Lesson 88: Parable of the Vineyard / Jesus Foretold His Death
Matt. 20:1-19, Mark 10:32-34, John 18:31-34
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 88. Welcome! We're going to begin this lesson with the first 16 verses of Matt. ch. 20. This parable was given in Perea to the apostles and disciples that were following Jesus on that last trip to Jerusalem. In our last lesson, it was pointed out the time was getting close to passover. Some travelers were already on their way to Jerusalem. This was the same occasion as the rich young ruler; possibly in the corner of a vineyard or under a shade tree, just a few minutes later. Jesus may have been taking advantage of a rest stop, when he gave this parable. This parable connects to our last lesson; when Jesus said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Matthew is the only one that records this parable; but, as I said it connects to that which was said before and you must see it in that connection to keep Jesus' teaching in context. So, Let's read Matt. 20:1-16. Are you ready? "For-the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market place, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."
Alright, let's go over this parable; sometimes called the parable of the vineyard, or Laborers in the Vineyard. A vineyard is a grape farm, in case you didn't know. And, I understand there were many such grape farms in that area of the Jordan valley. Grapes were grown all over Israel. Everyone in that group, listening to this parable, were familiar with the intense labor of planting, pruning, fertilizing, trellising and harvesting of this crop. Put your parable interpretation skills to work here! The vineyard is the church of kingdom. V.I said, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto..." So, this is the way it is going to be in the church. The laborers are Christians or citizens of the kingdom. The day's labor represents a lifetime of service. The pay at the end of the day represents heaven. Now, get the connection back to ch. 19! Peter and the others were disappointed that it was difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom. The disciples said, "Who then can be saved?" (v.25). Peter said in v.27, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" Jesus told the twelve, that they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (v.28). Of course, that is a figurative or parabolic statement — NOT literal thrones—; but, they would have places of authority. It goes back to Matt. 16:19 where Jesus said he would give the apostles the keys of the kingdom. They would do the loosing and binding; i.e. they v/old judge with respect to the rules for the kingdom. This is descriptive as to the PART the apostles played in the Lord's church. On the day of Pentecost, about 60 days AFTER Jesus gave this parable; the apostles were given miraculous powers. They told people, for the first time; how to enter the kingdom. They preached the first sermon, gave the rules for entrance and administered those rules for about 3000 who were added to the church that first day. (Acts 2). Finally, through the apostles and their helpers; these things were written down to become what we call the N.T. Thus, the apostles still give the rules and the apostles still judge with respect to these things. For you see, the N.T. is the law of the Christian era. Some, worry about how this could apply to Judas that fell from his apostleship (Acts 1:25), and Paul that was made an apostle at a later time. But, you must understand, Jesus spoke in broad general terms in Matt. 19:28. Then in v.29, Jesus extended the parable to include "every one." NOT everyone will have a part in loosing and binding of the rules for the kingdom as the apostles did; but, every citizen of that kingdom, of course, would be interested in the last part of Peter's question: "what shall we have..." So, Jesus said (v.29) "EVERY ONE that hath forsake houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my names' sake, shall receive a hundredfold..." Mark says: "shall receive a hundredfold now in this time..." and Mark adds the words "with persecution." (Mark 10:30). Then all three writers add THIS, that Jesus said plus or with eternal life. Now, don't look upon this as an investment opportunity. We are unprofitable servants! Do you remember that? (Luke 17:10)? The point is, don't worry about what you MUST GIVE UP to be a Christian. The Lord will adequately compensate you for all you are called upon to give up. He will take care of you in this life, plus you will get eternal life in "the world to come." You see, this goes back to that statement concerning the Christian age "that a man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matt. 10:36). Jesus did not come to bring peace in this respect. In Luke 12:49-53, Jesus described it as sending fire on the earth. He talked about the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, etc. He said, "there shall be five in one house divided, three against two..." But, the point here in Matt. 19:29 is simply that these thing will be taken into consideration when the awards are handed out.
Now, hang on to this: Matthew and Mark, both gave Jesus' conclusion to that discussion as, "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." (Matt. 19:30, Mark 10:31). Now, let me ask you! What does that mean? Take the time to analyze it good! Well, the first 16 verses of Matt. ch. 20, the parable of the vineyard, is an explanation to that statement: "the last shall be first, and the first last..." Notice, that statement is also the conclusion to the vineyard parable in Matt. 20:16; to which Jesus added the words, "many be called, but few chosen." O.K. get the parable in focus! The kingdom is like this! (v. 1) A grape farmer went out to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. He went early in the morning, i.e. at the beginning of that great work day of the kingdom. Their work day in Palestine was divided into twelve hours, i.e. from sun-up to sun-down, twelve hours. So, if we assume sun-up at 6 AM (our time) and sun-down at 6 PM; then, their third hour would be at 9 AM (our time). The sixth hour would be noon and the ninth hour would be 3 pm. The point is simply this, all through the day; more were invited to come and work in that great vineyard; which we said in this parable is the church. Even at the eleventh hour, some came into the vineyard and worked only one hour. Others, worked all day! Finally, at the end of the day came the time of reckoning and the time for reward. The Lord of the vineyard, said (v.8), "Call the laborers..." Now, notice the Lord of the vineyard said this TO HIS STEWARD; who is said to be the angels in the parable of the tares. The steward was told to pay the last hired first: "beginning from the last unto the first." (v.8). Every man received a penny! Now, that doesn't sound like very much in our economy; but, that was intended to represent a fair day's wage in the Roman economy, undoubtedly. Then came the murmuring against the good man of the house (v.ll). They said, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have born the burden and heat of the day." Now, don't forget to tie this on to Peter's question back in Matt. 19:27. This parable was give to the disciples. Peter asked "what shall WE HAVE therefore?" What did Jesus say? The kingdom is going to be like this!
So, now, what does the parable teach? The Bible word FOR IT is "grace." We cannot earn heaven! We simply work as an unprofitable servant in the king's vineyard. We do what we can. But, first we must be hired; i.e. officially become a worker, else we would simply be trespassing and stealing grapes. Many were called; but, few chosen (v.16), i.e. many were invited but few were willing to be hire in as workers. So, first we must be hired; i.e. become a Christian or a citizen of God's kingdom. Then, number two, we must work until the day is done. Heaven is not a payment, in the sense that we earn it. You see, those who came in at the eleventh hour done what they could. The reason they came in at the eleventh hour was, "Because no man hath hired us." They were not persons that had REFUSED TO COME at the 3rd hour, or the 6th hour, or the 9th hours. They were those that got the news late, i.e. the good news of the gospel. But, as soon as they learned the good news; they came into the vineyard. Eternal life is bestowed upon those who obey. It's a matter of GRACE, i.e. unmerited favor. Eternal life is NOT in proportion to our length of service. We are to look upon ourselves as unprofitable servants. We do what we can do. If we are called upon to give more service than our fellow disciple; so what? It is our duty, to do what we can, but, the pay is still sufficient. When we have done all that we can; that's all that we can do. You'll, get the reward regardless of your opportunities to serve. Simply obey and serve with every opportunity you have. Do you remember what Jesus told the Pharisees? "I will have mercy [i.e. obedience], and not sacrifice." So, you have learned the meaning of "the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chose." We must keep that statement foremost in our mind when interpreting this parable.
Now, as a footnote, let me add this: this parable does NOT teach death bed repentance in the sense that there is some advantage in delaying obedience. There is nothing in the parable to lead one to understand that those who came into the vineyard the eleventh hour, had ever been invited before, the 1st hour, the 3rd hour, etc. In that case they would have said: we're not going now, we'll go later. There's no such language in the parable. The parable certainly DOES TEACH that if you work and obey; you will receive nothing less than life eternal regardless of the length of your service. Luke 12:48 may mean that some will enjoy it less than other, I'm not sure on that. We covered that verse before, you'll remember.
O.K. while you have your Bible open to Matthew ch. 20, let's read three more verses. V.17-18-19. Are you ready? Starting in Matt. 20:17, let's read. "And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again." Now, Mark and Luke give us this same information. It follows our last readings in those books. So, let's read Mark first. Starting in Mark 10:32. Are you ready? Let's read, beginning in v.32. "And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priest, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him; and the third day he shall rise again." O.K. one more time, Luke 18:31. Luke uses four verses. Let's begin in Luke 18:31, let's read! "Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken."
O.K. Jesus foretold his death to his disciples twice before, in Matthew the first occasion Matt. ch. 16, beginning in v.21. The second time was Matt. ch. 17:22-23. But, in neither of those places did Jesus give as much detail and as explicit information as on the road to Jerusalem; where we just read. Mark said, "Jesus went before them", i.e. Jesus was up front, "and as they followed, they were afraid." Why were they afraid? You will remember the apostles were not in favor going to Bethany the last time when Lazarus was sick. Thomas said, "Let us go up, that we may die with him." The threats of the scribes and chief priests were very real to the apostles. And, since that last occasion; the Sanhedrin council had acted and decided to kill Jesus at the recommendation of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest. So, Jesus took the apostles aside as they went up to Jerusalem and explained to them what would happen at Jerusalem. He spoke only to the apostles. The outer circle of disciples were not told, for very obvious reasons; i.e. some might have tried to fight or start a resistance movement that would have brought about bloodshed and violence. Jesus gave the apostle a very accurate description containing five main points, (1) He did not mention Judas by name; but, said Jesus would be betrayed. (2) The chief priests and scribes would condemn Jesus .to death. (3) The chief priests and scribes would deliver Jesus to the Gentiles, i.e. to the Romans. (4). THEY would mock him, scourge him and crucify him. (To scourge means to whip). (5) The third day, Jesus would raise again. And, yet, the amazing thing about all of this is that Luke said, "They understood none of these things." (v.34). And Luke explains, "this saying was hid from them...", i.e. it was only later that they saw through all this. They must have treated Jesus' words a figurative or parabolic like a lot of Jesus' teachings were. Until next time, I wish you a happy day.