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Have you heard, the last shall be first and the first shall be last? Let us think about this. Surely those who arrive first should be first and those who arrive last should be last. Those who work more hours should be paid more. Yet Jesus reveals what is true justice according to God’s kingdom. He tells a story using a familiar situation of the time.
Matthew 20:1 ‘“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.’
Jesus is likening the kingdom of heaven to the goodness of the landowner. We read the landowner went out, actually went out searching instead of requiring people to stand in line. He went out to the place where they were standing. This is like God in heaven went out of heaven, in Jesus, walked the earth as a man, searching for all who would come to Him, and be part of His Kingdom.
We learn God is searching.
Verse 2 ‘Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.’
The landowner made an agreement with the labourers. The labourers made an agreement with the landowner. But remember Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner. So what do we learn about the landowner? We learn that the landowner is fair in His dealings.
God Himself gives everyone free choice. He gives everyone free choice to be part of His Kingdom on earth, part of His rescue plan to gather together all things in Christ Jesus.
Let us read on.
the kingdom of heaven is like the landowner
Verses 3-4 ‘And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went.’
The landowner went out again. Already the landowner had his workers, yet he goes out again. Searching, searching searching… for those who have been passed by. All those who the world says, ‘we have no need of you.’ Searching for all those the world says are of no value.
The landowner saw the need of others. The need to be included and be considered of great value.
We learn that the landowner sees the outcast and includes them. He sees the needs of others and provides for them. The landowner gives what is right and just for he is right and just.
So the Kingdom of God is like this landowner.
Verses 5-7 ‘Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’’
The landowner went out again, searching. He found more who were left out, idle and who others had passed by. The landowner searched and found those who others thought were of no use and he gives them a place and opportunity to be part of his vineyard. Once again he will give what is right and just.
God’s kingdom of equality and respect
God Himself searches for all who are willing. Everyone is invited, however each one has a free choice.
In this world there are times of rejection, but God never rejects us. The community may consider some of no value or little value, but God considers each one of great value. In fact the highest of value.
In this world there are those who think that there are those who do not have anything to contribute, but God says, come I have an opportunity for you.
We learn that God the Father searches for those who have been passed by and gives everyone equal opportunity to be part of his kingdom and mission here on earth.
Everyone who receives Jesus is a witness and testimony of the goodness of God. We also see once again the landowner will give what is just and right.
Let us read on.
Verses 8-12 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’
We see the landowner makes everybody equal. The landowner raised up those who had been overlooked, cast out and neglected. He raised them up to be of equal worth and value to those who were first chosen, included and loved.
everybody is equal
God Himself raises up all who are willing to be equal – equal. Boy girl equal – equal. Man woman equal – equal. Adult child equal – equal. For such is His Kingdom of Heaven.
The landowner made everybody equal. Equal reward. Equal value. God Himself makes everybody equal. He gives equal reward and that is all of Himself and His kingdom.
Let us see what is the landowner’s response to the first group.
Verses 13-15 ‘But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’’
The landowner gives what is agreed to, each one equal, each one has the same need. That is the goodness of the landowner. The landowner is good.
God is good. He gives to each one equally. Only God brings justice where each one is equal.
So the Kingdom of God is fair and just. His kingdom is inclusive of all people, regardless of tribe, gender, age or status in this world we are all equal in God’s kingdom.
God is just, fair, compassionate and gives what is right. He gives us all of Himself and part in His healing mission.
God searches for those who have been passed by and is always looking to the needs of others.
From this story that Jesus tells about the Kingdom of God is like the landowner we learn much about God and His heart’s desire.
Jesus says, the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is like this. Like this landowner.
the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God
The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is within everyone who believes and receives Jesus as when we receive Jesus we receive His Spirit within. He makes His home in us.
As we surrender our selfish desires and will to the Father’s will, receiving from Him each day, He will change us more and more into the character and image of Jesus. This is our inheritance now having the kingdom of God within us living in this world damaged by evil.
Now it’s interesting that not everyone responds to God’s love, goodness, truth, equality and mercy the same.
As we see with the some of the labourers in the first group, they compare and evaluate their own goodness to others and fail to understand God’s goodness.
They received the same blessing, yet they missed appreciating the blessing of God because they compared themselves to others.
In their eyes they have done what is right, they are good and see themselves deserving of more. Maybe in a spiritual sense they prayed more, read their Bible more, or have done more good works in the community. Yet compared their work with that of others, thinking because of their good works they were better than the others.
So Jesus says in Verse 16 ‘So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”’
The last who will be first and the first last, is a statement of equality and justice. When Jesus returns all things will be one in Him. That appointed time will happen once all who will come throughout the ages has come. When the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached throughout all the world. We see the signs of the times that Jesus told us about. As we look at what is happening in the world today, we can see these things are taking place.
Jesus is coming back. The first shall indeed be last, the last shall indeed be first. For the fullness of God’s Kingdom of equality and justice will rule and reign in both heaven and earth. Evil will be totally eliminated and we will live with God forever.
In the situation of the text ‘called’ is everyone. All are invited, in fact each one is given an opportunity to receive God’s goodness and His Kingdom in Jesus Christ.
Yet everybody has free choice.
Every group of workers in the story of the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner had free choice. The had the choice to be part of the vineyard, part of the kingdom or not. That is the choice. To receive Jesus and His Kingdom or reject Jesus and His Kingdom.
Our journey through this life is temporary, yet the choice we make about Jesus determines our eternity.
the kingdom of heaven came down to earth in jesus
Having chosen Jesus, we are delivered from eternal darkness, brought into the Kingdom of light. Delivered from the lies of the evil one and brought into the fullness of all Truth. We are delivered from eternal death and brought into eternal fullness of life.
When we have chosen Jesus, we are delivered from this world of injustice, brought into God’s Kingdom of equality.
No matter what blood, no matter what tribe, age or gender we are equal-equal in God’s kingdom. Man and woman equal-equal. Children adults equal-equal. Leader follower equal-equal. This is the kingdom of God. Equal-equal.
now is the time
The search for truth is about eternity and destiny. If you are listening and never received Jesus as your Lord and saviour, now is the time. God is searching for all who are willing. If you’re willing to receive Jesus as your Lord and saviour, simply open your heart and mind and say yes to Jesus. Just let Him into your heart and mind right now.
If you have received Jesus as your Lord and saviour yet you are still compare yourself to others, comparing your life to others. Now is the time to live in the reality of the freedom and victory and see yourself and others through His eyes, equal-equal. Simply surrender that comparison to Jesus and let Him change you. Being transformed into the image and character of Jesus is a daily journey of surrender and receive.
let us pray
We thank you Heavenly Father you are searching. We thank you Heavenly Father that you sent Jesus. Heavenly Father as we receive Jesus we receive your Spirit, we receive your Kingdom. Thank you that we surrender to you by the power of the Holy Spirit you transform and change us to see others through your eyes of love equal-equal, we thank you Father you raise each one of us equal-equal and that you give us all an opportunity to be a witness, a true witness of the Living God in this your mission to bring all things in one in Christ Jesus, in heaven and in earth for such is your Kingdom in Jesus mighty name amen.
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