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Gospel according to Matthew 20: 1-16 (NIV)
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
This passage follows Peter’s exclamation to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (19: 27). Jesus’ reply concluded with “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (19: 30). This parable therefore answers Peter and illustrates Jesus’ summary (verse 16), “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
What are we to make of this? If we regard the parable as a representation of life’s journeys for a number of believers, there are those who have come to faith early in their lives, there are those who make a commitment to Jesus in their more mature years and there are those who, like the thief on the cross (Luke 23: 42-43), surrender to our Lord moments before death.
It is God’s grace that has brought each to the point of commitment. It is God’s grace that affords forgiveness to each through the death and resurrection of Jesus, regardless of the stage in life of each when that surrender finally is made. None can claim credit for believing in Jesus; for every man, woman and child, believing comes about to fulfil God’s plan from the beginning of time.
The Apostle Paul wrote (Romans 8: 30), “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” In this we see the grace of God!