Making Grateful Use of a “Penny”
“And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.”—Matt. 20:9, Av; Dy.
1. Who since 1919 have gratefully used the “penny,” and in accord with what prophetic rule has this occurred?
WHO are the ones that have made grateful use of this valuable “penny”? They are the “last ones” on earth that the first-class religious leaders of Christendom would expect! Reliable records since the year 1919 indicate this. Though this was against the general expectation, it was in full accord with the rule prophetically laid down long ago: “In this way the last ones will be first, and the first ones last.”—Matt. 20:16.
2. What has taken place finds it pattern where, and how does our examining this pattern help us to understand how the rule was applied in our day?
2 What has taken place in our time really finds its pattern in what took place nineteen hundred years in the past. What occurred back there fulfilled this rule about the reversal of the positions of the first and the last. Also, that fulfillment was an illustration of what was to take place in our times as a double fulfillment of this prophetic rule. Naturally, if we examine how the rule worked out the first time that it was applied, it helps us to understand what has occurred in the application of this rule during our day of strange happenings and surprises. We are enabled thus to see who are the ones whose positions were reversed, in accord with the rule. So let us turn back the pages of history.
3, 4. (a) What was the problem of the rich young ruler who ran up to Jesus over in Perea? (b) What did Jesus say about goodness, and what commandments did he tell the young man to keep?
3 The Jewish passover of the year 33 C.E. was approaching. The great Preacher of the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ, was on his way to that festival at Jerusalem, but at the time he was on the east side of the Jordan River in the region called Perea. A young man came running up to him. He was a rich man, and also a ruler among the Jews. As such, he was among the first or foremost ones of his people, especially as he was such a conscientious keeper of the Law of God’s covenant with the nation of Israel. What was his problem? This, as his words to Jesus disclosed: “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” In answering, Jesus showed that God is really the embodiment of goodness, of generosity. He said to the young ruler: “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is that is good.” Jesus meant Jehovah God.
4 After reminding the rich young ruler of who the Good One is, Jesus proceeded to say: “If, though, you want to enter into life, observe the commandments continually.” The rich young ruler asked Jesus: “Which ones?” Jesus now referred to the Ten Commandments as given to the nation of Israel through the prophet Moses. He said: “Why, You must not murder, You must not commit adultery, You must not steal, You must not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
5. As stated by Jesus, how could the young man become perfect?
5 The rich young ruler replied: “I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?” Jesus suggested to him that all his good efforts at Law keeping had not brought him human perfection, by answering: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” Thus he would distribute the money to the poor who could not repay him and then come and be a disciple of Jesus. Instead of continuing to be a highly respected rich man, one of the first people among the Jews, he would alter his situation and become a materially poor follower of the generally despised Jesus.
6. At the young man’s reaction to this, what did Jesus say about rich men?
6 That was too high a cost for gaining the perfection of which Jesus spoke. “When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions. But Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Truly I say to you that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. Again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.’”
7. At this, what question did the disciples ask, and what did Jesus reply about the possibility of getting into God’s kingdom?
7 Well, now, if a law-observing person like this rich young ruler, one of the first people of the land, could not get into the kingdom of God, who else could, especially common, ordinary persons like the twelve apostles of Jesus, such as Simon Peter the former fisherman? No wonder that there was surprise! “When the disciples heard that, they expressed very great surprise, saying: ‘Who really can be saved?’ Looking them in the face, Jesus said to them: ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” This was so, not only because God is almighty, but also because he is the Good One, generous, loving.
8. As regards those who had left all to follow Jesus, what did he say that they would have, and then what rule did he announce?
8 The rich young ruler had refused to leave all material things behind and follow Jesus as one of his disciples, but Simon Peter and the others of the twelve apostles had done so, and they had already had some experiences with Jesus. But what would be the final outcome? Simon Peter was anxious to know. “Then Peter said to him in reply: ‘Look! We have left all things and followed you; what actually will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them: ‘Truly I say to you, In the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down upon his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also yourselves sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life. But many that are first will be last and the last first.’”—Matt. 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30.
9, 10. (a) How did that rule apply to the rich young ruler? (b) How would that rule apply with regard to Jesus’ disciples?
9 There you have the prophetic rule applied from this standpoint. The rich young ruler was among the first people among the Jews. Moreover, he was such a faithful observer of the commandments of God as contained in the Law covenant into which the nation of Israel had entered with God. He was, therefore, such a promising young man; much was to be expected in regard to him.
10 But in his observing of the Law he was trying to justify himself, to work out merit for himself as a righteous Jew. He was also materialistic. Under such circumstances it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for him to get into God’s kingdom and sit on a throne with Jesus Christ, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. In reverse of this, Peter and his fellow disciples were the last ones that a self-righteous Jew would think of as gaining a throne in God’s kingdom. Yet the disciples of Jesus Christ, who belonged to the people of the land, the ʽam ha-arets, as the superior Jewish Pharisees called them, would gain a foremost position, namely, a throne in God’s kingdom. That would be in the coming system of things. Besides that, in the present period of time they would get a hundredfold more than what they had left behind, along with persecutions, of course. (Mark 10:29, 30; Luke 18:29, 30) What a reversal of matters this was!
11. What did Jesus tie in with the stated rule, and why finally did he repeat the rule?
11 Now, is that the way Jesus meant it when he said: “Many that are first will be last and the last first”? Yes, because at once he went on to illustrate this prophetic rule with a parable. He tied in this parable with the stated rule by beginning the immediately following parable with the conjunction “for.” He said: “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny [the Roman penny] a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” (Matt. 19:30 to 20:2, AV; Dy) The fact that the parable is meant to illustrate the prophetic rule is further proved by Jesus’ finishing the parable and then adding the words: “So the last shall be first, and the first last.”—Matt. 20:16, AV.
12. Why did that parable come to mean something to the disciples?
12 Since the parable of the vineyard was called forth by the circumstances and experiences of Jesus Christ at the time, it is evident that the parable had a fulfillment in the days of the twelve apostles to whom Jesus stated and illustrated the rule. Otherwise, it would have meant nothing to them, and they would not have had the rule actually work out in their own personal case. How, then, did it work out according to Jesus’ parable?
13, 14. (a) Who was the “householder” of the parable, and what was the vineyard? (b) As to the identity of the vineyard, what prophecy of Isaiah may Jesus have had in mind?
13 The “householder” of the parable of the vineyard is Jehovah God, the Owner of the great symbolic vineyard. The vineyard is the nation of Israel, which was then in a national contract with Jehovah God through the covenant of the Law that the prophet Moses had mediated at Mount Sinai in the year 1513 B.C.E.
14 When speaking of this symbolic vineyard, Jesus doubtless had in mind the words of Isaiah 5:1-4, 7, where Jehovah God says: “Let me sing, please, to my beloved one a song of my loved one concerning his vineyard. There was a vineyard that my beloved one came to have on a fruitful hillside. And he proceeded to dig it up and to rid it of stones and to plant it with a choice red vine, and to build a tower in the middle of it. And there was also a wine press that he hewed out in it. And he kept hoping for it to produce grapes, . . . And now, O you inhabitants of Jerusalem and you men of Judah, please judge between me and my vineyard. What is there yet to do for my vineyard that I have not already done in it? . . . For the vineyard of Jehovah of armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the plantation of which he was fond.”
15. (a) Where did Jehovah plant the vine that he took out of Egypt? (b) How did the Roman “penny” (denarius) come to circulate there, and what value did it then have?
15 Jesus may also have had in mind Psalm 80:8-11, in which the psalmist Asaph addresses himself to Jehovah God, who delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and says: “You proceeded to make a vine depart from Egypt. You kept driving out the nations, that you might plant it [in Palestine]. You made a clearing before it, that it might take root and fill the land. The mountains were covered with its shadow, and the cedars of God with its boughs. It gradually sent forth its boughs as far as the sea, and to the River [Euphrates] its twigs.” In Jesus’ day the Jews were still occupying their God-given land, but subject to the Roman Empire. So the Roman “penny” or (literally) denarius began to circulate throughout the land, this denarius equaling about eight pence and two farthings in British money in the days of King James I of England or 17 cents American money. In Jesus’ day this amount of money had such a value that it was paid as a wage for the work of a day of twelve hours. Consequently, in the fulfillment of Jesus’ illustration the “penny” pictures a value of no little worth.
16. What was to be the reward for their serving as the fruitful vineyard of Jehovah God?
16 Jehovah God brought laborers into his vineyard to work there by bringing them into the Law covenant as mediated by the prophet Moses and assigning to various ones their duties. What was to be the pay or reward for serving as the fruitful vineyard of the Most High God? Jehovah God mentioned this at the time that he proposed this Law covenant to the forefathers of the Jews of Jesus’ day, for God said: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:5, 6) Thus, by keeping the Law covenant the Jews would not only gain everlasting life as human creatures but also become a “kingdom of priests” for God’s use in blessing all the rest of mankind.
17. (a) What relationship did Jesus have with the Law covenant, and how was he marked by it? (b) Why was it fitting for Jesus to speak of his heavenly Father as a Vine Cultivator?
17 Jesus, the Son of God from heaven, was born into the Jewish nation and under the Law covenant. He was the only Jew that kept it perfectly. Therefore, he was not condemned by the Law of that covenant as all other Jews were, but he was marked by that Law as a perfect man, absolutely free from sin, one who had not forfeited the right to everlasting life. For his keeping that Law covenant perfectly, he deserved to be a king and priest in an earthly way. Because, by birth, he belonged to the Jewish “vineyard” planted by Jehovah God, it was quite appropriate for Jesus to compare his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, to a vine cultivator, saying to his apostles: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:1, 2, 5) However, unlike the imperfect Jews under the Law covenant, Jesus and his “branches” are a spiritual vine that does not fail to bear much fruit to the great Cultivator Jehovah God, that he might be glorified.
18-20. (a) Did those hired first into the “vineyard” live in Moses’ day or in whose days? (b) Who specifically were those hired first, and what words of Jesus show they considered themselves to be such “first” ones?
18 The Jews of Jesus’ day were brought into the Law covenant by descent from their forefathers, whom Jehovah God brought out of Egypt and planted in the land of Palestine. Since Jesus’ parable of the vineyard had its first fulfillment in the days of Jesus’ twelve apostles, it could not apply to those ancient forefathers with whom the Law covenant was personally made through Moses. Consequently, those whom the great Householder hired “early in the morning” to work for twelve hours in his “vineyard” could not be those Jewish forefathers of the sixteenth century B.C.E. So the laborers who were hired at sunrise or about six o’clock in the morning pictured Jews living in the days of the apostles.
19 Their being twelve-hours-a-day laborers would mean that they were full-time laborers at the things of God, unlike the apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John, who had been fishers up till the spring of the year 30 C.E. Those full-day laborers would therefore picture the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, such as the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, and the underpriests, also the temple Levites, the official scribes, those of the sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and those versed in the Law of Moses. Because of being occupied continually in the Jewish religious service in Israel, they would be the ones first hired. They would also be the foremost or first-ranking people of the nation. That they looked upon themselves as being such is indicated by Jesus’ words:
20 “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses. They like the most prominent place at evening meals and the front seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the market places and to be called Rabbi by men.”—Matt. 23:2, 6, 7.
21, 22. (a) Who, then, were the part-time workers? (b) How did Jesus’ parable show that how much pay the part-time workers would receive was uncertain?
21 They expected full pay for a full day’s work, and on this basis they agreed to serve in Jehovah’s vineyard of the nation of Israel. All others brought into the service of Jehovah God after them, or in a rank lower than that of the full-time workers, would be merely part-time workers. Hence their likelihood of receiving the full reward was not made certain. That is why Jesus’ parable of the vineyard says of the Householder:
22 “Going out also about the third hour, he saw others standing unemployed in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also, go into the vineyard, and whatever is just I will give you.’ So off they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did likewise. Finally, about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day unemployed?’ They said to him, ‘Because nobody has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into the vineyard.’”—Matt. 20:3-7.
THE LAST OR “ELEVENTH HOUR” LABORERS
23. Who were the eleventh-hour laborers, and why had nobody hired them prior to that hour?
23 Those hired at the eleventh hour, or about five o’clock in the afternoon (an hour before sundown), were the last to be hired. By the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, those pictured by the eleventh-hour laborers were considered the last ones whom God would employ in his service. They would be the ones the least likely to be called into God’s service. So, up till that eleventh hour, as far as the religious leaders of Israel were concerned, ‘nobody had hired them.’ The contemptuous attitude of the religious leaders toward those lowly people was betrayed in their saying: “Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him [Jesus], has he? But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:48, 49) They were willing to work in God’s service, but because of the blinded religious leaders they were not told the right things to do nor put to work at them. After wasting practically all day, they had to look for someone to come who saw how they could be used in God’s service and who would assign them to some service in God’s religious “vineyard.”
24, 25. (a) When and how did the great Householder call the eleventh-hour laborers into service? (b) How was God’s Steward used to send laborers into the “vineyard,” and for how long did they work in it?
24 The day of working in the vineyard of Israel under the terms of the Mosaic Law covenant was nearing its end. Jehovah God the great Householder and Vineyard Owner knew that, and through representatives whom he sent to Israel he called those eleventh-hour laborers into service in his “vineyard.” In the spring of 29 C.E. he sent John the Baptist “to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.” (Luke 1:13-17) About six months later the great Householder sent his own Son Jesus, who became like a steward, foreman or “man in charge” with reference to God’s “vineyard.”
25 Jesus received the disciples gathered by John the Baptist and also did further gathering of disciples, whom he set to work in the Israelite “vineyard.” For instance, besides the twelve apostles, Jesus Christ also sent seventy evangelizers into the “vineyard” work. He instructed them all to go preaching the heavenly kingdom of God, telling the people: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-11) Even women came along with Jesus and his apostles in their preaching work and offered help by “ministering to them from their belongings.” (Luke 8:1-3) In this way they spent some time in Jehovah’s Kingdom service while the nation of natural circumcised Israel was still the “vineyard” of Jehovah God. They were the last vineyard laborers to be employed by the Owner, and they labored in Israel till Jesus’ death in the year 33 C.E.
26. (a) At the close of the day’s work the time came for what, according to God’s Law? (b) At all events, what would the part-time laborers get?
26 The work under the Law covenant in the “vineyard” of natural Israel came to a close, like the work of a twelve-hour day. Then came pay time for the laborers. Because of the immediate daily needs of the common people, it was God’s law under the old Mosaic covenant that workers should be paid at the close of the day’s work, not at the end of the week or end of the month. (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15) Those who had put in full time, working in the “vineyard” during the twelve hours of daylight, were sure of receiving a “penny” according to the agreement made with the Householder. What would the later, part-time workers get? Whatever it would be, it would be “whatever is just,” according to what the Householder told those whom he engaged for work at the third hour of the workday. Ordinarily, the laborers employed for only the twelfth hour of the day could expect to receive very little pay.
27. In what order were the workers in the parable paid, how much, and with what reactions by some?
27 Well, pay time turned out to be a time of surprises, and the unusual rule enunciated by Jesus was put into operation. Note this fact, as Jesus’ parable goes on to say: “So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last.”—Matt. 20:8-16, AV; Dy.a
EVENING AND PAY TIME
28. In the parable’s first fulfillment, when did the “evening” come, to close the day’s work?
28 In the first fulfillment of the parable the evening came and brought the workday to a close when Jesus Christ was arrested on Passover night of the year 33 C.E. and died on the torture stake at Calvary the following afternoon. Jesus had prophetically indicated this when, about six months before his death, he said to his apostles: “It was in order that the works of God might be made manifest in his case. We must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the world’s light.” (John 9:3-5) When Jesus was dead for parts of three days (Nisan 14-16, 33 C.E.), he could not work as a man in God’s “vineyard” of Israel. (Eccl. 9:5, 10) Neither could his eleven faithful apostles, for they were scattered like sheep without a shepherd. When they met together, it was behind closed doors, for fear of the hostile Jews. (John 16:32; Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27; Zech. 13:7; John 20:19, 26) They did not resume any public work until Pentecost came.
29. (a) At Jesus’ death natural Israel ceased to be what, and why? (b) Despite extended favor to Israel for three and a half years’ time afterward, what did the great Vineyard Owner now have?
29 Jesus Christ was put to death at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders, the “first” people of the nation. Then the nation of Israel ceased to be God’s “vineyard.” Jesus’ death on the stake was God’s means for bringing the Law covenant with the nation of Israel to an end. By means of his death as a ransom sacrifice the “Law of commandments consisting in decrees” was abolished. The “handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees,” was blotted out; it was taken out of the way by being nailed, as it were, to Christ’s torture stake, in cancellation thereof. (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14) True, for three and a half years after that, Jehovah God continued his special favor to natural Israel, giving them the first opportunities for the Kingdom, but the nation ceased to be His “vineyard.” God now had begun a spiritual “vineyard,” in which his Son Jesus Christ was the Vine and his disciples were the branches. (John 15:1-8) Indeed, then, the twelve-hour workday in God’s vineyard of natural Israel came to a close at Jesus’ death at Calvary.
30. When did the pay time come, and how did God use his Steward to deal out the pay?
30 This being so, when did pay time come? At Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on the third day, Nisan 16, 33 C.E.? No, even though Jesus did appear exclusively to his disciples for forty days thereafter, making exclusively them witnesses of his resurrection. (Acts 1:1-8; 10:40-42) But there was no open display of these favored disciples of Jesus, even for ten days after he ascended to heaven. Then came the festival day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., and with it pay time. It was then that the lord or master of the vineyard, namely, Jehovah God, told his steward, foreman or “man in charge,” to pay the workers. God used the glorified Jesus Christ in heaven as his steward or “man in charge,” for God used him to pour out the holy spirit upon the workers on the Pentecostal day. (John 1:32-34; 14:16, 17; 15:26; 16:7; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-8; 2:32, 33) In paying the workers their wage, Jesus Christ up in heaven followed the unusual rule that he had declared down here on earth.
31. At Pentecost, who were the first ones to be paid, and how had they till then been ranked?
31 Who, then, were the first ones to be paid at Pentecost? The outpouring of the holy spirit upon those who were there in Jerusalem on that Pentecostal day of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest revealed this. It was the “last” ones who had been sent into the vineyard of natural Israel, and who had worked with the “man in charge,” the Steward Jesus Christ. These were also the “last ones” whom the religious leaders of the nation of Israel would expect to receive a full day’s wage, a symbolic “penny,” from the great Householder and Master of the vineyard, Jehovah God.
32. The proof of who had been paid first of the workers was made known how, and who came together to witness this?
32 Contrary to Jewish expectations, the first ones paid were the despised twelve apostles of Jesus Christ and the rest of the congregation of 120 disciples that were meeting quietly together in an upper room, withdrawn from the multitude of Jews and proselytes who were celebrating Pentecost at the temple of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the proof of who was paid first of the workers in God’s “vineyard” was made known by a miracle. It occurred in conjunction with the outpouring of the holy spirit upon the 120 disciples, and over three thousand Jews and proselytes came to the place to witness this strange spectacle.—Acts 1:5; 2:1-13, 41.
33. How did Peter explain what they were beholding taking place, and how many sought to avail themselves of the gift of the spirit?
33 Well, “different ones laughed at them and began to say: ‘They are full of sweet wine.’” So the apostle Peter was first to get up and explain that Christ’s disciples, filled with spirit, were not drunk but that this was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joe 2:28, 29). Also, that the resurrected Jesus Christ, exalted to God’s right hand in the heavens, had received the promised holy spirit and had poured it out upon his disciples on earth in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29. Then all twelve of the apostles explained that this promised gift of the holy spirit was available also for the rest of the Jews, if they repented and got baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and became his disciples. About three thousand of the observers and hearers did so and became part of the congregation of spiritual Israel, God’s new “vineyard.”—Acts 2:37-42.
34. What, then, was the “penny,” and when and where was it to be used by the receivers?
34 Thus the symbolic “penny” was not the gift of the holy spirit in itself. It was the privilege that went with the receiving of the holy spirit, namely, the privilege of being a member of spiritual Israel, authorized to prophesy in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29, anointed to preach the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom. Thus they would be fruit-bearing branches in Jehovah’s spiritual vine, the Lord Jesus Christ. They were taken into the new covenant, which Jesus Christ mediated between Jehovah God and the congregation of these symbolic vine branches. (Jer. 31:31-34; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 8:6 to 9:15) The symbolic “penny” was, therefore, something that meant their livelihood, their everlasting life in God’s new order. It was something for their use here on earth, not up in heaven.
35. What did the ones hired “early in the morning” hear and see, and how was the “penny” available for them also?
35 How about those who were hired first, “early in the morning,” as it were, to work in God’s vineyard of natural Israel? These “first ones,” the Jewish high priests, underpriests, Levites, scribes, lawyers versed in the Mosaic law, soon heard and observed that Jesus’ disciples had been paid for their late work in God’s vineyard of natural Israel. They saw them using the symbolic “penny.” The full day’s wage was available for them also, particularly since Jehovah God continued to deal with the nation of Israel exclusively for about three and a half years after that.
36. (a) Through whom, however, would they have to accept the “penny”? (b) Accepting it thus would cost them what things hitherto enjoyed?
36 However, such religious leaders had to accept the full day’s pay, the “penny,” through God’s Steward, namely, the glorified Jesus Christ. But to do this would mean their doing what the Lord Jesus Christ had told the rich young ruler to do. (Matt. 19:21) It would mean their giving up their places of honor, importance, power and material income in the temple of Jerusalem, in the synagogues and in the sánhedrins, their sitting in the “seat of Moses,” their being called Rabbi, and their having a place and position that was recognized and allowed by the Roman government. Such things had been coming to them as good pay for their services in God’s “vineyard” of Israel down till Pentecost of 33 C.E. True, they had agreed with the great Householder, the Owner of the “vineyard,” for the gift of the holy spirit in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29. But now, to give up all their hitherto religious advantages in Israel and to receive the holy spirit outpoured by Jesus Christ and thus be anointed to do the work of disciples of Jesus Christ along with his apostles, people of the “last” rank, eleventh-hour workers, all this would cost them too much.
37. So were they satisfied to receive just the “penny,” and how did their attitude express itself toward the “last” laborers?
37 In their pay from God they wanted more than the holy spirit and its miraculous gifts and its associated Kingdom privileges. So they wanted more than the symbolic “penny.” Hence these “first” laborers murmured against the Owner of the “vineyard” and were loath to accept just the “penny,” just as doubtless the rich young ruler did in contrast with the apostle Peter. Their murmuring and objections took the form of persecuting Christ’s disciples, the “last” laborers to be engaged in the “vineyard.”—Matt. 20:10-12.
38. What shows whether all those “first” laborers refused the “penny,” and at what did some prefer to keep working?
38 Of course, there were some temple Levites, like Joseph Barnabas of Cyprus, that accepted the “penny.” (Acts 4:36, 37) And even after the twelve apostles were imprisoned and tried by the Jerusalem Sánhedrin for using the “penny” in God’s service, the report in Acts 6:7 informs us, “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” Even Saul of Tarsus, a personal friend of the Jewish high priest, accepted the “penny,” even though he had been a Pharisee. (Acts 9:1-22; Phil. 3:4-6) But most of these “first” laborers, these religious leaders of Jewry, kept on working at their hitherto religious privileges in natural Israel and getting their regular pay for this as allowed by the Law of Moses, refusing the “penny.”
39. How long did they keep at this type of religious service, but what did Jesus’ disciples keep using?
39 They kept up this type of religious service until the year 70 C.E. Then their temple in Jerusalem was taken away from them. They lost their jobs there and the Romans came and took away both their place and their nation, not because of accepting Jesus Christ, but because of rejecting him and refusing the “penny.” (John 11:47, 48) Their eye was wicked because Jehovah God was good toward the disciples of Jesus Christ. As for these disciples, including the apostle John, they continued using their “penny” to accomplish God’s Kingdom service and to gain their own everlasting life, despite the persecution.—Mark 10:29, 30; Rev. 1:9.
a The words “for many be called, but few chosen,” found in Matthew 20:16 of the Authorized Version and the Douay Version, are not found in the Fourth Century Sinaitic and Vatican No. 1209 Bible manuscripts and are therefore omitted by modern Bible versions.
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“You too go into the vineyard”
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“They each received a denarius”