Monday, February 25, 2008

Lenten Devotional: Days Fifteen and Sixteen, Feb 23rd and 25th

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16-20Devotional Emphasis:
Matthew 20:15 “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous.”

It seems that everybody who was keeping up with Jesus wanted Jesus to prove to them that he was who he was claiming to be. Earlier John the Baptist even had some questions about who Jesus really was. Instead of being defensive, Jesus seems to let his actions do the talking. He simply tells folks to keep the head up and eyes open to what is happening around them. He also makes it known that the kingdom everyone else is looking for is not quite what he has in mind. After Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God, Jesus tells the disciples that he will not be a conqueror, but a sufferer. Often in these chapters in Matthew we see the disciples having a false sense of expectation of what they believe the kingdom will look like. They want to know who will be the greatest in the kingdom and who will have seats of power. Jesus simply continues to respond that the first will be last and the last will be first.

This role reversal is really seen in story form when Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some worked all day, while others worked shorter amounts. Some only worked one hour that day, but everyone was paid the same. Jesus said those who worked all day were upset because they felt they had earned more money. The landowner responds by saying that he has the right to be gracious to anyone he chooses because it is his money to give. In the same way, God can be gracious to whomever he chooses, because it is his to give. If God wants to offer salvation to people outside of the ordinary Jewish person, then God can do that.

In thinking about this passage, I can sympathize with those who have worked all day. It doesn’t seem very fair from our 21st century lens. We believer people should earn their living. We also think people should show themselves worthy of God’s grace. Oftentimes we even try to distinguish who should be in and who should be out. The problem is that God does not work that way. In God’s kingdom we will see that people will receive grace who we least expect, therefore we should learn to be more God-like in extending grace to those who deserve it least.

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