SERMON Pentecost 2017
Text: Matthew 20:1-16 (See Bible)
We Christians, occasionally at least, think about heaven. We wonder what it will be like. We know some things such as no suffering, tears, sadness; eternal joy in the present of our Lord. But there are many questions about which we have no answer. What will be doing in heaven other than joyfully praising the Lord? Will we have some special task according to our God given abilities? Will the apostles and prophets, from our human perspective, have higher rank than others. Because of these questions and one that Peter raised, the Lord Jesus told the parable of our text. In this parable the Lord gives all his disciples A Blessed Warning about Work in His Kingdom.
Peter’s question was: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus’ answer was, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matt. 19:27-30. The Lord’s answer is a remarkable picture of his love. But the Lord knew that the disciples then and we today might misunderstand what he is saying. So, he told the parable in our text. It gives us A Blessed Warning about Work in The Lord’s Kingdom.
Our parable begins, “The Kingdom of heaven is like”. Jesus is not speaking about a place like where heaven is. He speaks of where God rules in the hearts of believers; he speaks of the church, you and me. The landowner who goes out to hire men to work in his vineyard is the Lord. Those hired are the disciples then and you and me today. He hired some early in the morning, then he hired others at different times of the day. Some were hired and worked only an hour. The land owner agreed to pay the earliest workers a denarius, a fair wage for a day’s work. To all the others who were hired at different times he promised to give what was right and good.
Now, let’s underline the first important point of this parable. If the Lord had not gone out and sought those he did, they would never have been in the vineyard. If the Lord Jesus had not sought you and I out, we would not be here in his church. If the Lord had not freely given you forgiveness and his holiness, you could not work in his kingdom as you do. You would not be Christians; then you couldn’t be Christian parents, spouses, children, students, workers, neighbors, etc. --But you have been chosen by the Lord to be his; he has forgiven you your sins; he has wrapped you his robe of holiness. You are the very people of God!
Now back to the parable. Since you are now in the church, since you are God’s people, you are to do what God wishes you to do. You are now workers in God’s kingdom. And isn’t it true we want to do what God asks us? For instance, one clear task he has given us is to share the good news of Jesus. And we want others to know Jesus; we try, at least at times, to share the good news. So, it is with all the tasks God gives us, to be good spouses, parents, children, students, workers, etc.; in all these we want to do as well as possible for our Lord.
The next important element is that vineyard owner brought in workers at different times. This means that not all believers enter the God’s kingdom at the same time. Some are baptized as children; some come to faith in Jesus as teens, some as young or middle-aged adults. Some even are saved by the Lord on their death bed. -–Returning to Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer, those who are saved late in life, really don’t do much for Jesus and his kingdom, do they. The thief on the cross is saved after being scoundrel his whole life. They didn’t leave parents or loved ones for the Lord; they didn’t suffer indignities because of confessing Jesus. Yet God’s mercy of forgiveness and eternal life are given to them just they are given to us “long time” Christians. Since we love the Lord, we are not jealous, but happy for them.
This brings us to the critical element in the parable. It is the end of the day and it is time for the landowner to pay the workers. He gives to those who worked all day a denarius. Jesus, in the parable, makes a point of this. The Lord is faithful, he kept his promise to those people. He is also faithful to you and me, he keeps every promise he has made to us. --- But then he also gave a denarius to all the others also. ---Those who worked all day are upset, they are jealous, they think that is not fair. But Jesus points out that the landowner was fair to them, they have no right to complain. The landowner says he can do what he wants with what is his.
Jesus is teaching Peter the others such as James and John, and us, today’s disciples, this. You are to work in God’s kingdom. He says, you as my people will want to work in my kingdom. But the rewards, if there are any for you, they are a gift from God. Peter and disciples will sit on twelve thrones judging the people of Israel. But that is a pure gift to them. They haven’t earned that by what they did in their kingdom work. So, we too, what any special blessing the Lord might give to you in heaven is a gift. You don’t earn any rewards in heaven with good works.
This is important for this reason. The disciples were going to suffer a great deal in their kingdom work. They would be even put to death simply because they were Christians. But this did not merit them any special blessing in heaven. Consider this example of how the kingdom of heaven is. Consider Saul who became Paul. Paul was not an original disciple. He was a persecutor of Christians. Yet, he became God’s messenger to the Gentiles. He wrote more NT books than any other apostle. He didn’t deserve that honor and privilege. You and I likewise do not earn any rewards in the kingdom of heaven.
Now, some of you may be given a tougher road to walk in God’s church here on earth. Count your self blessed by God. But don’t think that earns you any special rewards in heaven. If any of you are given special blessings in heaven, it is a gift from God. If we live today in an age less Christian than the past, this is according to God’s will. We do not EARN any special favors from God now nor in eternity. If one of you loses your life for the Lord because of a hate crime, know that this does not earn you a reward in heaven. But know this, you are richly blessed by the Lord here on earth and you will be in heaven. Our very breath and every heart beat is from God. So certainly, every good thing in our life is from God. It is and will be that way in heaven.
The Lord our God delights in each and every one of you. If you are not as intelligent as some other person, God still loves you and will bless you with work in his kingdom. If you don’t have special talents as some seem to possess, God still has work for you in his kingdom. If you are shy or outgoing, the Lord has work for you in his kingdom. That is why he has come and called you into his vineyard. That is why you are here being built up for kingdom work.
So, when you think about heaven and what you will be doing there, know this. Because you love serving him here in his kingdom, you will love serving him there also, no matter the position or task he gives you. Just thank him for life in him now and then. It is a gift from him that we have never earned nor deserved. Amen.