tortois and the hare October 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-23; Mark 10:23-31; Matthew 19:23-30; Luke 18:24-30; Matthew 20:1-16

The Last Will Be First

The tortoise and the hare had a race one day. The tortoise was very slow, so slow in fact that the hare raced far ahead. The hare, however, got overconfident in his speed. After a while, he stopped to take it easy, got distracted and even fell asleep. He was fast, far ahead in the race and had so much time - no need to hurry. Meanwhile, the tortoise plodded slowly along. The hare did not notice that the tortoise eventually caught up with him, passed him, and won the race. The last was first and the first was last.

In today’s Bible study Jesus gives two real scenarios when the last will be first and the first will be last - the story of a rich young ruler and the parable of the workers in a vineyard.

One day a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18, NIV). Jesus answer to him was to keep the Ten Commandments. Amazingly, the man said, “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” (18:21, NIV).

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” (Luke 18:22-25, NIV).

Why is it hard for many rich people to enter into the kingdom of God? Perhaps it is because many feel self-sufficient like the members of the Laodicean church of the first century A.D. In the book of Revelation Jesus says of them, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” (NIV). Each of us, whether rich or poor or somewhere inbetween, must realize that we are as spiritually depraved as Jesus said they were, and apart from him we have no chance to enter the kingdom of God (heaven). Humility, repentance, and the willingness to give up everything for Christ are necessary for salvation. We have to turn to God from our idols - anything that is more important than God (1Thessalonians 1:9).

The problem of the rich young ruler was that his riches were his god. He had obeyed all the other ten commandments except the first, “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3, NIV). Are your riches or your desires to be rich keeping you from the kingdom of heaven? Jesus said in an earlier time, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money,” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).

The disciples were amazed at Jesus’ words to the rich man. They asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26, NIV). Implied in this question is the thought that if a rich young ruler who has power, prestige, and riches cannot be saved, then who can?

Jesus’ reply was, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Mark 10:27). Salvation is by God’s grace through faith. Salvation is not obtained by our power, position, prestige, riches, or any philanthropic deeds we do. Salvation is a gift given from God and is given because of our contrition and our faith in his saving work for us (more...).

The Apostle Peter, a close disciple of the Lord, then asked him,

“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life,” (Matthew 19:27-30, NIV).

Following Jesus is worth anything we may have to give up or suffer. Any person on earth, whether rich or poor, influential or insignificant will have to give up anything he is holding onto and seize Christ for his salvation. We cannot just add him to our life. He who would be first in this life, who trusts in himself and his attainments, will be last in the next and suffer an eternity in hell. Those who are humble and repentant and trust only in God’s salvation through Christ, however, will be the first to enter heaven.

Pride is a problem, even amongst Christians. In a second scenario, Jesus told a parable of the kingdom of heaven (a parable is an earthly story illustrating a heavenly truth). In the parable a landowner hired laborers to work his vineyard for an agreed upon price. When the end of the day came, the last laborers to be hired were paid the same as the first laborers to be hired. This seemed unfair to the first laborers since they worked all day in the hot sun. However, they had made an agreement to work for an agreed amount of money, so the landowner was not unfair just because he was generous to the latecomers.

In the Old Testament a vineyard sometimes symbolized the people of God, and in particular the nations of Israel and Judah (Isaiah 5:7). The Jews of Jesus’ day would have understood that, including the disciples. The landowner in the story represents God, and the first hired laborers seem to represent Jewish believers before the days of Jesus Christ. Those laborers which were hired the eleventh hour of the day may represent Jewish and Gentile Christians of the church age to whom God, the landowner, was also generous. They too, as hired laborers, would receive the same reward of heaven as Jewish believers who followed the laws of the Old Testament by faith. The rewards of heaven are given according to the Sovereign will and grace of God, whether people enter into the vineyard of God early or late. Those who think they should be first because of their heritage as Jews will not enter heaven because of their pride and unbelief, but those who enter late as believing Jews and Gentiles will receive rewards in heaven. This parable has the same point given to non-Christians and Christians; the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 20:16); the rewards of heaven are determined by the Sovereign will and grace of God.

Lessons to live by:

  • Beware, wealth and comfort can become idols or gods to us.
  • Those who want to be first in this earthly life, seeking power, position and wealth for themselves, risk totally missing out on heaven and suffering in hell.
  • Following Christ is worth any sacrifice.
  • Those who choose to follow Christ above everything or everyone else will be rewarded.
  • The rewards of heaven are determined by the Sovereign will and grace of God.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (NIV)

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