There is one last point. I am not sure Jesus had anything like this in mind when he told this provocative parable, but it is suggested by that most important verse which both introduces the story and ends it: “So the last will be first, and the first last.”So the last will be first, and the first last.” (v. 30). The important word here is “many,” for the teaching is not that every person who begins early with God and works for him throughout a lifetime will inevitably be last or that everyone who begins late will inevitably be first. That will be true for many people, but it will not be true for all.

Another lesson in the parable is that God cares for people more than for things. Why is it that the owner of the vineyard gave those who had labored only one hour the same amount as those who had labored all day? Was it not because he knew they needed the denarius?

In the earliest days of Old Testament history, from the calling of Abraham about 2,000 years before Christ, God began to deal with the Jews in a special way. It is almost as though he turned his back on the Gentile nations, at least for a time, as he began to create, redeem, and eventually teach and disciple those to whom the Lord Jesus would eventually come. The Jews were quite proud of that heritage, as we ourselves would be.

There have been attempts to interpret the parable so as to eliminate the difficulties we looked at yesterday, but these interpretations do not work.

When Peter reacted to the unbelief of the rich young ruler by reminding Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything to follow Jesus but were still wondering, “What then will we have?”, Jesus answered by promising Peter rewards. “you who have followed me...sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:28-29). When I commented on those words in the last study I said that God will be no man’s debtor.