Summary: 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. Today, I will attempt to answer the question, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”

2 September 2005

The Scandal of Grace

Matthew 20:1-20:16

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.

Today, I will attempt to answer the question, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”

Its been said that Christianity is totally a religion of grace.

And that is certainly true.

But, even so, grace is not well understood and often it’s not really believed.

We use the word a great deal but rarely think about what it means.

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.

Today, 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.

Let’s begin by reading Matthew 20:1-2: “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 usually very poor.

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 during the hottest 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, 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.

These workers were promised the pay of a denarius.

This was the wage of a Roman soldier.

While this might not mean much to us, it meant a great deal to those listening.

Being a Roman soldier was not the most glorious or prestigious job but it was higher up the social ladder than the common laborer.

As such, the promise of a denarius to these workers would have been quite generous.

And so they agreed to this rate with great eagerness!

The equivalent today would be about $50.

Now, this particular landowner’s property obviously was large, and so he needed more laborers to get the job done.

Now I’ll read verses 3-7: “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’”

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