Monday, December 04, 2006

audience participation

I don't know how many people actually read this blog, but I'm posing a question to those who do: What does it mean that "the last will be first"?

Over the past several weeks, I've been studying the armor-bearers and those who have an armor-bearer's heart. People like Ruth, ("Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay."), and Ittai ("As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be." 2Samuel 15:21).

As I was reading last night, I began to wonder about Jesus' statement that the "last will be first and the first will be last." I've always been taught that it means those who put others ahead of themselves will be "first" in the Kingdom of Heaven. But last night I was reading the parable of the landowner (Matthew 20), and started to wonder....

You know the story, a landowner has a field that needs tending. Throughout the day, he goes out into the town and hires men to work. At the end of the day, those who worked for an hour were paid the same as though who worked all day. The parable begins in Matthew 20, verse 1, but it's the passage leading up to this parable that made me stop and think. In Matthew 19:27-30, Peter asks Jesus what the disciples will receive for giving up everything to follow Him. His response is that anyone who leaves home and family will receive "a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." Cool answer. But then He goes on to say this in verse 30: "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first", and immediately tells the story of the landowner.

Matthew 20:1 begins "For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner..."
So if you read Mtt 19:30 and Mtt 20:1 together.. "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner....", the parable seems meant to be an explanation for the statement that "...many who are last will be first...". But the parable isn't about sacrifice, it's about time. It isn't about people who are putting other's needs ahead of their own, or serving their "fellow man".

As I read and re-read this passage, I started to wonder if Jesus is trying to remind us that the Kingdom of Heaven operates outside of chronological time. I started to wonder if His message is: "look, I don't care how LONG you've been following Me, I care about how MUCH you've sacrificed to do it." That being "first" isn't based on time, but on sacrifice.

Then I began to wonder, What does it mean to be "first" in the Kingdom of Heaven?

I'm curious to know what others think.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that it is a rather interesting observation considering the emphasis placed upon that particular commentary and the implications of accepting it in such a way that you receive it as authoritative. I think it's typical of many readers to assume that the division of the books of the Bible into chapters implies that the same division discourages a continuance of critical themes.

(i.e. the chapter prior creates a context for the following chapter)

“Rabbit Trail thought”- The New Testament was never constructed in its manuscript form, to my knowledge, as having separate, independent subunits within one written work (like the chapters within this gospel we have today). The thoughts, principles, and spirit of the revelation would have naturally been observed more fluidly and should be today just as well. It’s a part of the text and would have been understood to have tremendous wisdom that couldn’t be ignored without the scholastic error being recognized. That makes me think that everyone (in the time this was written) would’ve assumed the parable had something to do with the saying “the last shall be first and the first last”… so I think you’re on to something there.

I think a better question could be:
Why does Jesus mention an order of entrance into the Kingdom of God at all?

P.S. I think this is a start of a million others questions.


8:38 PM  

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