And he went out about the third hour (9:00 a.m.) and saw others standing idle in the market place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right, an appropriate wage.” And they went.
The disciples who were listening to Jesus talk about a landowner looking for workers would’ve understood the larger story that this parable depicts. Because of Roman rule at the time, many Jewish land owners had their land repossessed by the Roman government because of unpaid taxes. So, the marketplace Jesus references would’ve been filled with dispossessed landowners who now sought jobs as servants. Like in this parable, sin has taxed us as humans. It has stolen our dominion over ourselves. We were called to rule and reign in this life, but we have found ourselves unemployed and waiting for someone to hire us.
It’s interesting that Jesus does not depict Himself in this parable as someone who comes through the marketplace to find former-landowners-turned-slaves in order to hand out free parcels of land to them. But rather Jesus paints a picture of God as someone who is going to restore all things within the already fallen system—that He will use the pain and suffering that we have to work through, here and now, to restore us and restore His Kingdom on this earth. He is aware of the injustice we’ve suffered in life, but He doesn’t even out that injustice based on our idea of justice.
We may be waiting for a God who is going to restore everything the way it once was, before this life took things from us. But if these workers had their land restored straightaway, then they would not be working in this particular landowner’s vineyard. This vineyard is not like any other vineyard they have been part of; little did they know it, but the reward that all of these workers would receive at the end of the day was far more than what they bargained for. The wages were the same for each worker no matter what time they started working, but what those evenly-distributed wages represented was far greater than any of them could imagine.
He will not pass over us if sin has left us unemployed. He welcomes us into His vineyard of grace. He will use our losing in this life to bring us gain not only in this life, but also in the life to come.
// Pastor Josh Kelsey