Jesus says again, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” He illustrates this with a story about laborers. They all work different amounts of hours but all get paid the same, regardless of how long they worked, and the ones that work the least amount of hours get paid first. But the ones that worked longer hours believe that this payment system is unfair, assuming that they are entitled to more. So Jesus explains that the master can do whatever he likes with what he has. Although we may think we deserve more or are better than others, that is not how Jesus operates. Part of having faith is trusting the Lord with what He has given us and not looking around and comparing it to others (2 Corinthians 10:12). Jesus tends to the whole flock, but He knows best what to specifically give to each individual for their flourishment and for His glory. And anything that we receive from the Lord is a gift by His grace and mercy.
Therefore, when Zacchaeus, a rich chief tax collector, seeks to see Jesus “but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature”, Jesus tells him to come down from the sycamore tree for He is going to eat dinner at his house. But the crowd couldn’t believe that Jesus would want to eat with a disgusting sinner such as Zacchaeus the tax collector. Tax collectors were seen as traitors trying to profit off their own people by taking money from the Jews to give to the Roman Empire. However, Zacchaeus believes that Jesus is Lord so he “made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully…and said to the Lord, ’Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’” Therefore Jesus says to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Regardless of Zacchaeus’s position in life or public opinion about him, he is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
While Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem with his disciples, He explains to them what He must endure for the gift of salvation to be offered to the world – “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again. But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.”
James and John ask to sit next to Jesus “one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” So again Jesus has to explain that being part of His kingdom isn’t about your own personal power or position; it is quite the opposite from how the world operates – ”Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” James will be the first to be martyred of the disciples and John will be the last disciple to die, although not by martyrdom. But both will suffer as servants of Christ.
We end the reading with another parable from Jesus “because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.” The parable is about a master and his servants. The master tells the servants to “Do business till I come”, teaching that the Lord expects those who belong to Him to be diligent in doing kingdom work until Jesus’ return. The master in the parable desires for his servants to invest what he has given them and not to just play it safe by doing nothing with what they have received.
Jesus calls His followers to step outside of their comfort zones and serve Him. And why not? We have nothing to lose and someone else has everything to gain by hearing the Good News. Plus, Jesus has already promised to provide all that we need to serve Him and the kingdom of God by giving us power through the Holy Spirit. After Jesus’ resurrection, we will see the disciples emboldened by the Holy Spirit for the work of the ministry – “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Tomorrow is Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Keep reading.
(Matthew 20:1-16, Mark 10:32-34, Matthew 20:17-19, Luke 18:31-34, Mark 10:35-45, Matthew 20:20-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-19:27)