Summary: Grace is scandalous. It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive. Grace shocks us in what it offers. It is truly not of this world. It frightens us with what it does for sinners.
(MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary was used in preparing this message.)
The Scandal of Grace
In this series, we’ve been learning about the topic of grace. As we look at how Jesus dealt with people and at some of His parables, we’re discovering that these “Grace Encounters” radically changed people’s lives 2,000 years ago and can change ours as well.
Two weeks ago we discovered from Jesus’ interaction with children that grace is granted to us in spite of what we do, or even who we are. And, just as Jesus was gracious toward children, so too, we’re to let them come, we’re to learn from them, and we’re to love them.
Last week we established that we receive grace when we are born again. This saving grace is not something we can earn or work for it’s a free gift given by a gracious God.
What’s So Amazing About Grace?
Its been said that Christianity is supremely a religion of grace. And that is certainly true. But, even so, grace is not well understood and often not really believed. We use the word a great deal but rarely think about what it means.
In his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” Phillip Yancey points out that part of our problem is in the nature of grace itself. Grace is scandalous. It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive. Grace shocks us in what it offers. It is truly not of this world. It frightens us with what it does for sinners.
Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad. God starts with prostitutes and then works downward from there. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. That’s why God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross.
In the end grace means that no one is too bad to be saved. God specializes in saving really bad people. Do you have some things in your background that you would be ashamed to talk about in public? Fear not. God knows all about it, and His grace is greater than your sin.
Grace also means that some people may be too good to be saved. That is, they may have such a high opinion of themselves that they think they don’t need God’s grace. God’s grace cannot help you until you are desperate enough to receive it.
Parable of the Vineyard Workers
This morning I want us to look at a parable that I have never heard a sermon on before and one I’ve never preached on. It’s not one of the more popular stories because it strikes at the heart of our sense of fairness and justice.
We’re going to do something a little different during the first part of this message. The parable is going to appear on the screen behind me in different segments. We’re going to read the passage out loud together. I’ll then make some comments and offer some observations that will help us interpret this story. When we’re finished, I’ll conclude with some application points.
Incidentally, what we’re going to do this morning is a good method for studying the Bible on your own. Start with reading the passage. Then make some observations. Next, try to interpret the passage by asking, “What does this mean?” Finally, move to application, “What does this mean to me?”
Let’s begin by reading Matthew 20:1-2 together. “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.”
This would have been a typical scene in the days of the Bible. Just as we have employment agencies today, in the first century, there were places where day laborers gathered to seek work. These workers were unskilled at a trade and were near the bottom of the social-economic scale. In fact, many lived at a level not far above beggars. They worked from job to job, many of which lasted no more than a day. Because they had no guarantee of work beyond what they might be doing at the time, they would gather in the market place before dawn to be available for hiring.
Working in a vineyard was not easy work. At harvest time, which was about this time of the year in Palestine, the grapes had to be picked, often in temperatures of 100 degrees or more. Just as the corn and soybeans in our area have to be harvested when the weather is good, so too, grapes had to be picked quickly before the bad weather set in. If for some reason the grapes were slow in ripening, the time for harvesting could be significantly shortened. Consequently, the grape harvest was a hectic and demanding time.