(Jesus explained to his disciples), “So the last shall be first and the first last.”
Jesus often told stories to emphasize his point, and in Matthew chapter 20 Jesus tried one more time to
clarify how someone would gain entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven. What the story breaks down to is that
those who were added to the work force at the last minute were considered equal to those who’d put in a
considerable more time and effort, resulting in what they believed to be an inequitable result; namely,
everyone received the same paycheck regardless of how much they worked. The immediate human reaction
to this would be to cry “unfair.” But when it comes to the subject of someone receiving Jesus as their
personal Savior on their death bed, we go “okay, that’s different.” No it isn’t. It’s exactly the same thing, and
that’s what Jesus was pointing out. Humans rarely get the picture from God’s perspective, myself included.
One dictionary example defines ‘human’ as being ‘susceptible to weakness’ and that includes the mental as
well as the physical. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get the concept from God’s idea of justice, and many
people never get it even then. (Maybe they don’t want to).
Later, in the same chapter, Jesus was confronted by the mother of James and John who were two
of his disciples. She had the nerve and lack of foresight to request that her sons be seated on Jesus’ left
and right in the next life. Number one: ill-considered self-centered move on her part. Number two: if she’d
paid attention to what was going on she would have known she couldn’t blindside Jesus. What came out of
this after Jesus corrected her misstep (Matthew 20:28) is that He advised the group around him that He had
come to give his life as a ransom for many, ransom being the result of his death and resurrection.
Big statement here. He didn’t say the He would die and be resurrected for ‘the many,’ an expression used
more than once by Mr. Spock in Star Trek, nor did He say He’d die for everyone. What He said was in direct
accordance with the Scriptures leading up to this point, which was his
m.o. (“modus operandi” if you’re in police work). He was saying that He would die for the ransom
of those whom God had foreordained to spend eternity in His presence. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed
you in the womb I knew you.....and set you apart.” And David, too, “When you looked upon my yet unformed
body, you planned my entire life even before I was born.” (Psalm 139:16) Job, Isaiah, and scores of others
attested to the same thing. Let’s face it, one of God’s attributes is omniscience, which means God knows
everything; always did, always will. Thankfully.
Getting back to the “last shall be first and the first last,” it would appear that we are indeed expected to live a
life reflective of our following in the footsteps of Jesus, yet we cannot anticipate special privileges just for
doing what we know we should. God has reasons and methods far beyond our comprehension. Isaiah 55:8
quotes the Almighty: “My thoughts are not your thoughts and neither are your ways My ways.” Well, that
might be an ethereal put down, but we need to remember also that simultaneously our place in the grand
scheme is of utmost importance. God cares, and cares so much that even if someone accepts Jesus as
Savior a split second before transitioning into his or her eternal state, that all is equal in the perception of our
Redeemer. Saved is saved no matter for how long. And it would appear that those who are the last to make
it across the threshold will be at the head of the line.