Sermon Outline On Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
You’ve heard it many times. It happens often when we are standing in a long line. It may be at the bank or the fast food counter. One person turns to the other and says, “Well, you know what the Bible says, ‘The last shall be first.'” You get the idea that Jesus made that statement often in the gospels.
Jesus would be the first to admit that this parable is not about what is fair. The question is “Do we want what is fair, or do we want grace?” This parable by Jesus is radical thinking? The very idea of the same reward for the forever faithful and the late comer.
The landowner says, “Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” Jesus is saying, “God is God, and God can do as God chooses.” “Grace is grace, and it is God’s choice to whom it is offered.” In this case equal ain’t easy.
Remember Jonah. He refuses to go to Nineveh, gets on a boat going the opposite way, is thrown overboard for causing the storm, gets swallowed by that big fish, and finally decides to do what God commanded. The worthless, good for nothing Ninevites were saved from destruction by the preaching of Jonah. Did Jonah rejoice? No! He got mad. How dare God show mercy to these heathens! How dare God offer grace to these undeserving souls!
That story is not so much different than the parable Jesus tells. The people responded to God’s messenger, Jonah, and God showed mercy. In the parable, all the laborers responded to the landowner. We talk about the differences between the laborers, but they all had one thing in common. When the landowner called, they responded to that call. It was their response that lead to the gracious action of the landowner.
There was a sermon on this parable. At the close of the service, a young woman came up to him and said, “Where do you get these stories?”
“The stories?” he asked. “I guess I get them from my childhood.”
“Oh,” she said. “Well, I really found the one today offensive.”
“Yes. It’s just not right to pay everyone the same wage, even when some have worked so much harder than the others. That’s unjust.”
“Wait,” he said. “That’s not original with me. That’s Matthew. Do you know Matthew?”
Blank look on her face.
“The Bible?” He asked hopefully.
“On, sure, the Bible,” she responded.
“What is your religious background?” he asked.”
“I really haven’t been to church much. My parents took us a couple of time when we were kids. That’s all,” she answered.
“Well, you know, I almost envy you. I have heard this story so often it has begun to make perfectly good sense, has begun to sound reasonable. Here, fifteen hundred people have come out of this place telling me this was a nice sermon. You, on the other hand, have been offended. Outraged, even. In a sense, you were the only person who understood the parable…. Just for your information, the man who told this story originally – he was crucified for telling it.” (Pulpit Resource, Vol. 24, No. 3, p50.)
Because He died on that cross, you and I can have eternal life, not because we deserve it, but because he loved us that much. Remember the thief that died on that cross next to Jesus. He believed, and Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
This parable assures us, it’s not too late until it’s too late.