine presence before the disciples and
1) Short ministries have had some of the most lasting effects (Scougal, Brainerd, McCheyne)
2) It may well be that the least prominent person in the world may be one upon whom the Lord has determined a foremost standing.
2. Truly, the first will be last because “many be called, but few chosen.”