Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Matthew 16:26)
We get up in morning, working through the day, and resting and sleeping at night. This is our life, which is equal to all human beings ever lived.
“Why do we get up early in this morning, and working hard through the day?” Although we might not explicitly answer this question, in deed, we are answering it throughout our lives. We sow and nurture our lives every day. Like or not, then we harvest the fruit from what we have sown. This is one of the God’s laws on earth. However, we, who are sinful and self-centered, always temp to bend the law, but our wish to harvest what we have not sown becomes futile. We always end up to eat what we sow like clockwork. If we sow more, then we will harvest more. Give thanks to God who governs this world with His holiness and righteousness!
Additionally, if we sow things belonging to Heaven, then we will harvest things of Heaven. Those who sow things of the earth will harvest the earthly stuffs, temporary and fading. Thus, the real wisdom is to choose wisely what to sow by planting things of Heaven that last forever with us. Bible tells:
And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18)
Yes, if we sow the seeds of peace, then we will harvest peace among people, which is His righteousness, which endures forever on earth as well as in Heaven. Therefore, those who plant peace will be called sons of God.
Jesus, who always loved His disciples, started revealing the secret of His mission on earth about His salvation plan, which was completely different from anything on earth. Thus, it was very hard to all of His disciples. In fact, at that time, His disciples were still of the world, and valued the importance of things on earth. Jesus talked his suffering and death on cross, and resurrection. The disciples wanted to see the earthly kingdom and wealth and glory of the earthly kingdom by expelling the Romans occupying their land. Their eyes were blind to the truth, and the ears were deaf to the Good News. When Jesus revealed the truth of His life – suffering, death and resurrection. They could not understand what Jesus really meant. They were completely confused. They were even terrified by the word of “death” of their own teacher whom they thought would become a king by liberating their nation from the Romans. Peter even reprimanded Jesus while telling “Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you.” Jesus sternly replied,
“Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23)
Then Jesus continued,
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. (Matthew 16:24,25)
Following Jesus on earth is not easy, but truly worth. How much worth? Dying every day in Christ (i.e., denying our earthly desires daily), carrying our own cross, and following the footsteps of Jesus Christ seem costly, but it is not. How to compare our live and eternal salvation with the temporary pains and hardships on earth? Jesus, our loving Lord, is the only way to this eternal salvation, and there is no other way given to us. What’s our response as one who has found the truth and the way to our eternal salvation? Give thanks to God, and humbly follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ even to the cross and suffering and pains. Again, this is completely worth because what we pay is temporary, but the blessed salvation is eternal, which we get. Even so, His disciples did not understand the truth of what Jesus planned to do for them and the rest of the humanity at that time as well as generations to come (including us.) For example, it was not long ago that a fighting among the disciples had broken to say who was the first among them. Jesus knew their earthly-bounded hearts.
Jesus looked each face of His disciples. They still did not have any idea about what would happen soon to Him and themselves. Jesus taught the disciples who were slow to understand the truth by telling a parable about the kingdom of Heaven/
For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He found some of the early-bird workers waiting for being hired from the early morning. The landowner approached them, and offered day jobs at his vineyard. Those who heard the landowner liked, and responded to him. The landowner agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work for his vineyard.
The worked hired started working in the vineyard. The sun was getting higher, and the day was being heated up. It was still pleasant, and the day was still cool enough to work in the vineyard. They happily worked in the vineyard.
The landowner found still he needed more workers because his vineyard was big. The morning workers in his vineyard could not cover all of his vineyard. At nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again to hire more workers. He was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing there doing nothing. It was nine o’clock, most of workers had been hired. Thus, they were idle at the marketplace. They indeed had little hope to be hired for the day. They were just worrying about not having work. Even so, they could not abandon their hope. It was only 9 o’clock in the morning. Most of them had been watching others being hired, which was a real pain in their hearts. Then they heard a call from the landowner, what a surprise! They ran to the landowner to respond his call. They knew they were about to be hired. Their hope was paid off. The landowner in fact hired all of them at the spot, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. They joyfully followed the landowner to his vineyard. As getting into the vineyard, they saw the workers who been working in the vineyard under sun. In gratitude, they joined the workers already hired first in the early morning. Both groups of workers worked together side by side. Although the sun was getting hotter, both groups of workers worked hard for the landowner. The landowner was happy at the progress being made by the workers.
The landowner was also told that there were still some workers at noon at the marketplace because they could not get work. The landowner was a man of a good heart. Immediately, he went out to the marketplace. As he was told, there were still people waiting for being hired. He felt pity on them. He slowly approached to them, and kindly offered works at his vineyard. They could not believe what they heard. They thought that it was one of the bad days that they could not get any works. Even so, they did not want to go home early. It would be more painful to go home with empty hands. It was a real shame to his family and his neighbors. All of these worries were no more as soon as they heard the kind offer of the good landowner. As the owner talked, they carefully heard him out of gratitude from their hearts. As the landowner led, they followed to his vineyard. As they expected, already there were lots of workers in the big vineyard. They carefully scanned through the vineyard to locate opportunities to work as helpers because many workers were already there. Then they quickly dispersed into the vineyard. Now the vineyard was completely full of workers.
The sun had already passed the highest point, but the day was still hot. The 1st group of the workers had been at the vineyard from the early morning. The nine o’clock hired workers had been there most of the day. Indeed, the works at the vineyard were demanding, but rewarding also. The sun was still radiating heat on them. The last group of the workers hired at noon had nothing to say. They were in the vineyard only a half day. The front half of the day was spent under the marketplace’s shades. Some of the early groups of the workers grumbled against the noon time hires, while whispering why they were there because there were just helpers.
The sun was getting lower. It was already 5 pm. The vineyard work was almost done. All were getting tired because they spent the day in the vineyard all day long. The 1st group spent the entire day in the vineyard. The 2ndgroup almost full day, and the rest only the half day. Again, the landowner heard that there were still few people idle while waiting for hire at the marketplace. They knew that they would not get any work on the day because it was too late. It was already 5 pm. Only thing that held them at the marketplace was they could not go home empty-handed. They did not know what to do. They felt miserable, and the day was winding down. They were about to force to go home empty-handed. Although all of them were in desperation, nobody dared to talk about this cold reality. They all clearly knew that they couldn’t do anything. No hope. No dignity. The cold reality was with them.
Suddenly, the good and merciful landowner came to them. They knew he was one of the landowners who usually hired lots of workers. Knowing the current time of 5 pm and the reality, they avoided eye contacts with the landowner. There was no reason why the landowner would hire them after 5 pm. They were not even curious about why the landowner was approaching to them. There was absolutely no reason that they would be hired to work at this late time. They continued avoiding him. Then the landowner offered work at his vineyard. What? They could not believe what they were hearing – the landowner had just offered work at his vineyard. They carefully looked into the landowner’s eyes. They could see his goodness and mercy along with his face full of grace and mercy, which made them convinced what they were hearing was true. It was a truly joyful moment. They waited work all day long without success. The repeated painful experiences of not being hired made the day truly long and bitter. Some of them were in tears because they waited and waited from the sun rise though the mid-day till the 5 pm closing time. Finally, they got what they really wanted and needed. It was the moment that they could not describe their joy without tears or a joyful noise. All shames and pains had been just gone. The good and merciful landowner had just rescued them, and they were under the good care of the merciful landowner.
They followed the landowner, and stepped into the vineyard. There were lots of workers, who toiled all day under the hot sun. Now the sun was low and it was cool again. Practically speaking no work was left. Some of them were already packing to close the day. The late commers helped the workers already in the vineyard by sweeping ground and cleaning tools. Although they were hired by the same landowner for the vineyard, they felt that they were not so worthy as the workers really worked all day in the vineyard under the hot sun. The last one hour quickly went. It was 6 pm. The landowner checked all works done. Then he called the workers.
He started paying the workers, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at 5 pm were paid, each received a full day’s wage. They could not believe what they were getting. They knelt down to the owner, and gave thinks from the deepest part of their hearts. The workers hired at noon did get the same full day’s wage. They were so grateful about what they were getting because it was more than expected. It was not a half-day pay, but a full-day pay. They said thanks many times to the landowner. The 9 o’clock workers actually expected more based on what the other workers got, who worked far less than them. Surprisingly, they were paid the same one day’s wage. They were not happy. As soon as they just received the pay, they left the vineyard without saying anything to the landowner.
Finally, the group of the early morning workers came to get their pay, they truly thought that they would receive more. But they, too, were paid one day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
The owner answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
Then Jesus continue told to the disciples,
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
This is the warning to especially those who have been believing Him long time. Before God, there is no partiality. God loves all equally, and provides His mercy, grace and the most precious of all — the eternal salvation. We will equally receive His salvation as long as we believe Jesus Christ as our savior. The absolute equality in the blessedness of the salvation is God’s will and the Good News for all. One young and rich ruler came to Jesus and knelt down before him. He asked “What should I to get the eternal life?” Jesus asked whether he kept all the law of Moses. He answered yes, and in fact, he did keep all the commandments from his youth. However, it only reflects the externality of the young and rich ruler. His apparent holiness did not make him ahead of others. The same was true. The first group of the early morning workers should have had to overcome the temptation which regarded them better than the others before the landowner. Instead they should have given thanksgiving to the landowner for the opportunity to work in his vineyard and being paid for the one fully day pay.
Being a true follower of Jesus is not easy. Jesus warned. Taking up cross and following the footsteps of Jesus are often truly painful. However, Jesus knows exactly how much we are getting pain while carrying our own cross. Why? Jesus actually experienced our pains while He was carried to the place for his crucifixion for us. Carrying cross and following Jesus is in fact our life-long journey in Him. As long as we are on earth, we will continue this walk with Him, for Him and in Him. Some of us have been in the walk with Jesus entire life. Some have been walking with Jesus tens years. Some several years. Some even less than years walking with Jesus but being filled with a true joy in heart due to the vivid memory of Jesus and His love. The length of our journey with God does not make us better than others. What God really wants is our heart, and He wants to hear our thanksgiving and our joy in walking with Jesus. The previous gift of our salvation comes from the throne of God not from us. Thus, we have nothing to brag about. Before Him, we are all equally His children purchased by the blood of Jesus.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)