THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we examined the first 12 verses of Matthew 19. In this lesson, we pick up right where we left off. However, our next event is covered in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. Mark’s account gives us the most details, so I will use Mark’s account.
Mark 10:13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
We have seen images of Jesus with children and it is a pleasant sight to behold, and it shows another side of Jesus. It might be hard for us to understand why in the world the apostles would rebuke the parents who were bringing their young children to Jesus for Him to bless them. All I can do is guess the reason. I think the reason, they rebuked the people for bringing their children to Him was because they did not think these children were worth Jesus’ time because they thought He had more important things to do than to take time out to bless these kids.
The Greek behind verse 13 shows that that people were continually bringing their young children to Him, so it was not just a onetime event. So, I am sure this added to the frustration of Jesus’ disciples. The tradition of blessing young children was part of the Jewish culture. We can see an example of this in:
Genesis 48:14 Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, 16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."
The Jews during Jesus time would bring their children to important teachers and rabbis to bless their children. This practice is backed up by a writing in the Talmud which says:
There was likewise a beautiful custom in Jerusalem to train their young sons and daughters to afflict themselves on a fast day: at the age of eleven to the middle of the day, at the age of twelve the full day, and at the age of thirteen [the boy] was taken round and presented to every elder to bless him and pray for him that he may be worthy to study the Torah and engage in good deeds. (Talmud Soferim 18.5)
All these parents wanted was the best for their children. I would hope that every Christian parent would have this same mentality, especially when it comes to their children’s spiritual welfare. I would hope that every parent would bring their young children to Jesus today. What I mean by that is start teaching them about God when they are very young and bring them to Bible class and to worship. There is no greater blessing your child can receive than having their spiritual lives built upon the foundation of Jesus and all that He represents.
Though Jesus’ disciples tried to rebuke these parents, Jesus rebuked His disciples and told them that they should let the children come to Him. He used the young children as a teaching tool by explaining that no one can receive the kingdom of God unless they receive it like a young child. We all know how young children are. They are humble, and they trust in those who are over them. If you tell them that cows can fly, they will believe you. So, the idea is that if we are going to be able to enter into the kingdom of God or heaven itself, we must be humble and trusting like a child when it comes to God. I love the image that the following verse portrays:
16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
As the children’s song goes, Jesus loves all the little children of the world, and so should we.
Our next event is also recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. All three of these accounts are pretty similar, but Mark’s account gives us just a few more details, so I will use Mark’s account about the rich young ruler. However, Luke’s account lets us know that this young man is a ruler. Since he was young man, most think he was probably a ruler over a synagogue and was somewhere between 20 and 40 years old.
Mark 10:17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
So, Jesus was on the road, when this young rich ruler come running toward Him, and though he was rich and ruler, he took a humble position before Jesus by kneeling before Him. He calls Jesus the Good Teacher and wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. Based on Matthew’s account, some have taken this to mean that he wanted to know if there was one deed that he could do to earn eternal salvation. Whether this is the case or not does not really matter because the question is a good one that has been asked several times in the NT. It is certainly a question that I would hope everyone would ask. Notice Jesus’ response:
18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No
one is good but One, that is, God. 19 "You know the
commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do
not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'
Some get confused with verse 18 and think Jesus is denying His Deity, but He is not. When you read through the Scriptures you always see Jesus pointing everything back to the Father. Jesus always claimed that everything He said and did was from the Father. This example is no different. Though Jesus is certainly good, Jesus points to the ultimate source of good, which is the Father.
This partial list of the 10 commandments does not mean that the others were not to be kept. Also, Matthew’s account adds the commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Next we read:
Mark 10:20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."
Matthew’s account shows the young man asking what else does he lack. It is commendable that this young man has kept all those commandments despite His great wealth. Without knowing this man’s heart, it certainly appears that he is sincere and really wants to be pleasing to God. I would think all of us should examine ourselves and how we live our lives and continue to ask ourselves this same question, what do I lack? Notice Jesus answer:
Mark 10:21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
Jesus loves everyone one because every person is important to God. The Greek Word agape is used, which is the same kind of love that all Christians are to have for mankind. Since Jesus loved this man, He did not lie to Him, but told him exactly what he needed to know. If he wanted to be fully committed to God, like His apostle were, then he would need to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, and he must also follow Jesus, which would mean him leaving his leadership position. This would make a major change in this young man’s life, but it was too much for him as we read in:
Mark 10:22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Luke’s account says he went away very sorrowful because he was very rich. So, we start out with eager young man who runs to Jesus and kneels to him who wants to know what he should do, but once Jesus told him, he lost his zeal and went away sad because his property and money was too important to him.
If we ask ourselves the question, what do we lack, we better be ready to embrace what we lack instead of being like this rich young ruler. We must realize that nothing is more important than living for God. Now, Jesus is not teaching that we must all sell our property so we can help out the poor, but He is teaching the principle that we should never allow anything to come between us and God. Jesus says:
Mark 10:23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 "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."
Jesus loves to use comparisons when He is teaching. This time He uses a proverb about a camel going through the eye of a sewing needle, which is an expression of impossibility. In other words, those who are rich like the young ruler, who make their money and possessions their priority, it will be easier for a big camel to go through a small hole of a sewing needle than for them to make into heaven. Of course, this expression is an exaggeration, so Jesus is not saying that it is impossible, but that is very difficult for the rich to not be tempted to put their faith in their riches:
Next, we read:
Mark 10:26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"
The disciples heard how this young man had kept the commandments and how faithful he sounded, but if he would not be able to have eternal life just because he would not give up his riches, they began to wonder if anyone could be saved. Then we read:
Mark 10:27 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."
God and His Word has been able to change the hearts of many. Even the rich or even someone like the persecuting Saul can be saved if they allow the Word of God to be their guide, and they make God their priority. Now, we will switch to Matthew’s account as it gives us more details than the others.
Matthew 19:27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?" 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.
We need to keep in mind that the apostles were still thinking about an earthly kingdom and having great rewards for being so dedicated to Jesus, but Jesus is letting them know that they will have thrones in heaven, but the question that many commentators struggle with is what is the regeneration referring to, and what does it mean they will judge the 12 tribes of Israel. I am glad that this not something that we have to be absolutely clear on because it certainly will not affect our salvation, but there are two prevailing thoughts on what this means.
1. The regeneration refers to the church age that we are in now because Jesus is already sitting on His throne of glory. The idea of the apostles judging the tribe of Israel carries the idea of them judging all by means of them putting forth God’s Word as we have it preserved for us in our Bibles. Of course, the Holy Spirit is the one who revealed the truth to them, but the words they wrote down from God will certainly judge us.
2. Our second view, comes from the Truth for Today commentary on Matthew. It says:
The second view equates the term “regeneration” with the heavenly state, or “the age to come.” This language appears in the parallel passages (Mk, . 10:30; Lk. 18:30). While it is true that Christ presently reigns and will one day turn the kingdom over to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24), He will also reign with the Father through eternity (Rev. 22:3). The term “regeneration,” then, refers to “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1-5; see IS. 65:17; 66:22; Rom. 8:18-25; 2 Pet. 3:13). “The twelve tribes of Israel” refers to all the saved of the heavenly realm over which the twelve apostles reign (see 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 21:9-14). P.175-176
Personally, the first view makes more sense to me, but I wanted to present both views so you could see which makes more sense to you. The overall message is that those who make great sacrifices to follow after Jesus, will receive greater rewards than can be found on this earth because our rewards will be in heaven. So, our priorities should always be following God and not earthly riches. Jesus is about to expound on this whole idea of the last being first and first being last as we get into our next parable, which is only found in Matthew 20:1-16.
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.
The landowner in our parable had 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 desired 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. The landowner wanted people to labor for him in his vineyard. Well, the same is true when it comes to God. From the beginning of the church at Pentecost till the end of time, the Lord needs Christians who are willing to work in His kingdom and are willing 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 in Matthew 28:18-20.
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 Christians went from house to house and in the temple daily preaching Jesus as the Christ Acts 5:42. Because of their willingness to labor in God’s 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 put a stop to these Christians, it just caused them to go to new places and spread God’s word Acts 8:4 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.
The first century Christians were working hard in God’s kingdom, and everyone knew it. Just as much as God needed workers in the first century, He needs workers today as well. As Jesus said 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 much work to be done in God’s kingdom, and the harvest is certainly plentiful. Paul tells us that Christians are to be ready for every good work in Titus 3:1. By example, Jesus said that 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 we became Christians, we signed up to work in God’s kingdom, and we are not to be idle.
So, God’s kingdom is a place for laborers, and it is not a retirement community.
We also learn from our parable that the place of the work is in the vineyard, which represents God’s church/kingdom. The laborers were hired into his vineyard. They were not given a choice of which vineyard to work in because the Lord only has one vineyard or one church. Do you remember when Jesus was asking His disciples who they thought He was? Do you remember Peter’s response?
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Peter has answered correctly, but did you notice that Jesus said that He would build My church singular upon this rock, which in reference to His Deity. The Word of God does not authorize denominations as can be seen in 1 Cor. 1:10-13.
God never intended for us to divide ourselves into religious groups holding to different teachings or calling ourselves after other men or upholding man’s traditions. Instead, God’s Word stresses the importance of unity and being unified based on God’s Word and nothing else. There was one church in the first century, and this means that can only be one church today.
In order for us to be able to labor in God’s kingdom, we must be in it. The way we get into the church/kingdom of God is by obeying the gospel call. God is the one who invites us to labor in His vineyard through His Word. When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, repent, confess Him as Lord are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, we are added to the church by God (Acts 2:47). We are not added to the vineyard/kingdom of the Lord until we are baptized according to Jn. 3:5 and 1 Cor. 12:13.
Once we are added to the church by God, we do not just stand around and do nothing. No, we begin to labor in God’s vineyard as Paul taught King Agrippa in Acts 26:19-20.
Now let continue with 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 day’s 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 would like to bring to your attention is that those who were outside of the vineyard were considered idle by the Lord. Again, this stresses the point that if you are outside of God’s kingdom/vineyard you are 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. You will also notice that all the workers accepted the labor as soon as it was offered to them, and they did not delay. People today must not put off the gospel call and think they have plenty of time to obey it later. It is important to obey today and begin laboring in the Lord’s kingdom because tomorrow may be too late.
However, it should be encouraging to those who are converted later in life to know that God can still use them in their short time left on this earth. But no one should ever take the risk of waiting to the end of their life to obey Christ, because you never know when you may die and certainly don’t want to die being idle outside the kingdom of God. It is important for us to understand that it doesn’t 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 about what we do with the time we have left and how we use that time for His kingdom.
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."
The landowner of the vineyard orders his steward to pay the labors starting from the last to the first. Much to everyone’s surprise, he paid them all the same, a denarius. This shows the kindness and the generosity of the landowner as he gave those he hired at the 11th hour the same as those at the 1st hour. The reward here represents eternal life. This of course does not suggest that we can earn our way into heaven because our salvation is a gift from God that we could never earn or merit it 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.
Those who were hired at the first hour thought they deserved more than those who began working at the 11th hour, so they complained to the landowner. However, he reminds them that he is paying them exactly what they agreed to, and he tells them that it’s up to him to decide how he uses his possessions. If he wanted to pay the 11th hour workers 500 denarius for their one hour of work, it would be his right to do so. The landowner rewarded these workers according to his will in spite of their complaining. This teaches us that no one has the right to judge what Almighty God does. He will give His rewards based on His will.
The parable ends by telling us that the last shall be first and the first last. I think there might be some big surprises on the judgment day because some of those that are regarded as pillars of the church might be last, and some of those who 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 Mt. 26:8.
Jesus says that many are called but few are chosen. Today we are called by the Word of God 2 Thess. 2:14. Not everyone who is called accepts the Word of God. So, many are called, but few are chosen who will make it to heaven as Jesus said in Mt. 7:13-14.
I hope every one of you decides to be one of the few and that you will roll up your sleeves and get busy in God’s kingdom.
As we come to the close of our lesson, I want to point out some things we learned from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.
One of the major points of this parable is that through God’s abundant love and grace, He will give His blessing to all those who enter into His kingdom by obeying the gospel and who continue to labor in His vineyard. Of course, I also hope you have learned from the beginning of our lesson the importance of being humble and trusting like a young child and how we should never let anything come between us and living for God.