Matthew Lesson 21 Day 2
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Verse 1 of chapter 20 begins with the word “for” which connects it to the previous verse. Since chapters and verses were added later and were not part of the original manuscripts, we should look to see if the thought in a new chapter is a continuation of the previous text. In this case, the conjunction “for” means the parable further explains the preceding statement.
3. Parable of workers in the vineyard
At dawn (about 6:00 AM), a landowner went into the town marketplace to look for day laborers. The ones he hired agreed to work for a denarius a day.
Throughout the day, he went back to town and hired more laborers to work in his vineyard. He didn’t promise these workers a specific wage.
At the end of the workday, the landowner instructed his steward to call the laborers and pay them their wages beginning with the ones who were hired last.
The steward paid each of them a denarius. They were certainly excited to be paid the going wage for a full day of labor after working for only one hour. As the ones who began work earlier watched, they naturally thought they would be paid far more.
But the ones who worked all day got paid exactly what the landowner promised—a denarius. Because they raised their expectations, they were disappointed and complained about it. It didn’t seem fair.
The landowner didn’t explain why he paid everyone the same, he “rebuked them for their jealousy and resentment of [his] generosity.”1
The order of payment was important. If the first workers had been paid first, they would not have had time to develop the expectation of more pay for themselves. “Possibly the first felt their vanity wounded by being paid after the others. They used their waiting time in considering their own superiority to the latecomers.” (Spurgeon)
b. First and last
In Matthew 19:30 Matthew quotes Jesus saying, “many who are first will be last, and the last first” but in Matthew 20:16 the quote is, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
In both examples the first are last, he just reversed the order of the phrases the second time to fit the parable.
Those who came last made the most money per hour. In the order of payment and pay-scale for work rendered, the last were first and the first were last.
c. God is the landowner of the kingdom of heaven.
In Luke 10:2, Jesus calls Him “the Lord of the Harvest.”
God keeps his promises. He is fair and generous.
Those who worked longer felt they should have received a greater reward, but the landowner showed his sovereign right to determine their pay.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the older brother begrudged how the father treatment his prodigal brother generously. In both parables, the offended focused on themselves saying, “but what about me? What about my faithfulness?”
In both cases, they pointed to their own good works.
Salvation, grace, mercy, and rewards are gifts from our Heavenly Father.
The correct posture would have been to be thankful that the landowner had such a large vineyard with plenty of work for everyone who wanted to work. And the landowner kept his promises.
“If the harvest was not ingathered before the rains broke, then it was ruined; and so to get the harvest in was a frantic race against time. Any worker was welcome, even if he could give only an hour to the work.” (Barclay)1
d. Receiving the gospel
Some follow Jesus at an early age and remain faithful all their lives, while some follow Christ later in life or fall away or a time and later return to their faith. Some on their death beds.
We are all God’s co-laborers. “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
I must remember the harvest is to be our focus rather than obtaining an important position in the kingdom or being noticed by the “right” people. Remember to rejoice along with those in heaven instead of complaining about me.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)
4. Kingdom values versus world values.
In the kingdom, the mission is first and we should not be envious of each other.
As Jesus’ disciples, we can expect to be rewarded, but we shouldn’t be surprised when he rewards us in unexpected ways.
The intercessor may receive a greater reward than someone in a more visible position.
The disciples still hoped Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom and rule as its king. If so, they hoped to be rewarded with positions of honor.
The prophetess Anna received a great reward by living long enough to see Jesus the Messiah at the temple where she waited for 85 years. Her story is recorded in scripture for all to read. (Luke 2:36-38)
Likewise, in Matthew 26:6-13, Jesus said of the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume, “wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” The disciples were indignant about a woman (social taboo) interrupting their dinner and wasting something of such great value.
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1 EnduringWord.com used by written permission.
2 AWM Living Commentary used by written permission.
3 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations from *The ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
4 Strong’s Concordance, public domain.
5 *Spirit Filled Life Bible®copyright © 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. (The Holy Bible, New King James Bible) copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
6 Ellicott’s Commentary, public domain.
7 Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, public domain.
8 The Names of God Bible (without notes) © 2011 by Baker Publishing Group.
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My answers, research, and notes for BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Matthew Lesson 21 Day 2