N.T. Wright, in his “Everyone” commentary on Matthew, shares a story, in typical British fashion, about a fox hunt he had witnessed as a boy (this is not to endorse such a thing, just his account). He described the riders in red coats atop of fine brown horses that blew trumpets and led the way for hunting dogs and riders who were less dashing on more humble horses. As they charged around chasing the fox, the clever animal hid in the bushes and back-tracked after the riders had all passed him. Suddenly, those at the back of the procession looked back to the hill they had just come from and saw the fox behind them. They blew their own trumpet to turn the group around, and suddenly those who were on humble mounts were at the front of the pack, while those on the fine horses were bringing up the rear.
He used that as an illustration of how God, in a very fox-like way, turns the pursuits of life and faith around so that the ones we assumed had it all are suddenly the ones needing to catch up. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. That’s going to be a concept we’ll be considering in our study this weekend.
This Sunday we’ll be reading Matthew 19:27-20:16 – which includes a parable that is unique to Matthew’s gospel. It is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.
In chapter 19, Pete asks the question that is basically “after sacrificing all we had to follow you, what’s in it for us?”. Jesus does promise a reward to him, but where is it centered, according to v28? Some believe Jesus is speaking literally in his promise of a hundred-fold return of lands and…mothers, etc. What is missing from that list he gives? How does that fit with those who promise a 100 times greater return on your offerings to their ministry? Given the context of v28, what do you think the first/last dynamic is intended to teach us?
In chapter 20 Jesus tells a story about a rich landowner who hires day laborers to pick grapes during the vineyard’s harvest. The story is unsettling in it’s economic implications – but what about it’s spiritual ones? What reason does the landowner give for paying everyone the same amount? What do you believe that is teaching us about our pursuit of spiritual and eternal rewards and the actual source of it?
In v12, what is the chief complaint about the identical pay-stubs everyone had? What does this tell us about the self-perception of the complainers? In v 15 when it says “Or do you begrudge my generosity?”, it literally is asking “why do you give my generosity the evil eye?” Many, if not most, translations read a variation on “are you envious because I’m generous?”. What would the complainers be envious of? They received what they agreed on as a wage. Justice was done…but something else was added – what? Some think its hard to tell from the transcript what the object of the envy is. Some think that they are envious and angry at the landowner. What would they be envying about him?
I find this whole story to be fascinating…hope you do too! See yez’ on Sunday!