by Bob Wickizer

That's Not Fair
Bob Wickizer
Exodus 16:2-15 ; Psalm 145:1-8; Philippians 1:21-30 ; Matthew 20:1-16
September 18, 2005

Jesus tells us a story about the nature of God that frankly offends everyone's sense of fairness. Let's get a couple of factual things down first so we can better understand the agricultural situation as well as what was likely happening in some of the early churches of Matthew's time.

Harvesting grapes in the fall in Palestine is dicey business. Harvest too early and you do not have enough sugar in the grapes to make a good wine. Harvest too late and they literally ferment in the hot weather either on the vine or on their way to the press making the wine sour. Often an entire field would need to be picked in a single day. You can understand how the owner of a vineyard might go back repeatedly on the same day seeking more laborers. The next day might be too late.

The parable Jesus tells is found only in Matthew's gospel. Initially Matthew's "churches" were entirely Jewish. They may in fact have worshipped at existing synagogues. Over time gentiles began to come into these communities to be baptized.

You can imagine how some of the old timers in Matthew's communities must have felt. They had given money for years. They had given their time to doing deeds of mercy. They had prayed faithfully. They had attended Friday night Sabbath services and now they had become baptized they are attending Saturday night Christian services. They were strong believers in this Jewish messiah named Jesus (Jeshua). They believed in an afterlife and in bodily resurrection on the last day. Even though they knew God's grace was a free gift for everyone, to some extent they must have felt like they earned it.

So the faithful Jews in Matthew's communities watch these Gentiles come into their community. After a three year instruction period, gentile converts to Christianity would be baptized at the Easter vigil (the only Christian feast cele ...

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