The Stone The Builders Rejected

(Luke 20:9-18)

This section of scripture is the parable of the man who planted a vineyard, let it out to tenants and then went away. The focus is on the tenants and how they reacted to those sent by the master of the vineyard to receive the fruits of the vineyard. There are a few ways to look at this parable, but here today I will consider only one of those, for it provides a dire warning for the people of the world as well as the people of God.vineyard2

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Parable of the Tenants

(Mark 12:1-12)

This parable was told by Jesus in relation to the chief priests in relation to how they had failed. They were given a responsibility by the Lord and they failed in their responsibility. What is worse they abused their position to try and gain power and position instead of offering service that was required of them in their positions as priests in God’s temple. For this they were rejected.

vineyardJesus showed that their situation was like a man who built a vineyard and let it out to tenants. God was the builder, the world, or more specifically the Israel nation was the vineyard and the priests were the tenants. The priests were charged with the responsibility of their office to rule the people according to God’s law. They were to teach the people God’s law and ensure his ways were followed.

Instead they abused their position for power and personal gain. And this was not just in Jesus’ generation, but had been going on for many generations prior to this.

In the parable the man who owned the vineyard sent servants to receive the profits of the business and they beat or killed the servants so that they could keep it all to themselves. This was an abuse of their power. In the same way God sent his servants, prophets and righteous men to teach the people and to try to bring the people back to his ways. But the religious leaders of the days and the evil kings had them beaten and killed so that they would not lose their positions of power.

Then we see the vineyard owner send his son, but the tenants conspired and killed the son thinking that this would be the end and they would have realised their wicked aims. Likewise Jesus, the Son of God, came to the earth to bring the people back to worshipping and honouring the Lord and the chief priests conspired together and had him killed.

Naturally they chief priests were annoyed at Jesus for telling this parable for it showed them up for their evil doing. But it also showed that instead of ridding themselves of this problem man by the name of Jesus, they actually fulfilled the will of God. For it is in the death of Jesus that we receive life. It was in the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Lord God drew mankind back to him. And it was through the death and resurrection of Jesus that he dispossessed the priests and threw down their power so that access to God became available to all of mankind.

They lost the inheritance and it was given to others, just as the evil tenants lost the inheritance they tried to take by force. The inheritance went to Jesus Christ as the Son of God and we have access to the inheritance of the Son through coming to Christ.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Gavin Kerigan)

Kingdom of God is like a Mustard Seed

(Mark 4:30-32)

Jesus asked the people what can we compare the kingdom of God to. He said the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed for it starts out small but grows into a great shrub or tree that the birds of the air can nest in. This imagery is interesting and the parable tells us much about this analogy Jesus used with the people.

mustard-treeThere are two key points to be made here. First the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds but grows into one of the largest shrubs. In this we see the dramatic transformation from something that begins small but expands into something big. If we look at this in the light of the church, it began small with just Jesus and a handful of disciples, but has grown to the point where Christianity is proclaimed and Jesus is believed upon throughout the world.

The second point is that this tree grows so large that birds of the air come and nest or take shelter in it’s branches. The tree is a place of shelter and protection from the elements and from predators. The kingdom of God is the same. When we come to Christ we find a place of rest where the Lord cares for our spiritual needs. When we are among brethren we receive teaching and assistance to learn and grow in the Lord so we can walk in his ways.

I believe there is both a personal as well as a community aspect to this parable. I covered this in some detail in a previous discussion, which can be viewed in this previous post.

The kingdom of God from a personal perspective is very much like a seed. In my last couple of posts I have looked at the parable of the sower and sowing seeds. When the seed of the word is sown into us, it germinates, sprouts and begins to grow in a spiritual sense. We water and feed the seed through study, teaching and prayer and it grows. As we learn and as the Holy Spirit works within us we are transformed into the image of Christ. And throughout this process we come into the presence and the kingdom of God.

We learn so that we can be stable in the Lord. We learn through the Spirit to discern the difference between truth and error. There is much that is taught in the name of Christ that has little or nothing to do with Christianity. These things do not exist in God’s kingdom for it is pure and unblemished by lies and errors. The challenge for us is to learn the difference, which we can do by a solid study of the word and by prayer to the Lord for insight, knowledge and wisdom as David and the prophets sought the Lord for understanding.

He will provide for us in these ways as he promised saying, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) And when he provides we see the fulfilment of this parable for the tree of life that grows within is is like the mustard seed. It provides us with protection and shelter so that we can weather the storms of life and opposition from the enemy to find peace and rest in the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God.

(Picture provided by Crossmap Arts (www.arts.crossmap.com)

Parable of the Ten Virgins

(Matthew 25:1-13)

In keeping with the parables in this section of Matthew, this one is about watching and being prepared for the Lord’s return. Here we see ten virgins who have been invited to the marriage feast. All of them brought lamps as it was night, but five of them were foolish for they brought no spare oil. The other five were wise for they did bring additional oil with them.

Now it is important to first realise that all of these ten virgins were invited to this marriage feast. All of them had been called by the Lord to come to his feast. We who come to the Lord are like those virgins. We have received an invitation to the marriage of the Lamb and the church. But what we see about those who were invited in this parable is that half of them are foolish. The five who brought no oil were not ready and were unprepared for the feast. They did not have sufficient oil to ensure their lamps would stay alight and their lights were going out.

As Christians we are invited to come to the Lord. Like these virgins, we receive the teachings of the Lord that are light to our souls. And like these virgins we must continue to feed our knowledge with the teachings of the Lord so we may grow and not have the light of life dim and go out. If we do not have sufficient oil, that is the knowledge of the truth, our lamps may flicker and go out, as happened to the five foolish virgins.

The oil in our lamps is the teachings of life. These bring the light of knowledge and insight about the gospel of Jesus Christ into our hearts, minds and souls so that we are full of the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must continue to learn and to take in these teachings. We must apply the teachings to our lives so that we come to maturity.

However it is evident that some of the people called by the Lord will not do so. They will not get the additional oil necessary to grow with Jesus Christ and their lamps may go out. We see the five foolish virgins asking for additional oil from the five wise maidens, but the response was that there might be insufficient to go around. The wise virgins counsel the foolish ones to go to the dealers to get more oil.

The dealers represent the teachers and preachers of the church, led by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that teaches us all things and brings all of the teachings of Christ to our remembrance. So the foolish virgins are advised to go to the teachers and preachers to get more oil. They are to “go to the dealers” to obtain what is needed to prevent their lamps from going out. One of the issues with this is that it is late at night. The dealers have probably closed up shop for the day and would not be able to provide what the foolish maidens sought. Likewise, the teachers and preachers of Jesus Christ may not be available at the time when these foolish people are seeking his ways. It may be too late and they are inaccessible.

After the foolish virgins go and return they seek entry into the marriage feast. But because they were not ready when they should have been, they are excluded. In the same way, those who are not ready when the Lord returns will also be excluded. They will not be able to enter the kingdom of God for they were not prepared.

So again Jesus finishes his discourse saying, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” This is again a warning to all of his people. This parable is telling us to be prepared and to make ready. If we are not ready when he returns, we will be excluded. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to come to him for teaching and to learn his ways.

The Parable of the Talents

(Matthew 25:14-30)

This parable continues the warnings Jesus gave to those who are his so that they would act as they should. The parable of theĀ  talents has two significant sections. First it discusses the giving of the talents and how they are to be employed, and second what will occur on the return of the Lord.

The parable of the talents is about a man going on a journey and entrusting his property and business to his servants. We see him give different amounts to each of three servants. In this case a talent was a significant sum of money. They were to trade with these talents for the benefit of their master. Their work was to be in the employment of their master by using the talents he had given them so they would increase the wealth and size of the masters business.

We could look at these talents also as abilities and skills that the Lord gives to each of us. His teachers, preachers and ministers have certain talents, skills and abilities which they are to employ in the service of the Lord for the purpose of expanding his kingdom here on earth. These talents, skills and abilities are used for the teaching, upbuilding and encoragement of the church. Perhaps more to the point, the Lord also gave gifts to men for the purpose of working in his kingdom. Some are called to be teachers, some prophets, pastors, evangelists for the purpose of bringing the people of God to full maturity in the gospel of Christ. (Ephesians 4:8-14)

We can also look at these talents as the skills and abilities given to all of mankind. Every person is given a life and certain abilities. Whether they choose to use their life to seek and follow the Lord or to turn from him will determine their outcome in relation to the inheritance of the kingdom of God.

Coming back to the parable we see that the three servants were given different amounts of money to trade with. One received five talents, one received two talents and the third received only one talent. Now it is evident that the master gave his property to the servants on the basis of who would do the best job with it. The servant who received the five talents was well trusted by the master and he expected he would do the best job with what was given him. This level of trust would have been based on prior history and how this servant had behaved and performed on previous occasions. The master knew the servant would do a good job because he had been tested over time and had performed well. Thus the master had a high level of trust and so gave him the lions share of his property to work with.

It is appropriate that the servants of the Lord are likewise found to be trustworthy. They are to serve the Lord such that they can build trust by doing a good job with the gifts given to them. Whether it is to teach, preach, pastor, aid, administer or whatever, they are to faithfully employ the gifts they are given for the benefit of the Lord and the church and not their own benefit.

The second servant was still in the process of being tried and proven. He was not yet ready and perhaps had not yet fully gained the confidence of the master. Thus he was given only two talents to see what he would do. The master had a level of trust but was not yet sure of his capabilities. However this servant did not let his master down but took the talents given to him and worked hard to produce one hundred percent growth. This built the masters trust and faith in this servant such that he received the same reward as the first servant. Both of them received the same blessing of their master on a job well done and were to receive the same promise of a reward for their work in his service.

Every person who comes to God and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ is offered the same reward. We all have the offer of eternal life with Christ in his kingdom upon his return. If we follow him and learn his ways we will receive this reward. But we may also be given work to do in the service of the Lord and we are to do that work as trustworthy servants. The reward is the same but the blessing is greater for it is more blessed to give than to receive. If we receive a gift from God, the blessing comes from using that gift in the service of the Lord for the advancement of his people and the purpose of the Lord.

Finally we see the last servant to whom only one talent was given. The master clearly did not yet have much trust in this servant and so he only gave him a small amount to see how he would perform. This servant had the opportunity to use the gift given to him but chose not to. He hid this talent away and did not employ it in the service of the master. There was no growth and there was no benefit to the master on his return from this final servant. All he got back was what was his own.

We then see the reason for why the servant had done nothing explained. The servant chose to blame the master for his own lack of performance. He did not accept any responsibility himself but was in effect saying to the master that he was an evil master. He said, “It’s your fault that I did not do anything because you are a hard man to work for so I did nothing rather than fail.” It is clear this servant was wrong, for whether the master was a hard man or not, he had been entrusted to do a job and failed to do it. The master then said, “Well if you knew I was a hard and an evil man, you should have done something similarly evil to give me a return for what I had given you.” The master said the man should have put his money out to the money lenders to receive usury or interest if he thought the master was evil so that the evil master would have received an evil gain from the servant.

Jesus was not condoning the practice of taking usury or lending money at interest in this section. Usury was forbidden under the law and with good reason for it is destructive. But what Jesus was showing was that if the servant thought the master was evil, he could have used evil methods to do as the master wanted. In essence he was condemning the servant for saying the master was a hard man from the servants own mouth. The servant chose not to do what he was supposed to do and so was condemned. There was no one else to blame for his inaction and he could not shift the blame. The responsibility for doing nothing fell squarely on the servants shoulders and he was punished accordingly.

Many people who are given the gift of life choose to waste that gift and do nothing with it. They choose to do the opposite of what the Lord would hope for giving them this gift and they destroy rather than build up. This is a waste. Some even say it is too hard to follow Jesus and so take the easy road to do nothing. They are wrong and are trying to shift blame for their inaction to the Lord, as this third servant tried to blame the master. Their end is condemnation for their failure to use the life they were given to come to the Lord and learn his ways and then bear the fruit of a life lived in accordance with the truth. They fail because they choose a life of error rather than the way of truth in Jesus Christ. The gift given to them of life was a waste and so it will be taken away.

The master had only entrusted a small amount to the third servant because he had not yet earned the trust of the master. The master was testing the servant to see whether he was trustworthy enough to be given greater responsibility. The same tests were applied to the first two servants and they passed the tests, but the third servant failed miserably. Not only did he fail the test, he would not take responsibility for his own action and so was condemned as well. Had he only failed to trade and make a gain it would not have been as bad, but in his attempt to blame his master for his own inaction he proved himself to be untrustworthy. As such he was cast out of the masters employment.

The Lord expects those who are given gifts to employ them in his service to work with his people so there will be spiritual benefit. His servants have been given gifts so they can use them to build up the church. If we use those gifts we will receive more and greater opportunities to do the Lord’s work. Then we too will receive the ultimate blessing which is to have the Lord say, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” But those who abuse the gifts given to them and fail to employ them will be cast out.

Those who do nothing like the third servant, on the basis that they believe the Lord to be hard and harsh, will suffer loss. When the Lord says, “…to those who have not, even what they have will be taken away…” I believe he is talking about their life. Every person has life and the chance to do something with it. They receive gifts and abilities in this life (ie. like the talents given to the servants) and the opportunity to employ them for the good of the kingdom of God by serving their fellow man and bretheren in the church. If they choose not to do that and turn away from the Lord, they will suffer loss. They effectively have nothing if they do not seek the Lord and even what they have, their life, will be taken away.

Wedding Garments for the Marriage Feast

(Matthew 22:11-14)

The great invitation will go out to many people to come to the marriage feast in the kingdom of heaven. Many will be called but few will be chosen. (Verse 14) There will be a great number who will be called but not everyone will answer the call. I believe that at some point in every person’s life they have the opportunity to come to God. There may be many opportunities, but some will reject the invitation.

In this section of scripture we see a man has come into the wedding feast without a wedding garment. We know that when people attend a wedding they dress appropriate to the occasion. Here we see a man who was not dressed appropriately. The king said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (Verse 12) The man could not answer but was speechless, and the king had him removed from the wedding feast and cast into the outer darkness.

In like manner no person will enter the kingdom of heaven unless they are dressed appropriately. Unless they have the wedding garment of the kingdom of God they will not be able to enter, and as shown here, even if they could get in they would be cast out.

What are the wedding garments of the kingdom of heaven? The primary wedding garment will be the robe of righteousness. God gives this to man. No man can claim righteousness; it is given as a gift from God. We see the robe of righteousness discussed in several places, especially in Revelation.

Revelation 6:11
“Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer”

Revelation 7:9
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes”

Revelation 7:13-14
“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

And then in the final words of the New Testament we see this also stated, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.” (Revelation 22:14-15) This is a perfect description of what the parable is saying. Those who are invited shall need to be appropriately dressed in the right wedding garment. That garment is to be washed and made pure in the blood of Jesus Christ. This is the washing and regeneration from sin to be made perfect in Christ Jesus. Those who do not do so will be cast outside with those who choose to follow evil in all and any of its forms.

Look to Jesus and seek his truth. Be washed in his word. Learn what it means to be washed and made pure in the blood of Jesus for that is the path to salvation. Seek his kingdom and learn his ways and you will be able to stand in his kingdom at the end of the days.

Parable of the Marriage Feast – The Great Invitation

(Matthew 22:1-10)

The parable of the marriage feast is interesting for several reasons. It was given to the chief priests and Pharisees and showed how they and those who acted similarly to them were unworthy of the kingdom of heaven. It also shows how the great invitation to all mankind was given so that every person may have the opportunity of coming to God and entering the kingdom of heaven.

First we see the king in the parable of the marriage feast send out servants to call in all of those who were invited. The ones who were invited in this sense were those who were supposed to be the followers of God. This included the chief priests and Pharisees and those who followed their teachings. They were the office bearers and those in control of God’s house and the teachers of the Old Covenant and so should have been in a position to know and understand his ways.

However we see from this parable and other teachings that these people had gone away from a pure devotion to God’s ways and turned aside into other things. They were holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Thus we see Jesus say of these people who were invited that they made light of the invitation, they refused to come to the marriage feast, they went off on other business and worst of all they beat, killed or treated shamefully the servants sent to call them to the marriage feast. These servants were the prophets, teachers and apostles of Jesus and God who were treated badly by the supposed people of God.

So they were all found to be unworthy. They made excuses why they could or would not attend the marriage feast, or they turned on the king by attacking his servants. Thus the king sent and destroyed those murderers and their city. God broke down the power base of the temple by bringing into effect the New Covenant through Jesus Christ. The New Covenant has now replaced the Old Covenant.

Now we see the great invitation go out to all of mankind. The king in the parable tells his servants not to go to those who were invited and found unworthy, but to go to the world, to the streets and thoroughfares and invite all of mankind. In Jesus Christ under the New Covenant we see the way is open for all mankind to come before God. There are now no intermediaries between man and God. There is no clergy and laity in God’s kingdom, no group who are to have authority over other and stand between man and God. All are equal in God’s sight and come to him through Jesus Christ only. Jesus is the only intermediary between man and God and the only one through whom we may be saved.

The servants of Jesus Christ have delivered the great invitation. The preachers, teachers, apostles and so on of the Lord are the servants going out to the thoroughfares and streets of the world to invite all mankind to the marriage feast. That is, they are all offered the opportunity to come to God through Jesus Christ and enter into his kingdom.

We have still yet to see the full effect of the great invitation. The time is soon, but has not yet fully arrived. Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) This is to occur just prior to the time of the end. When he says, “this gospel,” he is talking about the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Not the many things that is preached as truths but have no basis in Christianity or backup in the Bible. There are many things taught in the name of Christianity that are false and sometimes even opposed to the New Covenant. When the time comes I believe we will see the truth of the gospel preached. It will come attended with the signs and wonders as testimony to the truth of the words spoken.

There will also be pretended signs and wonders from Satan to lead astray the people. So it is important now to ground yourself in the knowledge of the truth. You must find out for yourself the truth of the New Covenant and to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. Thus when the truth is preached and the great invitation goes out, you will be ready to hear it and accept God’s invitation to the marriage feast.

I do not pretend for one moment to know all of the truth of the New Covenant or the ways of God. But as Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12) Likewise we must all press on to make it our own. We must listen to the words of God and learn from the Bible. Listen to the teachers and preachers and compare what they say with what the Bible says. Find the tests in the Bible by which you can compare these teachings and apply the tests to understand if what is said is truth or error. As an example, the New Covenant calls us to freedom in Christ Jesus. Thus any teaching that brings you into bondage is not of Christ. Always look to the Lord for guidance and leadership and you will find the truth and gain entry into the marriage feast and the kingdom of heaven when the great invitation is sent out.

The Stone that the Builder Rejected

(Matthew 21:42-46)

Jesus Christ is the stone that the builder rejected. But what does this analogy mean? Why did Jesus make that analogy of the stone that the builder rejected to the priests in Jerusalem?

Jesus often talks about houses in his parables and analogies. He talks about the kingdom of God as a house, the church as a house and likens those who hear his words as being like houses built on rock or sand. The analogy of a house or a building is used often in Jesus ministry. Here too we see the building of a house as the basis of this teaching.

A builder builds all houses and they are put together following a definite process. A builder has a plan, obtains materials, lays out the job on the ground and commences. Before the invention of concrete, the foundations of a house were made using heavy lumps of rock and stone. These were laid on the ground or in trenches and then the rest of the house was built on top of them.

All houses and buildings even today are begun in the same way. They all commence building from a corner and the very first stone laid is the most important. This stone is called the head of the corner or the cornerstone. Why is it the most important stone? The position of this first stone determines where every other part of the structure will lay. If this cornerstone is put in the wrong place, then the rest of the house will be in the wrong place. If this cornerstone is not laid straight and square, the rest of the house will not be straight and square. Choosing a cornerstone then is critical to the quality of the building of the house and ensuring the completed product is what was planned.

Now when we bring this understanding to the teaching of Jesus in this section, we see that he says, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” In the previous section of this chapter we see that the priests, Pharisees and scribes had rejected Jesus. But Jesus was to be the foundation of the New Covenant. He knew he would be put to death, and this was in God’s will, as he also knew death could not hold him and he would be resurrected. His death issued in the New Covenant and this is the new building of which Jesus is the cornerstone and foundation.

The New Covenant rests solely upon Jesus Christ’s teachings and his sacrifice for us. We enter that building through Jesus Christ as he is the door to life, as he says in John 10:9, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” How do we enter through Jesus? By being baptised into his death. When we are baptised we go down into the water and symbolically take on the death of Jesus as our own death. By this we die to sin, die to the law and die to the world. When we are lifted up out of the water we are symbolically resurrected with Jesus and are born again as new creations in him. Through faith we accept this death and resurrection as our own so that we may live a new life with him. And when we believe in the power of his death and resurrection, God accepts our faith and imputes righteousness to us, not through anything we have done, but through what Jesus has done.

There is much to be said about this and it will be discussed in great detail when we get to the writings of Paul. If you would like to know more in the mean time, check out the eBooks and articles in the Resource Library on my website menu, especially the eBook on the Foundation Teachings of Christianity. Alternatively take the free Nine Steps to Christianity eCourse, also under the resources library menu tab.

Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard

(Matthew 21:33-41)

The parable of the tenants in the vineyard shows the way that the teachers and preachers of Jesus day abused their position. The priests, Pharisees and scribes were appointed to do a job, just as the tenants in the vineyard were to tend the vineyard and produce fruit. The priests, Pharisees and scribes were to teach the people the ways of God, but they failed in their role. Instead they took these appointed roles and used them to have power over the people.

In Christ we see many places where the Lord teaches that we are a brotherhood. As God shows no partiality, neither should Christians show partiality. There should be no “bosses,” no benefactors in authority over the people. The gifts of ministry given to the church such as apostles, pastors, teachers, prophets and so on were not give so that these people would lord it over the people. These were given for the express purpose of building up God’s people so that all would come to maturity in Christ. We see this in Ephesians 4:11-13.

11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

In this parable in Matthew 21 however we see Jesus talking about the priests, Pharisees and scribes who used their positions wrongfully. They used their position to gain power, authority and advantage over the people. Thus, when God sent his servants, the prophets and teachers, to rectify this situation and teach the people, the priests had them taken away or killed. We see they had John the Baptist beheaded and there were many of the prophets likewise killed or shamefully treated. This is what Jesus meant when speaking of the owner of the vineyard sending servants to receive fruit from the tenants, whom the tenants beat and killed. They were not prepared to give up any of the fruit of the vineyard, just as the priests would not give up their power and authority over the people. The priests refused to accept the authority from God and so removed anyone who stood in their way.

Then the owner of the vineyard sends his son, whom the tenants should respect. Likewise Jesus came as the Messiah and Christ and should have commanded the respect of the priests, Pharisees and scribes as it was evident to all the Jesus was doing the works of God. Instead they were jealous and like the tenants in the vineyard, they had the son killed so they could hold on to their power.

When asked by Jesus what they thought the owner of the vineyard would do, they rightly pointed out that the owner would remove the tenants and let the vineyard out to others who would be obedient to the owner. They were unaware they were talking about themselves and casting judgment upon their own situation. And this is what the Father did. He removed the Old Covenant through the death of Jesus and set up the New Covenant. He removed the power base of the priests and gave the promise and inheritance of the kingdom of God to new tenants, to those who followed Jesus Christ.

Labourers in the Vineyard

(Matthew 20:1-16)

The labourers in the vineyard parable is interesting as it divides our thoughts between matters of the flesh and the spirit. When we look at it through eyes of flesh it is not fair. But when we look at it through God’s eyes and consider the promise of God it is perfectly fair and reasonable and perhaps even adds an “unknown” blessing.

If we look at the parable of the labourers in the vineyard for a moment is can be summarised this way. The vineyard owner needs labourers to go out into the vineyard to work. He goes to the marketplace and hires a bunch of people offering them a denarius for the day’s work, which they accept. But there are not enough labourers so he goes back to the marketplace a few hours later and hires more, again offering to pay them what is right. This repeats at around lunchtime, mid-afternoon and then finally when there is only an hour of the working day left he hires a few more people to labour in his vineyard.

The analogy here is that God is the vineyard owner, the vineyard is the world in which we live and the work these labourers are doing is the work of the Lord in spreading the gospel.

At the end of the day the householder calls in the labourers to give them their pay. Starting with the group whom he hired last he pays them a denarius each. When the earliest group sees this they think they might receive more since they toiled all day through the heat and took on a greater burden of work. But when it is their turn to be paid they too receive a denarius each.

At this point we see the labourers looking at this through the eyes of the flesh. The early employees grumbled amongst themselves and complained that they had not got more than the rest given the amount of work they did. Although it does not say it, I am sure too that the last group employed could not believe their fortune for they received a full days pay but only worked for an hour. One group considered the vineyard owner to be miserly and unfair, but the other thought him exceptionally generous. This is the way people of the world would naturally think in such a situation.

But when we look at this through the eyes of the spirit we see that both perceptions are wrong. The vineyard owner agreed with the labourers to pay them a denarius for their work. He did not specify a time period that they should work. He just said they should come and work in his vineyard and he would pay them a denarius. In essence he created a contract with the workers and all he was doing was honouring that contract. They all had agreed to the contract and so had no right to grumble.

But there is still more to this parable. What is it that the labourers are grumbling about? Money and inequity. One group were grumbling that God had made all of them equal by giving the same reward to each. But that is the truth of the New Covenant. God shows no partiality in anything, including how much we may have worked in his kingdom or not. The person who attends church, sits in the back pews and just listens and applies the words of Jesus to their life will receive the same reward as the preacher, evangelist, and prophet or miracle worker. The lowliest person in God’s kingdom receives the same reward as the Apostle Paul. There is no partiality. Just because a person has not done a great ministry does not mean they will receive only a little bit of life in God’s kingdom. We all have the same reward on offer and all of us agree with God that we will accept the same reward regardless of the work we might be called to do in his vineyard.

We must understand that the reward we receive in truth is not like the wage given to the labourers in the vineyard. They earned a wage, but we receive life as a gift. And a gift is given according to the whim of the giver, not the receiver. Jesus showed this in the parable too saying, “I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Verses 14-15) What we are given is a gift by the grace of God so we must not grumble.

Besides, I read elsewhere another interesting twist on this too. The labourers who began early actually had a greater blessing than those who entered at the end. The early starters actually had the care and protection of the master of the vineyard throughout the day with the knowledge they would be rewarded at day’s end. The late starters for most of the day were wandering aimlessly not knowing if they would have work and get payment to buy food or provisions or whatever. So actually the first group were much more blessed for they had an assurance of something better to come that the late starters did not have for most of the day.

We must apply this thinking to ourselves and learn to look at things through the eyes of the spirit rather than the eyes of flesh. Then we will see clearly the glory and promises of God.