About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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How Can A Loser Ever Win?


As a child I'd often stand in line in the school yard waiting for my name to be called.  I'd watch the good ball players be chosen first. The mediocre players would be chosen next.  Then, with reluctance sprinkled with a bit of kind sympathy, I'd be chosen last.  A legally blind kid who couldn't see the ball to hit or catch couldn't win the game for his team. 


The Bee Gees were my favourite pop singing group in the 1960's.  The question that Berry Gibb raises in one of his songs was never far from the back of my mind.  "How can a loser ever win"?  (from his hit song entitled "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart")    


In Matthew 20:1 18 Jesus told a parable of a vineyard owner.  First thing in the morning he'd head down to the market place in the centre of town.  As usual there'd be a number of men standing in line, waiting to be hired on for the day.  The vineyard owner would make his choice of men and take them back to his fields.  Throughout the day he'd return to the market place and conscript other men for the job.  One day he returned to the market place to hire a few leftover men to work for the last hour 


Even though each man agreed to his wage prior to starting work, when the pay checks were handed out at the end of the day, those who worked all day complained that they received the same wage as those who only worked the last hour of the day.  In our day of employment equity laws, you'd think their complaint was warranted.  Jesus didn't quite see it that way.    


Jesus' thinking on this issue is seen in the response of the vineyard owner to those who thought he was being unfair.  He said, "I am not being unfair.  Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?  Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money"? (Matthew 20:14 - 15)   Jesus pointed out that each worker agreed to his salary before beginning work.  Therefore, there should be no complaints.  Jesus also felt that the vineyard owner had the right to do as he wished with his business.  That may have made sense to Jesus, but again, with today's employment laws, it makes little sense.  I can't see the UAW Union signing on to this thinking the next time they're in contract negotiations with General Motors. 


The bottom line to Jesus' reasoning is seen in Matthew 20:16.  He said, "The first will be last and the last will be first".  In this passage the disciples were arguing over who among them should be considered the greatest in Jesus' fast growing group of followers.  Jesus addressed this carnal view of organizational structure by saying the first will be last and the last will be first. (Mark 9:35)  In other words, if you want to be president, prove you have the ability to serve by cleaning the bathroom toilets.  According to Jesus, leaders are not to be dictatorial lords but servants. (Mark 10:42 - 43)  Our business and political leaders would do well to learn this lesson.   


Jesus didn't stop here.  In Mark 8:35 He said something that sounds both weird and strange to our modern ears.  He said, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it".   


I find Revelation 6:9 11 interesting when thinking of these things.  In this passage we see the souls of those who were killed for their association with Jesus during the Great Tribulation that ends this age.  These martyrs didn't just take Jesus' words seriously, they took His words literally.  Revelation 12:11 says that "they did not love their lives as to shrink from death".  They willingly lost their lives for the sake of Christ.  In Revelation 20:1 6 we see these same martyrs raised from the dead and ruling the nations with Jesus for a thousand years.  The life these martyrs lost was the life they eventually saved.     


The time of tribulation lasts a brief 7 years, or 3.5 years as some suggest.  If a pre-tribulation rapture is Biblically correct, these martyrs obviously came to Jesus after the rapture.  Because the tribulation lasts 7 years or less, and many of these martyrs were killed before it ended, they were Christians for only a few months.  This, along with the fact that they served Jesus at the end of this age, reminds me of Jesus' parable of the vineyard. 


These martyrs worked for Jesus for a brief few months at the end of this age, as did those workers who worked for the vineyard owner for the last hour of the day.  Although these martyrs didn't serve Jesus for decades as many of those who had been raptured, like the all day workers in Jesus' parable, they were well paid.  I wonder if Jesus might have had these martyrs in mind when He spoke this parable. 


Whether Jesus had these end time martyrs in mind or not may not be important.  What is important is the fact that the last will be first and the first will be last.  He who loses his life for Jesus will save it, and he who saves his life for himself will lose it.      


Berry Gibb asked a question that many of us have asked over the years.  "How can a loser ever win"?  Well, I think I've just answered that question.

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