Summary: A sermon about the graciousness of God.
"Standing in the Marketplace"
In many farming communities, migrant day laborers stand on corners from the early hours of the morning, waiting for someone to hire them.
Workers who are standing at the corner of a park, the market, or the hardware store in the early afternoon have probably been up since four or five in the morning.
Those who do not get hired by the various local landowners will probably have nothing to eat that night.
Often the people who are hired first are the young, strong men--the people who are healthy and in the prime of their lives.
The older folks, the women, and children are the ones who suffer most.
They often wait all day long to be hired.
They wait, they hope, they pray that someone will come...
...with mercy and grace.
Oftentimes they go home empty handed.
Or if they are hired toward the middle or end of the day, they certainly won't make enough money to survive.
This parable in Matthew Chapter 20 continues a theme of what Jesus has been talking about in Matthew Chapter 19.
The theme is God's love for those who are most vulnerable in society.
It illustrates God's love for the poor, in a similar way that Matthew 19:1-12 illustrates God's love for divorced women.
It illustrates God's love for children reinforcing what Jesus says in Matthew 19:13-15.
It also points us toward the right attitude as it pertains to wealth.
In Matthew 19:16-29 we have the story of Jesus and the rich young man.
The greed of the rich young man, his unwillingness to let go of and share his fortune leads him to reject Jesus' call to "come, follow me."
This causes Jesus to say, with, I imagine tears in His eyes, "I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.
In fact, it's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God's kingdom."
The social situation in Jesus’ day was that many small farmers were being forced off their land because of debt they incurred to pay Roman taxes.
This violated God's command in Leviticus that land could not be taken away from the people who work it, but of course the Romans didn't care about this.
As a result, large pools of unemployed people gathered each morning, hoping to be hired for the day.
They are the displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers of their day.
Those still waiting at five o'clock have little chance of earning enough to buy food for their families that day.
Yet the landowner pays even them a full day’s wage.
In this parable, about the way things work in the kingdom of heaven, the landowner represents God.
The day laborers waiting in the marketplace to be hired are the lost, the hungry, the broken, the marginalized.
They are the lost sheep.
The lost coin.
They are the meth addict.
They are the prostitute.
They are the hated tax collector.
They are the corrupt business person.
They are the sexually abused, and they are the abuser.
They are the least, the last, the lost.
They are you and me...
...they are our neighbor next door.
They are waiting for something.
They are searching for meaning in life.
They are desperate.
They are hungry.
They are thirsty.
They are naked, poor and in prison.
And the Landowner is out looking for them.
He's looking to take them from the marketplace to the vineyard.
He cares for them.
He has mercy on them.
His heart breaks for them.
He has work for them to do.
And He will pay them all the same wage--whether they are hired first or last...
...whether they are the most hated criminal in the world, or the most venerated saint.
The main theme of this parable is God's outrageous generosity!!!!!
The beginning of this parable is fairly typical of many of Jesus' parables, and it's consistent with ancient farming and modern farming for that matter.
Again, the landowner goes out to hire day laborers, and he does so early in the morning.
The laborers agree on a denarion for the day's work.
And this agreement will be crucial in the final scene of the parable.
Then, after this familiar opening scene, the parable becomes increasingly strange.
With each moment the parable starts feeling less like a story about farming, and the characters seem to be less and less the owner of a real vineyard and real farm laborers.
The owner goes back to the marketplace later in the morning and in the mid-afternoon, searches out and finds more unemployed workers.
We are told that they are "standing around the marketplace doing nothing."