I’ve heard the job of a preacher is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” There’s a lot of truth in that, and our Lord certainly followed that pattern here. It’s a short little parable with a lot of meaning, and it has something to say to various kinds of people.
Now to those of us who profess belief in God, who claim to trust in Christ, it shines the spotlight on our lives. We might've started out well, at least in the outward appearance. When we came to faith in Christ, we pledged ourselves to follow him, to obey him, to “go and work today in the vineyard.” What happened to our commitment? I don’t know about you, but this is some tough love that I need to hear. Jesus is not impressed with promises that we make, only with the follow-through.
But the story also has a word of comfort to others as well. Is there, in the back of your mind, the question “Will he really forgive that?” Yes, he will. When we get to glory someday, we’ll meet some murderers, two of which you might've heard of: David, and Paul. They had innocent blood on their hands, and the Lord not only forgave them but restored them and used them mightily in his Kingdom. No matter what we’ve done, if we just confess and give ourselves over to him, he’ll do the same for us as he did for them.
I guess if there is one unifying message from this parable, it’s this: "What matters is NOW." Not the promises you made yesterday, nor the sin you committed yesterday. All of us have made promises to him we haven’t kept, and all of us need forgiveness, most of us on a daily basis. We need both his forgiveness and his strength to do better, TODAY.
Another ironic thing is that the pattern he noted continues today. The religious people, the upstanding citizens, the family-devoted, all tend to perceive Jesus’ offer of forgiveness with less than outstanding enthusiasm. “I mean, I really don’t quite deserve hell, do I? I’ve never murdered anyone, I’ve never cheated on my wife, I’ve never even cheated on my taxes.” But when it comes to criminals, those who really have killed people, or stolen from people, or who sold drugs, or did things which aren’t mentioned in polite company, they have a huge advantage when it comes to receiving Christ. There's no way to fool themselves into thinking that everything is fine with them. They’re sinners under God’s wrath, and they know it. Not that they need Christ any more than the religious man or the law-abiding man, but they at least can see their need better.
We all need his grace, his mercy, his power. He wants us to commit to him, to surrender to him, to place ourselves under his authority. TODAY. If you haven't done that yet, or aren't sure if you have, please read this.
Lord Jesus, that really applies to me. I'm so glad that your mercies are new every morning. Please help me to live up to what I promised, and I desperately need you to help me to do that.
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