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Last or First?

What's Your Position?

Since COVID restrictions have been lifted, people are going out more and more. Some places have a shortage of workers, and it takes longer to get a table or be served. There are long lines at the Post Office, grocery store, and getting an oil change means a lengthy wait. Have you thought about being last in line? 🤔

I don't like being last in line, never have, never will! Although, the perspective changes when you are at the front of the line; or first in line. It means you have done your time and waited, and now it's your turn! I recently went to a Ministry Woman's Conference. My friend was able to get in front of the line so we could get good seats! That was a bonus!

Last or First?

The last, shall be first.

The other day when I was reading Luke 23:36-43, this revelation hit me like a ton of bricks.

The soldiers likewise mocked Him, coming up and bringing Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” Now there was also an inscription over Him: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the evildoers hanging there was jeering at Him, saying, “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself—and us!” But the other one, rebuking him, replied, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We’re getting what we deserve for our actions, and rightly so—but this One has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Yeshua, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

It's incredible to me to think of the two accused men hanging on one side and the other of our Lord when he was on the cross. The one who would be with Yeshua in Paradise that day was dying and on his death cross; it was the last moment of his life. No matter what he did in his life to deserve crucifixion, he met our Lord and Savior at the last hour of his life and was saved.

The last, shall be first.

Thinking about this led me to the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.

This parable is found only in the book of Matthew. Yeshua tells the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) in response to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27: "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Peter wanted to know what reward would be given to those who give up everything to follow Yeshua. In response, Yeshua explains this truth about the kingdom of heaven.

Planting, maintaining, and harvesting vineyards in first-century Israel was strenuous work requiring hard physical labor in the summer heat. (We know about heat because we are experiencing it now all over the US.)

Often, additional laborers were needed to get all the work done. The owner of this particular vineyard went to the marketplace at the first hour of the morning (6:00 a.m. possibly) to find workers for the day. He offered the wage of one denarius, a Roman’s soldier’s pay for a day, which was generous indeed. The workers in the first group were more than happy to work for this wage.

As the day progressed and more workers were hired, the specific wage was not mentioned, but the landowner promised to pay “whatever is right.” Apparently, the workers were sufficiently confident of the landowner’s character and trusted him at his word. Altogether, four groups of workers were hired, the last group just one hour before the end of the day.

When the time came for the wages to be paid, the first group of workers saw the last group being paid a denarius and naturally thought they would be paid more since they had worked the longest. Their anger against the landowner spilled forth when they realized all workers would receive the same wage, even though they were paid exactly what was agreed upon when they were hired. The landowner was forced to defend his actions to the first group even though he had dealt with them in perfect fairness. WOW!

The landowner, whose decision it was to pay all the workers the same (an act of mercy—not injustice), represents God, whose grace and mercy are shed abundantly upon those of His choosing.

“For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:15-16). In the matter of salvation, His grace and mercy are given to those whose self-righteous works could never obtain it. We are all sinful and “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but His grace is sufficient to redeem all who believe. Whether God calls someone early or late in life to partake of His grace, the glory and praise for our salvation is His and His alone and in no way amounts to unfairness. Just as the landowner has a right to do what he wishes with his own money, so God has the right to have mercy on whom He wills to have mercy.

The first group of workers in the vineyard resented receiving the same wage as the last group. Their attitude was similar to that of the Pharisees, who were incensed at Yeshua’s teaching that others could inherit a heavenly kingdom they thought was reserved for them alone. They despised Yeshua for offering the kingdom to poor, oppressed, weak sinners whom He made equal to them. In verse 15 (Matthew 20), the landowner asks, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” The “evil eye” was a Hebrew expression referring to jealousy and envy. God’s goodness and mercy produced in the self-righteous Pharisees the evil eye of envy. The rest of the workers received their wages without complaint or jealousy of others. In the same way, as Believers, we should rejoice when others come to the Savior, as we should rejoice in the service others render to Him. He is faithful to reward us for our service as He has promised, and how He compensates others should be of no consequence to us, nor should it affect our devotion to Him

The message in verse 16 (Matthew 20), “the last will be first, and the first last,” teaches that no matter how long or how hard a Believer works during his lifetime, the reward of eternal life will be the same given to all. Salvation is the great equalizer - and ensures us all eternity of bliss in heaven in the presence of God the Father and Yeshua.

As mentioned above, the thief on the cross, whose life of service was limited to a moment of repentance and confession of faith in the Messiah, received the same reward of eternal life as Paul. Of course, Scripture also teaches that there are different rewards in heaven for various services, but the ultimate prize of eternal life will be achieved by all equally. WOW. It may be a complex concept for us as fleshly humans, but not so as spiritual humans.

The last, shall be first.

Another story you may know is similar in context about inferred injustice: about a faithful son and a wayward son.

Luke 15:11-32

Then Yeshua said, “A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to the father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that comes to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. “Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything and traveled to a far country, and there he squandered his inheritance on wild living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine came against that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to fill up on the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one was giving him any. “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food overflowing, but here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up and go to my father, and I’ll say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your presence. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers. “And he got up and went to his own father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and felt compassion. He ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your presence. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let’s celebrate with a feast! 24 For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life—he was lost and is found!’ Then they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was out in the field. And as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called out to one of the servants and began to ask what these things could be. “The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he got him back safe and sound.’ “But the older son was angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came outside and pleaded with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look, so many years I’ve slaved away for you—not once did I ignore your order. Yet you’ve never given me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came—the one who has squandered your wealth with prostitutes—for him you killed the fattened calf!” “Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything that is mine is yours. But it was right to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead but has come back to life! He was lost, but is found.’”

The older son was jealous of his younger brother because the father welcomed him home after his indiscretion and wayward years. The elder brother believed he should be first for the time he spent serving his father. After all, his younger brother was unfaithful, a sinner, a rebel (and dead in his sin). But he finally came home! The younger son who was last is now first.

We can’t rationalize these things nor can we understand them all. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

It does not matter WHEN we come to the Lord but that WE DO COME.

No matter what stage of life a person is in when they come to accept Yeshua, we should rejoice and be happy. The father of the prodigal son said to his other son, “This son of mine who was lost is now found.” LET US REJOICE!

It's not too late. Who you are praying for to be saved?

Fill in the blank. ___________________

Listen to this music video with you by Chris Tomlin. Or Click the link here to watch on YouTube:

In Yeshua's Love,


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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The TLV Holy Scriptures: Tree of Life Version Author: Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
Publisher: Baker Print Publication Date: 2015

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