“Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30). Matthew 20 begins with a parable that explains this final verse of the previous chapter. In the story, God is the “Master of a house,” and He has most unusual hiring practices. He recruits more workers for His vineyard even when there is only one hour left to serve. Stranger still is His way of compensating the laborers. The last are payed first, and they receive a full day’s wages. When those who have sweated all day take home the same amount, they grumble about the Master. His response? “Do you begrudge My generosity?” The Lord’s mercy is dispensed on His own terms. Heaven comes through God alone from beginning to end.
Who pays the price for the Lord’s lavish gift of salvation extended not only to Jews (the first) but also to ungodly Gentiles (the last)? Christ would be the lowest of all; condemned by Jewish leaders, delivered over to Roman soldiers, and then “mocked and flogged and crucified.” Yet He would be “raised on the third day.” The Man who died for us on the cross would one day reign on high, and He would redeem sinners.
The mother of James and John wanted the most privileged places for her sons, but she could not understand the ways of the kingdom of God. The best Man ever born would suffer greatly. This would also be the path to eternity for her beloved boys where they would reign with the King who came to be a “slave” and would soon “give His life as a ransom for many.”
What kind of people would Jesus deliver from bondage? Despised men like the two blind beggars sitting by the roadside who insisted on shouting, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd tried to get them to stop yelling. What did the amazing King from heaven do? “Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, Your kingdom has come to us by Your sovereign pleasure. We should always receive it with the greatest joy and gratitude. Yet we find this disturbing tendency within us: We act as if we have worked for eternity by our own strength, when it is clearly the richest kindness that could ever be extended to anyone. Remind us again of the meaning of the cross. Let our eyes be open to the wonder of Your love so that we might more fully believe the gospel and follow Jesus. Change our hearts and enable us to embrace the suffering that You have ordained for our lives. Your Son came as the lowest servant. We offer up everything to Him now as our glorious King.