Everyone enjoys a well-written story. Wouldn’t you agree? Whether the plot encompasses love, drama, or suspense; we can’t wait to see how the story ends. Because Jesus conveys His messages in such a compelling fashion, I believe He is the ultimate storyteller. His parables stir a gamut of emotion. His stories relate to our own experiences, which, in turn, make them very eye opening. Some may convict us and move us to action; others leave us staring at the pages of our bible – jaws dropped and eyes filled with tears.
However you experience these stories, one thing is certain — Jesus taught so we would know God more deeply, love Him more intimately, and ultimately have eternity in His presence. The scripture we anchor in today is known as the parable of the two sons. This parable has been called one of the most powerful of all of Jesus’ teachings. Second only to His Sermon on the Mount, some theologians say. Shall we dig in?
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)
Jesus recited this parable after He made a triumphant entrance into the city, fulfilling the prophesy told about the coming Messiah. It was written; He would enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matthew 21:4-5)
The crowds were rejoicing as Jesus arrived. A path was made for His entrance into the city by those shouting, “Hosanna!” While this joyous celebration ensued, the leaders of the law watched in horror. The Pharisee’s, who knew the prophesies the most, turned their faces and their hearts the other way. They refused to believe that Jesus was, in fact, the long awaited for Messiah. How could they not accept Him?
The promises of the Old Testament proclaim the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, was a prophet who foretold the coming of Jesus to the multitudes. Many received his message and he baptized them. Even tax collectors came to believe John, even though they did not obey the law at first. The tax collectors represent the first son in this parable. They ultimately came to know Jesus and would receive him as Messiah because they accepted the way of righteousness John preached about. This is something to celebrate!
On the other hand, the Pharisees knew the law. Some Pharisees believed John’s message but could not or would not believe Jesus was who He said He was. Devastating! The men who followed the letter of the law would not know Christ when looking right at Him. Thus, they represent son number two in the parable. Even being given this second take, still no repentance. There would be no acceptance of Christ Jesus – by the Pharisees – even in the wake of claiming obedience to God. So what’s the plot twist? Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”
The tax collector’s and prostitutes were considered the worst of sinners at this time. This parable allows us to see the reality that Jesus takes the lowest and lifts them above those who were believed to be the highest. This parable allows us to see the fullest measure of grace against the backdrop of the worst and fullest of sin. Our God redeemed the lost, the broken, the hurting, the worst of sinners — because they believed. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Until the moment you take your last breath, you have a second chance. Your “take two” is waiting for you. Even if you are currently running away from God, His grace awaits you. His mercy is for you. If you were like the first son, who initially said “no,” but now you wish to confess, repent and run to Jesus — don’t wait another moment. The love of God covers a multitude of sin. Turn to Him and receive what He has for you.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Holding Fast to Hope,