THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD (Mt 20:1-16)

 

This morning we are going to be examining the parable of the workers in the vineyard that was just read. But before we get into the parable itself lets take a quick look at its background. In Mat. 19:16 ff Jesus had a talk with the rich young ruler who was unwilling at that time to give up his riches to follow Christ and so he went away sorrowful. Then Jesus began to talk to talk to his disciples in,

 

Matthew 19:23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

 

The Peter who is famous for speaking out asks the question.

 

Matthew 19:27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?"

 

Peter wanted to know what would be their reward for leaving all they had behind and following him.

 

Matthew 19:28 So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.29 "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.30 "But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

 

So Jesus tells them they will have great blessing for following him but at the same time in verse 30 he warns them by letting them know their that their position was set in stone because many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first. Those who put themselves last and put God first will truly be blessed. Jesus expounds upon this thought in the parable of the workers of the vineyard.

 

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.

 

Many times in these parable Jesus was giving his disciples insight on the kingdom to come which began at the day of Pentecost. He also always used a story that the first century Christian could understand and he use these stories to explain to them about spiritual matters.

 

 

 

Now the landowner in our parable was a house master. He has all authority and control over his house. He is responsible for all of its concerns such as the fields and vineyards and everything else involved with taking care of his household. This landowner was desiring workers for his vineyard so he goes out early in the morning seeking those who will work in his vineyard.

 

In this parable the vineyard represents the church and the landowner represents God. In the parable the householder wanted people to labor for him in his vineyard. Well the same thing is true when it comes to God. From the establishment of the kingdom/church at Pentecost to the end of time the Lord needs Christians who are willing to work in his kingdom and to go out and spread the good news of salvation to the lost. This is exactly what Jesus told his disciples to do in the great commission.

 

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

 

Jesus disciples did not disappoint God because we can see throughout the NT the amazing growth of the church and the spreading of the Gospel. At the birth of the church in Acts 2 3000 souls were added to the church by God that day. These Christian went from house to house and in the temple daily preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:42. Because of the willingness to labor in Godís kingdom the church grew and grew.

 

Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

 

Even when Saul tried to break up these Christians it just caused them to go new places a spread Godís word.

 

Acts 8:4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

 

The good news had been preached so hard that those Jews who opposed this new message from God said this.

 

Acts 17:6 These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.

 

You see the first century Christianís were working hard in Godís kingdom and every knew it. Well I can promise that God need workers just as bad today as he needed them in the first century. Jesus says in,

 

Luke 10:2 "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

 

Friends there is a lot of work to be done in Godís kingdom and certainly the harvest is plentiful. Paul tells us thatChristians are to be ready of for every good work in Titu 3:1. By example Jesus said he must do the works of the father while it is still day in John 9:4 and Paul tells us,

 

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

 

When became Christians we signed up to work in Godís kingdom and we are not to be idle. Even in the OT God did not want his people to be idle.

 

Amos 6:1 he said, woe to them that are at ease in Zion.

 

You see the kingdom is a place for laborers and it is not a retirement community.

 

The next thing I want to point out is that the place of the work is in the vineyard which represents Godís church/kingdom. You see, the laborers were hired into his vineyard. They were not given a choice of which vineyard to work in because the Lord has onlyone vineyard or one church. Do you Remember when Jesus told Peter in

 

Mat 16:18 upon this rock I will build my church.

 

In this passage Jesus is stating that he will build his church singular upon the this rock which in reference to Jesus deity. You see the word of God knows nothing of denominations instead it stress the unity of the faith and having unity of the mind. There was one church in the first century and this means that can only be one church today. To further show this lets look at.

 

Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

 

Notice the church and the body of Christ are synonymous and when Paul was writing to the Ephesians in Eph. 4:4 he states that there is just one body. Since the is just one body that belongs to God surely we can understand that we must labor in that one body or else our work in vain. Let me give you an example if I ask you to mow my lawn and you mow neighbors instead do you think I am going to pay you? Absolutely not because you did not mow my yard. Well the same thing is true when it comes to Godís kingdom. Paul makes it clear how we enter to that one body so that we can began to labor for God.

 

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body Ė

 

So you see until a person obeys the gospel call and is baptized into Jesus for the remission of their sins they cannot enter into the one body and no matter how many things they do in name of God it will not help them at all because they are not laboring in God kingdom. I hope thatyou let that sink in and realize thatbaptism is essential to ones salvation. Now let continue in our parable.

 

Matthew 20:2 "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4 "and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went.5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.6 "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?'7 "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 hires laborers to work in his vineyard at different times of the day. The first group he hires agrees to work for a denarius. A Denarius was a Roman coin which was the standard pay for a days worth of work. As the day progressed the householder went out to the market place the 3rd hour, 6th hour, 9th hour and the 11th hour but he did not specify what he would pay them, only that they would receive what was right.

 

One thing I want to point out is that those that were outside of the vineyard were considered being idle by the Lord. Again this stress the point anything done outside of Gods kingdom is considered as being idle. Now the different hours in this parable represent conversions at different periods in peoples lives. Some are converted at a young age while others are converted at old age. Another thing I want point out is that all the workers accepted the labor as soon as it was offered to them andthey did not delay. So his parable in no way offers support for a delayed obedience to the faith.

 

However is should be encouraging to those who are converted late in life, to know that God can still use them in their short time left on this earth. But no one should every take the risk of waiting to the end of their life to obey Christ, because you never know when you may die and certainly donít want to die being idle outside the kingdom of God. It important for us to understand that it doesnít matter whether you become a Christian at 14 or 110 God wants you to work in his kingdom and God is not concerned about how long we have worked but he is concerned with how we have worked while we have had the opportunity.

 

Matthew 20: 8 "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.'9 "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.10 "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.11 "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,12 "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.'13 "But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?14 'Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.15 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?'16 "So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen."

 

Here we see the landownerof the vineyard orders his steward to pay the labors starting from the last to the first. Much to everyoneís surprise he paid them all the same, a denarius. This shows the kindness and the generosity of the landowner as he gave those that he hired on at the 11th hour thesame as those at the 1st hour. The reward here represents eternal life. This of course does not suggest that some how we earn a right to heaven because our salvation is a gift from God that we could never earn or merit of by ourselves.

 

Romans 6:23 ††For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Now those that had hired on the first hour thought that they deserved more than those labors at the 11th hour and complained to the landowner. However, he reminds them that he is paying them exactly what they agreed to and he tells them that its up to him to decide how he uses his possession. If he wanted to pay the 11th hour worker 500 denarius for their one hour of work, it certainly would be hisright to do so. The landowner rewarded these workers according to his will in spite of their complaining of the others.

 

This teaches us that no one has the right to judge what Almighty God does. He will give his reward based upon his will. Then the parable ends telling us that the last shall be first and the first last. I think there will be some big surprises at the judgment day because some of those that are regarded as pillars of the church might be last and some of those that are hardly known might be first like the little old widow who gave 2 mites Mk 12:42 or Mary of Bethany who poured the fragrant oil on Jesus head in Mat 26:8.

 

Jesus says in the parable that many are called but few are chosen. Today we are called by the word of God 2Thes 2:14. Not everyone that is called accepts the word of God so many are called and few are chosen. Just like Jesus said in,

 

Matthew 7:13 " Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

 

I hope everyone you hear today decides to be one of the few and that you will role up your sleeves and get busy in Gods kingdom today. I think another great story that goes along with concept of how we as Christians should labor for God is found in,

 

Luke 17:7 "And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?8 "But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'?9 "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.10 "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "

 

Jesus is letting us know that when we are working in Godís kingdom he doesnít have to thank us for it and we certainly are not earning anything from our labor we are simply doing our duty that God has given us to do because we are his faithful servants.

 

Now inn conclusion I want to point out some things we learned from this parable on the laborersin the vineyard.

 

  1. God is compassionate and he is always seeking out sinners

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

  1. God wants workers in his kingdom whether your old or young whether you have one talent or 100 we all have something we can do for the Lord.
  2. God will grant you eternal life in heaven even if your labor is very short on this earth.
  3. We must avoid being like those that were first hired trying to tell God that we deserve more because we have worked harder. Instead we need to be happy that God has counted us worthy and we need to realize that we are merely doing our duty as servants of God.
  4. We should not compare ourselvesto others.

2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

 

  1. Finally it is the quality of our service that counts with God and not our quantity.

 

One of the major points of this parable is that God, throughhis abundant love and grace will bestow the fullness of his blessing on all those who enter intothe kingdom of God by obeying the gospel call and who continue labor in his vineyard.