Summary: It's the moment that Bruce Willis sees his wedding ring roll across the floor in The Sixth Sense, or when Dorothy wakes up in her own bedroom back in Kansas ... surprise endings make movies and stories memorable.
It's the moment that Bruce Willis sees his wedding ring roll across the floor in The Sixth Sense, when Charleston Heston looks up at the beach and sees a semi-submerged Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes, when a psychotic Norman Bates puts on his dress and wig, or when Dorothy wakes up in her own bedroom back in Kansas ... surprise endings make movies and stories memorable.
Author Shannon L. Alder said, “The best stories are the ones with the unexpected plot twists that no one would have guessed, even the writer.”
Jesus' parables were stories that contained surprise endings for those hearing them for the first time. We have heard them, so we are expecting the ending. If we could hear them for the first time again and let the surprise of the story wash over us, it would be valuable.
This parable has been difficult for interpreters.
*Coming of the Gentiles into the Kingdom and resulting Jewish objection to their being fully welcomed although newcomers.
*Some interpret this as being about salvation. Some people obey the gospel late in life, but receive the same reward.
*Some think they deserve greater reward in heaven for all of their good works.
All of those are interesting, but they mostly ignore the surprise ending….the plot twist when Jesus says …“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” Jesus sends us three clear signals about His Kingdom.
1. THERE IS WORK TO DO IN HIS KINGDOM
For many years the American church has had a perspective of being consumer driven, viewing other churches as competitors, and programming by direction of felt needs. Good hearted efforts with Kingdom goals and dreams. However, have we left the impression that we just want a lot of people to come sit in our churches?
The Landowner In this parable is looking for workers.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT)
The Christian life is guided by two principles: Love God and Love your Neighbor. Demonstrating love to the world around us is our work! Every Christian should be aware of their talents / abilities and look for ways to put them to use to magnify Christ, his Church, and the promises he gives to all who trust Him. Even in our workplace and school we are on mission - using wisdom and watching for opportunities. Works of mercy, service, love, teaching, sharing, helping.
Philippians 2:16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. (NLT)
The Christian never goes to sleep having done all they can do, nor gets up in the morning with nothing to do!
There is work to do in His Kingdom and …
2. THERE IS GRACE FOR ALL IN HIS KINGDOM
The first hint that this is no ordinary story is when it comes time to pay the workers - they were all paid the same - no matter how long they worked.
*Some were Unhappy! This parable “…is a little like cod liver oil: You know Jesus is right, you know it must be good for you, but that does not make it any easier to swallow...it seems to reward those who have done the least while it sends those who have worked the hardest to the end of the line.” B.B.Taylor). We can relate because we probably put ourselves in the place of the ones who worked all day!
*Some were Very Happy! They likely thought they wouldn’t be paid much because they hadn’t had time to earn anything. We might not put ourselves here, but this is where we want to be - recipients of the unfairness of grace. "God is not fair; God is generous, and when we begrudge that generosity it is only because we have forgotten where we stand.” (B.B. Taylor)
There is no room for comparison, envy, thinking we are better than others - or that others are better than us. David Platt - “God doesn't owe us salvation for something we have done; He gives us salvation despite everything we have done.” In a glorious unfairness, Jesus offers grace to all who follow Him. God doesn’t give us what we deserve. Aren’t we glad? More, it is his sovereign choice to do so. Jesus affirmed it was his choice to give grace to whomever he wanted!
3. THERE IS ROOM FOR YOU.
The Landowner kept going to see if he could find workers from early in the morning to late in the evening. "For reasons we may never know, God seems to love us indiscriminately…” (B.B. Taylor) No matter who you are, Jesus keeps coming back to offer his grace and share a place in His Kingdom.