In Matthew chapter 20 we get a wonderful description of God’s Kingdom from the King Himself.
Jesus describes the Kingdom with an illustration of a vineyard owner who hires people to come and work in his fields. Those who were hired first thing in the morning were promised a good day’s wage. The owner continued to hire people throughout the day, including some who came to work with only a few hours left before sundown. When the day came to an end, he paid all of the workers the same amount of money. Those who were hired first felt the owner had been unfair, and frankly, most of us would’ve felt exactly the same. You can picture the line of men waiting to be paid and the excitement of those that only worked a couple hours getting a full day’s wage. For them it must have been like winning the lottery. They were overwhelmingly blessed and excited. Those in the back of the line, who had worked the entire day, began to become optimistic that they would be paid more than they were promised. By the time they got to the front of the line, they expected to be paid at least double, if not more, because they had worked so much more. But they were promised a specific amount and they were given the specific amount. They complained, much like we do when we believe life has been unfair and God isn’t treating us right. The owner responds, "Did I promise you a certain amount for a days work? And did I pay that amount?" The answer to both of those questions was yes. The next question reveals what the Kingdom of God is about: "Why are you upset that I show generosity and kindness?" There are different ways to apply this passage. Many times it is attached to those who receive Christ as their Savior hours before they die versus those who served God their entire lives, yet both will go to heaven. But Jesus stated that this story was a picture of what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God is generous and kind. If we want to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as we are commanded to do, then we must also be generous and kind in the way we treat others. We will always be able to find a reason that life isn’t fair, or God didn’t treat us as well as we thought we should be treated. But Jesus says His Kingdom is generous and kind, and we must be generous and kind, not only in what we do, but in our reaction to those who receive God’s generosity and kindness.
Later in the chapter we see another illustration from Jesus about what the Kingdom of God is like. The mom of two of the disciples brings her sons to Jesus and requests that her sons be seated in the most honorable positions in heaven, next to Jesus. Jesus had previously told the disciples they would each receive thrones in heaven, so she did have context to ask this question. I do think it’s beautiful that the mom felt connected to Jesus in such a way that she would respectfully ask Him for a favor for her and her sons. I think that speaks a lot about the relationships Jesus had, not only with His disciples, but with their families and extended families. It also shows that Jesus welcomed the moms of His disciples to come and join them, and interact with Him. But Jesus responds by letting her know that she doesn’t really understand what it is she’s asking, nor does she understand what kind of suffering He and her sons were going to have to go through. The sons seemed to respond that they were willing to go through any suffering, and Jesus makes it clear that they would suffer. But Jesus also makes it clear that honor in heaven goes to the Father, and honor is the Father’s to distribute. By now the other 10 disciples were starting to get agitated and a little aggressive about who should have these places of honor, and this is where Jesus gives us another picture of the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus speaks about the rulers on earth as people who use their power to control others. They manipulate and coerce honor, respect and obedience from those that they rule over. They give honor to those they believe have earned, or paid for that position. Jesus says the Kingdom of heaven distributes honor to those who serve. Leadership, respect, and reward in the Kingdom of heaven is given to those who serve the King and represent Him on earth. Some people have used this verse to turn themselves into martyrs, barely getting sleep because they’re so busy giving their lives in service to others. But Jesus is speaking about service to the King, distributing love, generosity and kindness to those around you.
There are two other short stories in this chapter. One is a clear, concise description from Jesus to the disciples about what was going to happen when He went to Jerusalem. If the disciples had been listening, they would have better understood what was going on during the week of the passion of Christ. For me, it’s a reminder that many times Jesus does tell us what His plans are and it is really important that we listen. Therefore, in a situation where we think we were not prepared by God, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go back over things that God has told us in the past. He may have been very clear, but we missed it because we were distracted by other things that were going on.
Next we see a short story about the healing of two blind men on the side of the road. When these blind men were
told to be quiet by the crowd, they yelled louder, jumped higher, and refused to be marginalized by the crowd. The
part I find most interesting is the question that Jesus asked. "What do you want me to do for you?" I believe God was giving them an open heaven. He was willing to give them anything they asked for because of their persistence and belief that Jesus could heal them. They asked for their sight, which they received, but I think they could’ve asked for much more. For me, it’s another reminder that when God asks a question, listen to it, because He may be giving you an open door to heaven to receive from Him anything you want.
Reminder: this week we will be doing an outreach at the Klingberg Family Center. Students need to be dropped off and picked up at the Center. Drop off is at 6 PM pickup is at 8:30 PM. Thank you very much.
- Pastor Bob Switzer