Wednesday 08 May 2013

Bible Book:

Matthew 20:1-16 Wednesday 8 May 2013


Jesus' parables about what thekingdom of heaven is like often begin with an everyday situationand draw the listener into what at first feels familiar territory.But then they have a strange, surprising, or bewildering twist: theparables provoke listeners by defying their expectations of what isjust and who is worthy. Surely it is not fair for the workers whohave only been there an hour to get the same pay as those who havebeen working all day?

This parable of the labourers inthe vineyard, along with others, existed as teachings of Jesusabout the kingdom of heaven before the Gospels were written down.This does not make their context in Jesus' ministry as told by aparticular Gospel writer less important or less true, however.

Matthew's Gospel uses thisparable here to end a section in which the disciples are engaged insoul-searching about their own sacrifices. After Jesus sent awaythe rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22), the disciples began towonder if anyone could be saved. They remembered how much they hadgiven up to follow Jesus: Peter says, 'Look we have left everythingand followed you. What then will we have?' (Matthew 19.27)

Jesus reassures them, but thenimmediately Matthew inserts the vineyard parable, ending it withthe same promise with which Jesus ended his reassurance to thedisciples: "the last will be first, and the first will be last" (v.16). Today's parable already concerned the nature of grace in thekingdom of heaven. But Matthew's Gospel uses it to expand themeaning to give a direct message to insiders among Jesus' ownfollowers not to hold themselves above those who might follow.

To Ponder

  • With whom do you identify in today's passage?
  • Why, in your view, does Jesus use so many parables withmoney-related themes?
  • How far do you think parables should be translated intopolicy?
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