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Workers in the vineyard

The parable we have just heard is commonly known as the “workers in the vineyard” parable, and it is really a parable on God’s grace. … It is certainly not my favourite parable, because it emphasis how unfair life can be; … and we can all testify to that.
Because life is not fair: some people are taller, some are faster, some are clever or cleverer, and some are prettier. … In fact it is not fair that my sister in law can only cook and eat food made in either a chip-pan or a frying pan and still stay under 8 stone. …
Matthew 19 NIV
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Matthew 19:30 NIV
But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
because this verse provides an identical bookend to the end of this parable which concludes “… so the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few are chosen”, where the order is completely reversed, but still retaining its meaning].
Matthew 19:30 NIV
But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

It’s never too late to come to the Lord.

In lesson one, we learn that we must realise that it is never too late to come to the Lord. … Some of the workers started at 8 o’clock in the morning say, and worked all day, others started at various times throughout the day, but there was one group that started working at say 5 o’clock and finished at 6 o’clock. … And from this analogy, many people think that those first workers may represent the folk who have been Christians most, or all of their lives … while watching others join at various stages of theirs … even those who came to Christ very late in life … and I mean the “deathbed conversions” for instance.
How do you feel about them? You know, someone who has led a life of total debauchery, a life harming others, yet being accepted by the Lord just before they die … making them equal in value to those who have done their best to be Christ like all their life? … If you are like me, you will try not to think too long on that one … but when Jesus was hanging and dying on the cross remember, a condemned criminal looked at Him and said, “remember me when you come into your Kingdom”. … That was deathbed conversion, and one of the most unacknowledged professions of faith in the bible, because Jesus hanging on that cross that day, did not look like the son of God … however Jesus went on to say, “today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

A lesson about grace.

That was lesson one, lesson two tells us that all the workers received the same amount of pay and that all who respond to God’s invitation will receive all that there is to receive. That is called grace … grace meaning receiving something whether we deserve it or not … God gives us full access to his kingdom, all because Jesus died on that cross. … …. But access to heaven is just one of the benefits of salvation … the real treasure is a personal relationship with Jesus that lasts forever.
But, let’s be honest … those who have worked in the vineyard most of their lives bristle a little bit at this story, and we don’t blame them, because they miss the real point of this parable that God dispenses gifts, and not wages. If God paid us on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell. … If it’s a wage you want from God, then the Bible clearly identifies wages it in , where it says, “the wages of sin is death” … But if it is grace that you want, then grace is a gift that we cannot earn … and this verse goes on to say, “ … but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
… And what is eternal life? Eternal life is defined by Jesus in
John 17:3 NIV
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
where he said, speaking to His Father, “ … and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

God has a right to do whatever He pleases.

Again, I still don’t particularly like this parable, but that was an important lesson, maybe I have a problem with authority, and that brings us to the next lesson which is that God is sovereign; and as such he has a right to do whatever He pleases.
In the parable, the workers who toiled for 12-hours in the hot sun complained to the owner that it was not fair. … What did the owner say ... he said in the vernacular … “I paid you what we agreed. … If I want to be generous with my gifts, then that’s my right … it’s my vineyard … and it’s my money. Get over it”.
Grace certainly disturbs our sense of justice and our sense of fairness, but the universe belongs to God, and not to us. … Yes, this is not how the world does business, but it is how God does his business … so who are we to disagree. … God is God, he rules and he does as he pleases, fortunately … he is a God of love and not of hate. … God tells us in
Isaiah 55:8–9 NIV
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We are to be thankful without comparing ourselves to others.

And this brings us to our last lesson that we are to be thankful or grateful always, without comparing ourselves to others. The 8 hour workers grumbled because they compared their wages with the one-hour workers’ wages. … Someone once said, said that comparison is toxic to the soul. … Abraham Lincoln one day was walking down the street with his two young sons, Tab and Willie, and they were both grumbling with displeasure. … A friend met him and said, “What’s wrong with the boys, Abe?” He said … “What’s wrong with my boys is what’s wrong with the world. I have three chestnuts in my hand and they both want two.”
Many have worked in the Lord’s vineyard for years, and so they have an understandable temptation to grumble when some newbie comes along and experiences God’s blessings ahead of them. … Christians do grumble as we all know. …
James 5:9 NIV
Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
The first worker, the one who worked all day, was typical of this world, and you could say, he was consistent with the fair mindedness of the Lawful Jewish faith; in other words, this was an example of the Old Covenant in action, the Old Testament where you received what you deserved. …
That almost brings me to the end of today’s sermon, I have ran out of time again, but before I go I need to say something very important. … While writing this sermon, I have consistently thought and said to myself, “I do not like this parable, and I certainly did not choose it for today’s reading. … I grumbled all the way through it. It has been a standard sermon and I approached it logically … but that was up until this very point … where I received a great revelation, one of the best I have had in a long time … and I want to share it with you now.
… Now in this parable, there are three main characters, the Vineyard owner who is clearly God, the worker who worked all day … and the worker who only did one hours work. … The worker who worked all day agreed his rate with the vineyard owner before starting. He agreed a fair days’ work, for a fair days pay, which is fine.
The worker who only did one hours work, also agreed the vineyard owner to be paid fairly, but no time was ever mentioned; only that he would receive fair payment for his efforts. … Now, it suddenly hit me that the first worker, the one who worked all day, was typical of this world, and you could say, he was consistent with the fair mindedness of the Lawful Jewish faith; in other words, this was an example of the Old Covenant in action, the Old Testament where you received what you deserved. …
Compare that with the second worker, the one who worked for only one hour, who was typical of the New Covenant in which Jesus was about to impart unto the world … the New Testament where he received a gift but not a wage, but not because he deserved it or earned it … rather he received without deserving it … and that is grace, or the gift of grace.
Now all of us, all of us good Christians like to be fair, we like to be seen as fair and so we relate straight away to the all-day worker … but that is not what this parable is telling us. … Do you remember we read that Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like this …” which means we not are to focus on the all-day worker, but the one hour worker … not because he earned it, but because the vineyard owner, (God), decided to give him the money. That is grace in action … that is what the new Testament is constantly telling us … to start receiving … whether we deserve things or not … and to thank God for supplying them. … This goes against our nice wee Christian up bringing … that we should be willing to receive for something we did not earn.
And let us go one stage further … you see, this parable constantly refers to money, in making its point. Let us now look at other aspects of life as well, and to do so, we will look at my favourite Old Testament chapter bar none, and that is … and I loosely paraphrase where Christ not only died to forgive us from our sins, he died to free us from the results of the law which leads to death, and show grace and forgiveness for all those things we have done wrong.
… And Jesus died a horrible death that we be accepted and not rejected, and that we are no longer a slave to shame … being pronounced cleansed in his sight. … And Jesus died that we no longer be a slave of sickness, that we should receive health; he certainly healed many when he was walking this earth … and Jesus died also in poverty, that we no longer live in the fear of poverty … instead we are granted permission to draw from God’s abundant storehouse, his treasure house as we need. … That is what the bible says.
Do we deserve any of those things … clearly no? … And in light of our sinful past do we remotely deserve anything good, no … but we are told to receive good things in the name of Jesus. … And we will never receive any of those benefits unless we start recognising and relating to the one hour worker.
Matthew 7:11 NIV
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
we are to stop looking for things that we deserve, and start accepting the good things that we don’t deserve. … That is grace, that is grace in action, and to deny accepting such gifts is to deny our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and what he did for us all those years ago dying on that cross. … He died so that we may receive.
Father we thank you for Jesus, we thank you he died for us all those years ago to save us from ourselves … from Sin … from the Law of Sin and Death … cleansing us to be more like Him.
Father we thank you that Jesus died a horrible death of shame … that we might be Glorified and honoured through him.
Father we thank you that Jesus died a horrible death in agony … that by his stripes we are healed.
Father we thank you that Jesus died in poverty … that we may become rich in your abundance.
Father we ask you that you manifest these and you promises onto us, in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
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