Laborers in the Vineyard part 1 – This parable is a difficult parable to interpret. This is partly because of today’s present dispensational theology and also partly because of the chapter break which disrupts the flow of thought. In this parable Jesus said, So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. However, the parable is easily understood when we grasp three points. These are the vineyard, the householder, and those hired.
PARABLES OF JESUS
By Pastor Delbert Young
Laborers in the Vineyard part 1
Laborers in the Vineyard
Scriptures: Matthew 19:27-30, Isaiah 5:7, Psalms 80:8, Jeremiah 12:10, Matthew 21:43, Matthew 20:12, Ephesians 3:6, Galatians 3:14, 28, Colossians 3:11, Matthew 20:16, Mark 10:28-31
Video Part 1
This parable is a difficult parable to interpret. This is partly because of today’s present dispensational theology and also partly because of the chapter break which disrupts the flow of thought. In this parable Jesus said, So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. This statement has always given grief. Perhaps today we can leave with a clearer understand of exactly what he meant.
Chapter breaks and numbering often confuse the flow of the context and meaning of scripture. This could be the case with this chapter break. The end of the previous chapter says,
Matthew 19:27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matthew 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Matthew 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
The parable follows this thought. We know this is true because the parable begins with For the kingdom of heaven is like unto. The Lord had told the disciples It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Mat 19:24). The disciples were amazed and asked, “Who then can be saved?” The rich could afford education and could afford the schools of theology and afford to purchase the scriptures. The Lord answered, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Peter asked a question about their rewards for forsaking all and following Jesus. The twelve had indeed paid a great price to follow the Lord. Jesus answered saying, Verily I say unto you (Peter). Jesus assured them those who followed him in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory would not go without reward. They would have their own thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
It is necessary to note Jesus was in the process of regenerating the kingdom. He was starting it up again. Jesus was getting things moving again. Those who followed him in this process would judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
However, it was not only the twelve who would be rewarded. Jesus said every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. The benefits of following the Lord are present, an hundredfold and to come, everlasting life.
The Lord then adds a but to the thought. Every one that hath forsaken . . . shall inherit everlasting life . . . BUT. He said, But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. It is at this point the parable is spoken. The context of the parable is the Lord explaining to Peter the rewards and how the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
2. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto
This parable is a representation of the kingdom of heaven. Again, we note Jesus said, For the kingdom of heaven is like unto . . . and not will be like unto. The kingdom is a present reality within us (Luk 17:20-21). We are born again to see the kingdom (Joh 3:3) and born of water and the spirit to enter the kingdom (Joh 3:5). The kingdom of the Son of man began when he ascended and sat on the throne at the right hand of God.
3. The Parable
The parable is simple. It is about a land owner (householder) needing some help in his vineyard. He went out early in the morning to hire laborers. It was at daylight, the beginning of a new day. He found some laborers and agreed with them for a salary. He then sent them into his vineyard. About nine o’clock he found others and agreed on their wage and they went their way. He found laborers three more times – noon, three o’clock p.m., and five o’clock p.m.
When it was evening and time to quit for the day, the lord of the vineyard said give them their hire beginning from the last unto the first. Surprisingly, the laborers who came to work at 5:00 p.m. and only worked one hour were paid as much as the laborers who began at daylight! Those laborers who went to work at daylight murmured against the goodman of the house. They supposed that they should have received more. Their complaint was thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day (Mat 20:12). This is an important key to the parable. The Lord answered them saying, I do thee no wrong …I give unto the last, even as unto thee. The Lord said he could do with his own as he wanted. He asked, Is thine eye evil, because I am good? Were they seeing what was good as evil?
The Lord Jesus then said, So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The parable is easily understood when we grasp three points. These are the vineyard, the householder, and those laborers hired.
1. The vineyard
The vineyard has always been likened to the house of God.
Isiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
The Lord brought his people out of Egypt calling them a vine. He planted them to grow and produce his kingdom (Psa 80:8).
Psalms 80:8 Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.
The shepherds or pastors of Israel did a poor job with the vineyard of God. Actually they destroyed it.
Jeremiah 12:10 Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
It was concerning this Jesus told the parable of the landowner in Matthew 23:33-30. Those laborers working in the landowner’s vineyard would kill his son. The landowner sent an army to destroy the wicked husbandmen. Jesus said at the end of his parable,
Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
So the vineyard is the house of God, but more specifically the kingdom of God.
2. the householder
Of course, the householder is the Lord God. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth (Zec 4:10). The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (Psa 34:15; 1Pe 3:12). He is searching for laborers.
3. which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard
We are brought into the kingdom as laborers to do something. We are necessary for the vineyard and expected to labor. Our works do not save us (as we have seen), but works are expected. We are saved unto good works (Eph 2:8-10). We are expected to labor as laborers in the kingdom no matter if we are in it all our lives or for one hour.
The parable has three applications including one primary meaning. We will discuss the primary meaning first.
1. In the kingdom the Jew and Gentile are equal
Matthew 20:11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
Matthew 20:12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
The primary meaning of the parable is the equality of the Gentile with the Jew.
An essential problem Jews have with the gospel is the equality of the Jew and Gentile. About this, the Jew will murmur just as the Lord said. We seem to continue this struggle in the church today. Again and again, over and over, Paul dealt with this subject. The Jews came in at daylight. They were the first to go to work in the vineyard. They received the oracles of God (Rom 3:2). They brought the Christ. Nonetheless, those who come in at the eleventh hour are made equal. Following are some of the teachings of the apostle Paul on this subject.
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Galatians 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Though the scriptures are extremely clear on the subject, we continue to develop doctrines which teach the Jew is God’s special people. Does the Lord love the Jew? Absolutely! Does he love the man in India? Absolutely! Does he love you the same? The answer is obvious. The Lord Jesus and the apostles first presented the gospel to the Jew. Jesus told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles, but rather to the house of Israel (Mat 10:5-6). Peter preached to the house of Israel the gospel on the day of Pentecost (Act 2:36). Paul took the gospel to the Jew first and then the Greek (Rom 1:16). However, as we all know, there were more laborers who came in.
2. In the kingdom it is not the fastest, but the finish
Often we will find people having recently come into the kingdom equal those who have been in the kingdom for many years. John outran Peter to the tomb of Jesus, but it was Peter than went in first. The apostle Paul came into the kingdom years after the original eleven apostles, but Paul was behind none (2Co 11:15). The prodigal son went out, but came back and was loved as was the other son. Yet the other son murmured.
3. In the kingdom it is not seniority
The kingdom does not operate on the principal of seniority. When Joseph entertained his brothers unaware, he sat them in order of their ages, but gave Benjamin five times what he gave the others (Gen 43:33-34).
John the Baptist was chosen in his mother’s womb (Luk 1:15). Timothy knew the scriptures as a child (2Ti 3:15). The apostles were selected in middle age. Nicodemus could be born again even if he was an old man (Joh 3:4). There is no specific time one must come in. The object is to get in.
Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The Lord concludes the parable. What exactly does the last shall be first, and the first last mean? It will make sense only when seen concerning Jews and Gentiles in the kingdom. Those coming in first were the Jews. They were offered the gospel first. Few Jews chose to accept and serve the Lord Jesus. Though many were obviously called, few could be chosen. The opposite is true with the Gentiles. They received the gospel last. Nonetheless, today there are multitudes of Gentile believers all around the world. For this reason, the last shall be first, and the first last. They receive the same because they are the same. There is neither Jew nor Gentile in the kingdom of God. They are equal.
The bottom line meaning of the parable to you and me is the reward for coming into the kingdom, the vineyard, is the same for the one who comes in at the eleventh hour as it is for the person who comes in at daylight. The reward is everlasting life. The question is, “Why wait?” Mark tells the same story as we read in Matthew, but clarifies when we receive the hundredfold pay.
Mark 10:28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
Mark 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
Mark 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Mark 10:31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
Laboring in the kingdom is well worth the effort. Don’t wait if you are not there.
Other Related Sermons: