Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost 20/09/2020

Sermon- Pentecost 16- “What’s in it for us?”  Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church- Pastor Joe Asher, LCMS, Office of International Mission- Eurasia/ Germany- *IN NOMINE JESU*

Matthew 20:1-16

Laborers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 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.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Often when we go into God’s Word, we can engage a single verse or passage on its own and get immense benefit just from the text we find.  For example, we go into God’s the Scriptures and in one verse… John 3:16-

For God so loved the world…

In one verse we can see God’s whole plan of salvation all in that wonderful passage.  And another text which stands completely alone is Romans 1:17…

The righteous will live by faith.

Here in the great Reformation passage, Martin Luther began to understand God’s grace, and this one verse launched the Church’s return to a right appreciation of the way that God saves us.

But today, Christ teaches the parable of the workers in the vineyard, and unless we go to the chapter before the one presented on our bulletin insert, we will never completely understand Jesus’ full meaning for us.  

So going back to Matthew 19, we have our Lord’s encounter with the rich young ruler.  Jesus said to him,

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  And come, follow Me.

Here our Savior completely devalues the importance of earthly wealth, and Christ elevates the spiritual life in God.  This life is marked by following Him, and having our treasure in heaven.

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But even after this crystal clear rich young ruler object lesson, Christ’s own disciples still didn’t understand the immense value of following Jesus and having a life in Him.  For Peter says this to the Savior in Matthew 19:27-

We have left everything to follow You.  What then will there be for us?

And this question by Peter is the context you need to fully understand Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard.  Today we would phrase Peter’s question this way:

What’s in it for us?

All this hard work… all this suffering for You, Jesus, even the ridicule and contempt for trying to live daily for You…

What’s in it for us?

And it is to this question that Jesus teaches the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

There was a landowner.  And he went out early in the morning, at 6am, to find workers for his vineyard.  And the owner found laborers who agreed to work for one denarius for the day.  It was a good wage.  A denarius was a standard compensation, and all were satisfied with the arrangement.

Then at the third hours, 9am, the landowner went out again to hire more workers.  And he found idle laborers in the marketplace… and he hired them.  And regarding their pay, he told them, verse 4-

Whatever is right I will give you.

And then the owner continued to hire workers throughout the day on the same basis.  He went out again at the sixth hour, noon, then he went out at the ninth hour, 3pm, and even around the eleventh hour, at 5pm, with only one hour left in the work day, the owner went out and hired workers with the same promise…

Whatever is right I will give you.

Apparently the workers were confident of the landowners character because they trusted at his word.

When it came time for the wages to be paid, the first group of laborers saw that the last group was being paid a denarius—a full day’s wage—so naturally they thought they would be paid more because they had worked the longest.  But again, to everyone’s surprise, the owner determined to give everyone the same pay.  So in the sight of everyone, he gave each worker hired one denarius.

And so the first group grumbled in anger, verse 12-

‘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.’ 

Here is the irony… even though they got exactly what they had agreed upon, the landowner was forced to defend his actions even though the first group had been treated according to their verbal contract with perfect fairness.  And even though the owner did not have to defend his actions on how he

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managed his own property, He gives his defense for all of us in verses 14-16-

I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?

And here we see that our heavenly Father’s actions are not subject to our review.  As our God, He will determine how He will be generous to each of us.  We are not to be critical of our God who loves us for His mercy and grace, and He always extends his generosity and goodness to us in the way that best fits our need.  And we must be guided by the understanding that our Lord owes us nothing, yet we owe Him everything.

And finally in the parable, Jesus now answers Peter’s question- What’s in it for us?  All this suffering for Christ… even the ridicule and contempt for tying to live daily for Jesus, our Lord tells us that what we get for following Him is the standard compensation… the one denarius that was promised… even though we are the ones who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.  God is faithful to reward us for our service as He has promised.

And how He rewards others should be of no consequence to us.  Further, how he rewards others should also not effect our devotion to Him.

With heaven in view, at the end of our work day, when we stand before Christ, what will be our reward?

By faith, our reward is what God has promised us all along in Jesus.  It is the-

  • Forgiveness of sins
  • Peace with God
  • Eternal life in heaven

In God’s economy, that is what one denarius is worth!  The truth is that God’s grace supplies all that we need in this life and the next.  What’s in it for us?  The answer is, life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

But there is one more thing Jesus’ parable addresses.  Christ instructs us in how we are to respond to those who “arrive late” to faith and a life of Christian service.  We are not to meet people who are belatedly coming to Jesus with the attitude…

  • Where were you when we really needed you?
  • Or, what is the point of you showing up now?
  • Or, what have you been doing all this time… drinking tea in the shade? (etc.)

Instead, we are to better understand God’s grace.  “God would have all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (1st Timothy 2:4)  And it is not so much WHEN a person shows up in the Lord’s house that matters.  More important is that a sinner at some point trusts Christ in faith.  Sooner is better.  But “late is GREAT!”  Why?  Because like the thief on the cross, eternal life begins the moment a person believes in Jesus.  And God’s grace welcomes sinners at any time.

I believe that God wants us to stop grumbling and comparing ourselves to others.  I believe that God wants us to extend grace to others in the same way that He graciously welcomes sinners in the last hour of the day.  For no matter how long or how hard a believer works during his lifetime, God’s grace will be 

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mercifully extended to all believers with equity.  

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

+Sola Deo Gloria+

Prayers- Pentecost 16- September 20th, 2020

Dear heavenly Father, continually keep us from self-righteousness and self-interest.  Remove from us the desire to look at following Christ in a way that measures what we can get.  Instead, help us to understand Your grace for all sinners, and lead us to welcome all who come to You in faith.

Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………. Hear our prayer.

Blessed Savior, as we begin our year of Christian education, bless our teachers with knowledge and wisdom, that by Your Word, they may faithfully teach the Christian faith and lead our adults, youth, and children to a deeper understanding of Your love and the Gospel.  For all of our students, give them a willingness to learn and grow in faith.  

Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………… Hear our prayer.

Almighty God, dear Holy Spirit, we continue to pray for justice and racial harmony in our world.  Help us to live the truth from Your Word that all are loved by God, and that we are commanded to “love our neighbor as ourself.”  Give us the power to obey Your Word, so that we may live in concord with one another, no matter our differences.

Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………….. Hear our prayer.

Finally, heavenly Father, in our families and among our friends and co-workers there are many who are in need of Your care.  For those who are sick, hospitalized, away on duty assignments, traveling, unemployed, and for all other needs, we name our loved ones in our hearts before you now…


Lord in Your mercy/ hear our prayer…

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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