Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard workers and another parable of the ten servants, talks about his imminent death, heals some blind men, and eats dinner with Zacchaeus the tax collector Pharisee and the tax collector, talks about divorce, blesses some children, then shows a rich man he has to love Jesus enough to sell everything to follow Him: Matthew 20:1–16; Mark 10:32–34; Matthew 20:17–19; Luke 18:31–34; Mark 10:35–45; Matthew 20:20–34; Mark 10:46–52; Luke 18:35–19:27
Jesus had a lot of ways of describing the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 20:1-2 For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
All fine and good, but the landowner kept going back out to the market and hiring more workers, right up to almost the end of the day. Even worse, he paid them all exactly the same. Those who were hired first calculated their hourly rate, compared it with those hired last, and complained. It wasn’t FAIR!
Matthew 20:12 Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.
This was fine, replied the landowner: they’d all been paid what they’d been promised.
A common interpretation of this story is to say that we shouldn’t be jealous of others: either the way their lives are now, or the rewards they get in heaven. Or that we shouldn’t be bothered by a criminal of the worst kind (by our measure) being just as forgiven, if not more, than we not-so-criminals are.
But this is about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is saying that you can’t work your way into heaven or into God’s reward. He pays the same price (His Son) for all of us. It’s not about how long or hard you work. It’s about turning up and getting to work once He calls.
It’s about grace, not works.
When you think about it, that idea was the basis for the Reformation …