October 30, Matthew 20-21

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20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers on one denarius, he sent them into his vineyard for the day. When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went. About noon and about three, he went out again and did the same thing. Then about five he went and found others standing around and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.

“‘You also go into my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’

“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. 10 So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. 11 When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: 12 ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day’s work and the burning heat.’

13 “He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? 14 Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

17 While going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples aside privately and said to them on the way, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death. 19 They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised.”

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached him with her sons. She knelt down to ask him for something. 21 “What do you want?” he asked her.

“Promise,” she said to him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other on your left, in your kingdom.”

22 Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

“We are able,” they said to him.

23 He told them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right and left is not mine to give; instead, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

29 As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 There were two blind men sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd demanded that they keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

32 Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”

33 “Lord,” they said to him, “open our eyes.” 34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed him.

Matthew 21

21 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosannato the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosannain the highest heaven!

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

12 Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that he did and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, have you never read:

You have prepared praise
from the mouths of infants and nursing babies?”

17 Then he left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

18 Early in the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, he went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.

20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

21 Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did John’s baptism come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we’re afraid of the crowd, because everyone considers John to be a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go work in the vineyard today.’

29 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to,’ but later he changed his mind and went. 30 Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered, but he didn’t go. 31 Which of the two did his father’s will?”

They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away. 34 When the time came to harvest fruit, he sent his servants to the farmers to collect his fruit. 35 The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again, he sent other servants, more than the first group, and they did the same to them. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?”

41 “He will completely destroy those terrible men,” they told him, “and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his fruit at the harvest.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is what the Lord has done
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit. 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew he was speaking about them. 46 Although they were looking for a way to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because the people regarded him as a prophet.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last. That is so countercultural in our times and was even countercultural in Jesus’ times. We are told to get ahead by any means possible. We are told to serve ourselves first and then take care of others with the leftovers. Jesus turned that on its head for his disciples. His kingdom is different. His kingdom is one in which the ones who get ahead are the ones who put others first and before themselves.

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