The Last Shall be First

Towards the end of Christ’s ministry on earth, Jesus is highlighting the theme “the last shall be first” a few times to ingrain the disciples of a key Kingdom principle.



The last shall be first

Who are the last?

The ABCD of Kingdom Values:

  • A – Allegiance to Christ
  • B – Blessedness
  • C- Childlike love

D – Devotion for life

Bible Passage

Bible Passages: Matt 20.1-16; Luke 13.30

Matt 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

Bible Passage

Matt 20:7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.

Bible Passage

Matt 20:11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Just prior to this, Jesus is talking to the disciples pertaining to the rich young ruler and concludes with. The first shall be last is the theme of the passage. This story again concludes with this statement.

Prior and post these there are incidences of the disciples arguing of who is the greatest. The incident soon following indicates mother of James and John asking for special positions for her sons.


Jesus knows that the disciples are beginning to be aware of who he is and now looking forward to exalted positions for themselves due to this connection.

He provides several examples and stories highlighting the difference in pecking order in His kingdom.

The punch line is “the last shall be first” which is repeated elsewhere as in Luke 13:30


Luke 13:28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

The parable

Jesus mentions a common scene of daily wagers working in a vineyard from 9 am to 6 pm.

Those coming at 9 am agree for a wage. The ones coming at 5 pm are also hired.

When it comes to paying the salaries, he calls the ones who came at 5 pm first and gives them the same amount promised to the ones who came at 9 pm.

The ones who worked the whole day are irked.

The parable

First up, everyone who works in the Lord’s vineyard are amply rewarded. In fact everything we get is a bonus as we have been saved by grace.

Jesus, reminds “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?

He has bought every worker with His own blood?

The ones who worked the whole day are irked.

The last shall be first

Who are the first and the last?

Kingdom value does not follow earthly logic

Highlighted many times in His ministry and in the gospels, summed up in this parable.

While the verse in Luke comes as a conclusion to the feast where one application could be the unbelieving Jews as first and believing Gentiles as those who came in later, there is a broader application to all of us believers.

Jesus is explaining a Kingdom principle in many ways. A principle contrary to human logic

Who are the last?

As we recap Jesus’ lessons

Beginning with true blessedness

Followed up by stunning faith by some Gentiles

Highlighted by child

Topped up by the bold rejection by the rich young ruler ready to do everything but not ready to give everything.

And many more

Modelled by Jesus himself

Who are the last?

The A, B, C, D of Jesus teachings throughout his ministry highlights these special people and attributes we just saw.

A – Allegiance to Christ

B – Blessedness

C – Childlike faith

D – Devotion for life

Allegiance to Christ

The psalmist in Psalm 2 talks of the world leaders (under Satan’s control) battling with the God and warns world leaders to show allegiance to Christ.

Psalm 2:10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Allegiance to Christ

Jesus himself reminds us the He is the greatest King and all kings and people would do well to show their allegiance to Him.

Luke 14:31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Allegiance to Christ

While our lips declare it, our mind and heart are often far away.

Our feelings and reactions betray us when we respond to situations and people in the world.

We are reminded that our sinful nature is still at large and we need to constantly remind ourselves of the one truth – Jesus.

We need to talk our sinful nature out of it’s default behaviours and inclinations with the help of the Spirit of God.


Jesus begins the sermon on the mount with the “winning attitudes” of truly blessed people. The poor in spirit, those who mourn (lament over sin), meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, persecuted for righteousness sake.

These are qualities and characteristics of people who rate high in the Kingdom of God.

Childlike faith

Jesus highlighted this faith more in a few Gentiles like the Centurian and the Syrophoenician woman.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him” Hebrews 11.

When do we need this faith?

Every day. As we seek to live by Kingdom Principles when the world is shouting out it’s own standards.

Childlike faith

Even the stereotype of an effective Christian created in the church – popular, dynamic, high social media following, number of positions and committees to their name, accepted by many in the Church, gifted, recognized, etc. The list goes on.

Jesus is looking for a faith that has an “out of the box” perception.

That seeks different things

That gains satisfaction even when “the fig tree does not blossom”.


Childlike faith

The world is full of sorrows and trials in addition to it’s joys.

When we get hit with any, we need faith to pull through, to believe that it’s all for the best.

When we are confronted with weaknesses and inadequacies, we need faith to believe that God made us a complete package to fulfil His great work through our lives.

When we are presented with a horse view on what service is, we believe that the most important thing is doing what God purposed for us and is fully enabling us to do what He wants us to do.


Childlike faith

As Barclay says, it is a blessing to “plant a tree and let someone else water it. To make a song and let some one else sing it.

We all fit in the grand scheme of things and need not try to fit into stereotypes. It requires faith to believe this and live out our true destiny to the fullest.

However small and insignificant our contribution may seem, we need to be faithful to the end and commit it to the hand the multiplies beyond what we can count.


Devotion to God

Christ’s first question to Peter “do you love me more than these”.

His main issue with the Ephesus Church – “you have lost your fist love”

Are se truly devoted to God, not only in song and action but in thought and heart

Loving the Lord with “all your mind, soul and strength” was actually a command in the Old Testament albeit a much ignored one.


1.How do we unconsciously show allegiance to the world? demonstrate our allegiance to Christ?

2.Which of the “winning attitudes” in Matthew 5:3-11 do you wish to have more of? Why?

3.Where do we falter in our faith in our day to day lives?

4.How can we battle other attractions and demonstrate devotion to Christ alone?


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