The Eleventh-Hour Man
George H. Morrison
By the eleventh-hour man I mean the man who at five o'clock is still outside the Kingdom, and one would notice first that in the parable there is no hint of this man being bad. There was another eleventh-hour man who had taken to evil courses on the highway. He had left home and broken his mother's heart, and we see him at last hanging on a cross. But this man was a much more usual type, haunting the marketplace in search of work, not forgetful of his wife and children. If you want the prodigal, go to the far country. If you want the bandit, take the road to Jericho. Our Lord, in that most masterly way of His, has always a fitting background for His characters. And this man, against the background of the market-place, stands for the ordinary, well-intentioned person-yet at the eleventh hour he is still outside the Kingdom.
One notes, too, that he was not without excuse. It is so like our Lord to touch on that. When the man was asked why he was standing there, he could truly say that nobody had hired him. That this excuse was not entirely valid is, I think, embodied in the parable. For at the third hour and at the sixth and ninth hours the householder had been out looking for workers. Now had this man been tremendously in earnest, he would have thrown himself in the employer's way; but there is not a hint that he did that. Probably at nine o'clock he was abed; men out of work are prone to oversleep. At twelve o'clock he would be having dinner and at three enjoying his siesta. But the beautiful thing is that, though this be true, the Master sees and is at pains to show us, that this man was not without excuse. There are men outside at the eleventh hour who are utterly without excuse. Deaf to every call, they have resisted the inviting Spirit. But there are others who are different from that, and one of the charming things about our Lord is that He finds room for that suggestion in His story. Such may have ...
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