Summary: Is God really fair? Our Lord’s Justice, Faithfulness, Sovereignty, and Judgment all come together as He answers Peter’s questions. Link included to formatted text, audio, and PowerPoint Template.
The Laborers in the Vineyard
I. THE SETTING
A. THE CONVERSATION WITH THE RICH YOUNG RULER - Mt 19:16-22
1. Jesus had been approached by this man with a question concerning eternal life
2. In the course of their conversation, Jesus challenged the young man to give up all and follow Him
3. The man went away sorrowful, unable to accept the challenge
B. THE DISCUSSION WITH THE DISCIPLES - Mt 19:23-26
1. Jesus used this opportunity to teach how difficult it is for the rich
to enter the kingdom of heaven
2. This causes the disciples to wonder who then could be saved?
3. Jesus’ response is that with God all things are possible
C. THE QUESTION RAISED BY PETER - Mt 19:27
1. Unlike the rich young man, Peter and the other disciples had accepted the challenge to give up all and follow Jesus - cf. Mt 4:18-22
2. So he asks: "Therefore what shall we have?"
3. It appears that Peter wants to know...
a. If the rich can be saved (though barely, and with the help of God).
b. What more will those receive, who have given up all to follow
4. Peter’s motive may have been pure, in which case Jesus’ complete answer may have been designed to be a "pre-emptive strike" against any improper motives
D. THE REPLY GIVEN BY JESUS - Mt 19:28-30
1. First, an assurance...
a. Specifically, to the apostles - Mt 19:28
1) In the "regeneration", they will be judging the twelve tribes of
2) This promise could refer to their special role following the return of Christ when He comes to judge the world - cf. Mt 25:31 and following
b. Generally, to all disciples - Mt 19:29
1) In this life, a "hundredfold" houses, brothers, sisters, etc.
2) In the age to come, "everlasting life" - cf. Mk 10:29-30
3) I.e., those who give up all will receive more than enough in
2. But then, a warning - Mt 19:30
a. "But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
b. A rather cryptic warning, one repeated again in Mt 20:16
[Since this warning both precedes and follows the parable we are studying, it is evident that the parable was told to explain the warning! And since the warning was first given in response to Peter’s question, any explanation of the parable should be based upon the setting that preceded its telling.]
II. THE PARABLE AND ITS MESSAGE
A. THE PARABLE SUMMARIZED...
1. Early in the morning, a landowner hires laborers to work for an agreed upon wage - Mt 20:1-2
2. Later, at different hours of the day, he finds more and hires them also, for a fair but unspecified wage - Mt 20:3-7
3. At the end of the day, they are all paid equally, which irritates those who had worked all day - Mt 20:8-12
4. The landowner responds to the complainers...
a. I treated you fairly, for you received according to our agreement
- Mt 20:13-14a
b. I wish to pay the others the same - Mt 20:14b
1) Do I have not the right? - Mt 20:15a
2) Are you envious, because I am gracious? - Mt 20:15b
5. Jesus concludes by repeating the warning - Mt 20:16 (some manuscripts add another warning: "for many be called, but few chosen")
B. THE MESSAGE OF THE PARABLE...
1. Many and varied have been the interpretations; for example...
a. The various bands of workers are the O.T. saints; those called at
the eleventh hour are the apostles
b. The workers first called are the Jews, those called last are the
c. The parable represents the whole gospel age up to Christ’s return, and the workers are groups saved at various periods
d. It refers to different periods of a person’s life in which he may respond to the Lord: some responding early, others late in life
2. Since this parable is in response to Peter’s question, I suggest...
a. That the first workers represent the apostles and others like them
1) Who are called by Christ through the gospel early in life
2) And who therefore may labor long and hard in the "vineyard"
(i.e., the kingdom of God)
b. The other workers represent those who are called by Christ via the gospel at various times
1) Some of whom are called late in life
2) Who do not have opportunity to do as much for the Lord
3. In light of this interpretation, the main point of the parable is...
a. What everyone receives will be more than "fair" ("Did you not agree with me...?")
b. No one has the right to question the "generosity" of the Lord ("Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?")