Workers in the vineyard
“MANY . . . are the first,” Jesus has just said, “will be last and the last first.” Now he illustrates this with a story.”The Kingdom of Heaven,” he begins, “is like a man, a landlord, who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.”
Jesus continues with the words: “When he [the landlord had agreed with the workers for the day) for a denar, he sent them out to his vineyard.When he went out at the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace unoccupied; and to them he said, ‘Go also to the vineyard, and I will give you whatever is right.’ Then they went. Again he went out at the sixth and ninth hour and did the same. Eventually, at the eleventh hour, he went out and found others who stood there, and he said to them, ‘Why are you unoccupied all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘Go to the vineyard too.’ “
The landlord, the owner of the vineyard, is Jehovah God, and the vineyard is the nation of Israel.The workers in the vineyard are persons who have been admitted to the League of laws, especially the Jews who live in the days of the Apostles. Only the full-time workers are the first to reach a fixed wage agreement. The day’s work is rewarded with a denar. Since “the third hour” is at 9 a.m., those called to the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th hours only work 9 or 6, 3 or 1 hour.
The 12-hour or full-time workers represent the leaders of the Jews who have constantly been at the service of religion, not like the disciples of Jesus, who have spent most of their lives fishing or other worldly pursuits.It was not until autumn 29 o.c. that the “housemaster” sent Jesus Christ to bring them together as his disciples. They therefore became the “last” or the workers of the 11th hour.
Finally, the symbolic working day ends with the death of Jesus, and now comes the time for the workers to pay out.It follows the unusual rule that the last ones are paid out first. This is clear from the words: “When it was evening, the Lord of the Vineyard said to his commissioner, ‘Call the workers, and pay them their wages, from the last to the first.’ When they came from the eleventh hour, they all received a denar. When the first came, they concluded that they would receive more; but they, too, were paid one denar each. When they received him, they began to murmur against the landlord, saying, “These last did an hour of work; yet you have put them on an equal footing with us, us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat!’ But he answered, “Friend, I’m not wrong with you. Didn’t you agree with me about a Denar? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last one the same as you. Is n掳I not allowed to do what I want with my own things? Or is your eye looking evil because I’m good?’ ” Finally, Jesus repeated the words: “In this way the last shall be first and the first last.”
The Denar is not paid out at the death of Jesus, but at Pentecost of the year 33 o.c., when Christ, the “commissioner”, pours out the Holy Spirit on his disciples.The disciples of Jesus are comparable to the “last” or the workers of the 11th hour. The Denar does not symbolize the gift of the Holy Spirit itself. It represents something that the disciples here on earth should use, something on which their livelihood depends, their eternal life. The Denar is the prerogative to belong to the spiritual Israel and to be anointed to preach the kingdom of God.
Soon those who were first hired will notice that the disciples of Jesus have received the reward, and they see how they use the symbolic denar.But they want more than the Holy Spirit and the kingdom privileges associated with it. Their murmurs and objections are expressed in the persecution of the disciples of Christ, the “last” workers in the vineyard.
Does this parable of Jesus apply only in the first century?No, the clergy of 20th-century Christianity would have been the “first” to be hired for the work of God’s emblematic vineyard because of their position and responsibility. In their eyes, the God-given preachers associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were the “last” who had a right to serve God. But it is precisely these who have been despised by the clergy who have received the Denar鈥?the honor of serving as anointed messengers of the heavenly kingdom of God.
LG HP (variable)