…whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:27-28
Nestled between the rich man walking away and the blind men receiving their sight, Matthew shares three events. First, Jesus tells a parable of a master who hires laborers to work in his vineyard. Some are hired early and some toward the end of the workday, all with payment agreed to in advance. As the day comes to an end, the master distributes the previously agreed-upon wages, which happens to be the same for all of the workers. Grumbling, those who put in more hours cry out, “not fair!”
Jesus closes the parable stating that the last will be first, and the first last. He then tells them for the third time what is to come – He will be delivered over to the religious leaders, unjustly condemned to death, handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged and crucified. Unfairly persecuted. But on the third day, He will be raised.
Fresh off this weighty proclamation, the mother of two disciples approaches Jesus, asking that her sons sit on the right and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom. Jesus tells her and them that they know not what they are asking. Elevated status comes from suffering in this kingdom.
The rich young man looked to his possessions and clung tighter. The laborers in the parables looked to the right and left, comparing work and wages. The disciples looked to a worldly throne, hoping for royal status and position. The followers of Jesus continue trying to receive rewards according to the world’s standards and their efforts, while Jesus continues explaining that His kingdom and reward system is unlike any other.
If we’re honest, we often join in the grumbling, “not fair!” The truth is, we couldn’t handle fair. Fair lands us in hell getting the punishment we deserve. We need grace and God’s generous gift of salvation through the “unfair” and undeserved suffering of the sinless Son of God. Let us never begrudge the generosity of the Lord.
Challenge: Prayerfully examine your expectations of the kingdom of God and your role in the kingdom. How can you love and serve like Jesus?