Matthew chapter 20-21: God’s scoring system -the first will be last

either one or the other way
either one or the other way

Today we read Matthew 20-21 (New International Version). Jesus continued to teach His disciples while healing and delivering others. He taught on the subject of the Kingdom of Heaven further in depth. The focus is on Who has the only Say in the Kingdom, God. Who is the greatest? God. God is merciful and fair. Every believer has been given the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God). Every believer is required to become disciple of Jesus and can use the name (authority) of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to live as sons of God in the Kingdom, doing God’s will, on earth as it is in heaven. every believer can  put on the righteousness of Jesus and become righteous, through His redemption by His blood. Jesus does not put heavy load and difficult yoke on believer. He assured that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:28). Disciples are required to forsake all that he has for Jesus’ sake, but Jesus has promised that they do not lose out as the reward will be hundred-fold in this life plus eternal life too! (Luke 14:33; Mark 10:29-31)

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KINGDOM OF HEAVEN PRINCIPLE ONE: GOD’S scoring system is not man’s scoring system. In this parable, Jesus continued to teach His disciples the principles that guide the Kingdom of Heaven. First, God is merciful and God does not want anyone to lose his soul and perish. God is willing to accept any repentant sinner at any time, even at the very last minute if the repentance is made before He closes His Gate. Salvation is worth the same priceless value (His Son’s life) for anyone who believes and accepts Jesus as his Savior and Lord. To men, reward is measured by the quantity of efforts one puts into the job. In the Kingdom of God, the measurement is God’s will. Are you doing God’s will? You either obey or disobey. The score is either 100% obedience or 0% obedience. Either you enter the Kingdom or you are left out of the Kingdom. You either choose to be loyal to God or to be loyal to Mammon. You are either in the Kingdom of light, or in the Kingdom of darkness. Your King is either God or Satan. You either worship God or you worship His enemy. In the Kingdom of God, man’s ‘first’ will be ‘last’.  Whatever man is proud of in terms of worldly achievement is considered dung in God’s Kingdom.(Philippians 3:7-8)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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Here again, Jesus told His disciples the very important thing they must do, be prepared for the humiliation and bodily suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. They had very little time left to learn to walk and live by the Spirit, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, and using the authority and power of the Son of God (using His name and the power of the Holy Spirit which will come upon them after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven).

Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

But the disciples were not listening to Jesus. They were still busily occupied with worldly matters, for example, jostling for high positions and ranks in the kingdom. The following is an example of the strife among the disciples who continued to walk and live by their flesh and not spirit. The worldly power system is the opposite of the heavenly power system. The heavenly system is fair, as everyone has the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) and the authority of Jesus Christ (using His name). These together with the word of God, are formidable and more than sufficient for any individual to live the super abundant more than conqueror life Jesus had promised.

A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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On the contrary, two blind men acted by faith in the Son of God, Jesus, and received immediately what they asked for, the ability to see Jesus as He really is – the Kingdom of God in their midst! Jesus is the Kingdom. Jesus is the true King (with all power and authority).

Two Blind Men Receive Sight

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,

and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The worldliness in religion is prevalent. Jesus did not give face to the powerful religious leaders. The religious leaders were rich, successful, politicall powerful, well educated and enjoyed the highest status in the society. They had a well established money making trading system in place. This marketplace religion had been traditionally accepted and supported by their people.

But Jesus viewed from God’s view, obeyed God’s will and threw them out. They are called “thieves”, “robbers” in God’s terminology.

Ironically while God’s truth is well known and yet churches today are still doing and copying what the business world does, adopting all the management theories and practices of the world. Why?

Jesus called this worldly belief system among the disciples (representing churches), “faithless and perverse generation” (Matthew 17:17) The remedy is to fast and pray to get rid of the devil within them before they can heal and deliver others. (17:21)

Jesus at the Temple

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

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The following two examples illustrated how Jesus used His authority, which He had also given to His disciples. Jesus’ authority came from heaven, not from human political system. When His disciples believe in Him, do not doubt, use His name and ask or command the obstacles to leave, it will be done. The authority of His name is more than enough. The spiritual enemies submit to Jesus’ authority.

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

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Knowing and believing His authority is not enough. One must put faith into action of obedience as in the following case.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

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Jesus gave another chance for repentance. He was still looking for opportunity to save their souls. His audience were the religious leaders. They knew He was talking about them. But they did not repent. They were looking for opportunity to kill Jesus! What irony! Man tried to kill God. God still wants to save man.

The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

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New International Version (NIV)

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