In order to properly understand what Jesus meant by His comment in Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last; and the last first,” we need to keep reading. In fact, Jesus has made that very clear to us in the verses which follow. He wasn’t “satisfied” with just saying to Simon Peter that day, “Simon, many who are first will be last; and the last, first,” He went on to explain it. He wanted there to be absolutely “no doubt” in Simon Peter’s mind as to what He meant when He said that — it was that important (unlike verses 28 and 29, which we discussed yesterday, and about which Jesus did not feel the “need” to have to explain further).
So we should be interested in this verse, in particular, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first,” because Jesus is. He spends the next 16 verses (Matthew 20:1-16) explaining it, in fact. In brief, then, Jesus talks about what the kingdom of heaven is like. “It is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1). Don’t miss this parable. The “man” is a type of God, who has “hired us” to work in His kingdom. Now it says something interesting in verse 2. “And when he had agreed with the laborers (about his pay) (etc.)”. What has God agreed to in your life? WHAT WAS THE AGREEMENT? Based on this verse, there has to have been some type of “agreement” which God formed in your life when you entered into his “workforce.” What was that agreement? Do you know what it is? Do you know what you are working for?
One man got hired at an early stage, and it was agreed to pay him a denarius (verses 1-2). The next man got hired a little later — no amount was mentioned (verses 3-4). Again, more workers were hired at the sixth and then the ninth hours (verse 5), without promising any amount, and again at the eleventh hour (verses 6-7), again without promising any amount. As it always does, “pay day” eventually came, though (verse 8). For those of you who may not have yet put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. The Bible says that a “pay day” is definitely coming! “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this, comes the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). One day it will be “pay day,” but will you get paid, and what will be your payment — good or bad? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you yet to enter into God’s place of work? He’s waiting for you to “come on board.”
The people hired at the last (eleventh) hour were paid first, and surprisingly, they received an entire denarius for their efforts — the same amount that was previously promised to the workers who entered into their labors first! The point here is that they received MERCY, because God is a GENEROUS, ABUNDANT, MERCY-GIVER. How much mercy do you give? How much mercy do you expect from God? Learn to give mercy, and God will “learn” to give it back to you. Is there any area of need that you have right now? The answer is not in giving money (as some teach). The answer is in learning the secret of being able to give mercy, at all times, and not wrath — this is really God’s “ultimate” character (He’s not that wrathful after all, but yet, wrath can and will come upon those who adamantly refuse to believe and trust in Him and His goodness). Read Luke 6:36-38 carefully — in its context.