What is Jesus’ most offensive teaching?
While we may have differences of opinion on this issue, I believe Jesus’ teaching on the grace of God might just win the vote.
In the parable, which is our text for today, Jesus talks about the grace of God. It is often called the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Let us summarize this portion of God’s Word.
Jesus tells of a landowner who went out early in the morning and hired some men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day. Three hours later he went out and hired some more workers and promised to pay them what was right. He repeated this pattern of hiring new workers in the sixth and ninth hours. At the eleventh hour he hired one last group of workers.
At the end of the day he paid them all the same wage, one denarius. This made the workers who had labored all day angry. They said, “You have made them [those hired at the eleventh hour] equal to us. This is not fair.”
We would have to agree, would we not? It just does not make sense.
Listen to the landowner’s answer, in the words of Jesus: “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give this man who was hired last the same as I gave to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
Now as you study Jesus’ dealings with people, you have to admit that he practiced what he preached.
Luke, in his Gospel, tells the story of the robber hanging beside Jesus on the cross. Luke writes, “One criminal who hung there hurled insults at him: ÔAren’t you the Christ? Save yourself, and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ÔDon’t you fear God,’ he said, Ôsince you are under the same sentence? We are being punished justly, for we are getting what our desires deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ÔJesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
“Jesus answered him, ÔI tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise'” (Luke 23:39-43).
This is grace. This robber was, according to the law of the time, deserving of death. However, he repented of his sins, placed his faith in Christ as the Savior, and was assured by the Lord himself of his place in paradise. This is Jesus’ teaching in real life.
Such a teaching defies all reason. We believe we get what we deserve. Live a good life and God will reward you.
Seekers of faith who are newly saved are often asked, “If you stood before God tonight and he asked you, ÔWhy should I let you into my heaven?’, what would you say?” The most common response to this evangelism question is, “I would say, ÔI hope I have lived a good enough life that he will receive me.'”
The most difficult message to preach is the grace of God. If you want to hear a good preacher, seek out one who consistently, Sunday after Sunday, preaches the pure Gospel Ð salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Does this mean someone can live a sinful life, say he believes in Christ as his Savior, and be saved? Let me answer it this way: if that person believes in his heart that Jesus is his Savior, his greatest desire will be to live out of love for his Savior who died for him. His Christian life after receiving Christ will be the fruit of his faith, and not a contributing factor to his salvation.
My wife tells of a woman who was in a Bible class she taught. This lady was converted later in life, and what a difference Christ had made in her life! My wife told this woman, “I have always lived in the faith, but when I hear you tell about your conversion, I think I would like to have had such an experience.”
Quickly the woman replied, “Oh, no. Look at all the years I wasted living apart from Christ. You are so fortunate to have had him in your heart from the time you were a child.”
This teaching on the grace of God may be considered fuzzy thinking if all we know is the standard way of doing things: you get what you earn. If that were true, no one would enjoy eternal life with God. Think of what our last days can be like, when finally we close our eyes in death as the forgiven child of God . . . his forever.
Receive Christ and you will see, the center of the Christian faith is the grace of God.