You remember the parable of the two sons Jesus talks about? In Matthew 21, Jesus tells a parable, speaking to all sorts of people, but appearing to focus on those who are hypocritical and self-righteous. He says, “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” It seems every time Jesus talks in these parables, there’s so much packed in each one. I think he’s trying to reveal the hypocrisy of some of those in the audience, inspire repentance, show the mercy and grace of God, and possibly provoke some of those who think they’ve got it all figured out.
Before I go on, I’d like to say that I really don’t know a whole lot about everything that is going on here but I would like to tell you what my take is on this parable and how it has convicted me. So, it seems there are Pharisees and other people who were known for their hypocritical lifestyle among many other people from different backgrounds in the audience. Jesus appears to tell this parable in a way that is not preachy, giving his audience a lesson, but in a way that inspires self-conviction. We’ve all been in a situation similar to these two sons. We’ve been given a task we may not want to do, but we have been asked and we should follow through. I find myself in situations like this all the time. Not just limited to obeying my own father, but with other people as well. For instance, one thing I do all the time when someone asks me to pray for them is to say, “Definitely, I’ll pray for you.” Later, I find that I just pushed it in the back of my mind and I completely disregarded their request. How hypocritical of me! I wish I could go back to those people whom I told them I would pray for them so that I could repent…I would probably just push that to the back of my mind too…(Lord, forgive me, sinner that I am).
God’s grace allows us to repent, move on and take steps to live more obediently. This grace is shown in this parable. When the first son says, “I will not,” he is deliberately disobedient. He probably thinks about it and is convicted, so he repents and goes to work. Even though this son sins, Jesus uses this as an example that we will sin, but God shows mercy on us and allows us to repent and take a step toward doing the will of our Father. Jesus is more concerned with us obeying that the work actually getting done, which is evident in his question. He asks, “Who did what his father wanted?” not specifically, “Who worked in the vineyard?” He cares that both get done, but if our heart is changed, our actions will show it.
Then he says after they answered him that the sinners and tax collectors will enter the kingdom of heaven ahead of them. How provocative is that? How upside-down is that from their point of view? They’re thinking, “Prostitutes and sinners?…They’re entering heaven before me? But I follow all the laws and commandments!” And yet, Jesus says this to reveal that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a place we can get into by following laws or going to church or just “working in the vineyard.” It’s a place for sinners who repent and realize that we don’t have everything figured out. It’s a place for people who have been transformed by a God who loves us unconditionally; for prostitutes, drunkards, addicts, sinners who embrace Jesus because of his love. So here’s our chance – let’s repent and lay down our pride, after we said no, and go work in the vineyard. We might find out all the other workers there are just like us. Who are we fooling anyway? God?
This inspirational word was brought to you by Mike Huggins of Grace & Main Fellowship.