The kingdom of heaven is like a scandalous situation. That is the point of the parable. The impossibility of salvation with man immediately before (19:26) and the cross of Christ immediately after (20:17-19) couches this parable in a profound context. Jesus is illustrating the principle given in response to Peter: God is debtor to none. But here, He goes still further. God is gracious to whom He wills. Mercy, not merit is our only plea. Jesus shows that the self-righteous (“the first”) are outraged by grace. Grace is outrageous to those who work hard and sacrifice and suffer to receive a payoff. Yet, the outrage of “the first” is best seen in connection with “the last.” This story brings out the unfairness of God’s grace. It is a parable designed to offend the proud and self-sufficient. It foretells the offense of Christ and the scandal of the cross. It explains why the offer of the kingdom is offensive—even outrageous.