September 10th, 2021 – Matthew 21:28

Verse of the Day Devotion  Matthew 21:28  But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’

Today we will look at the Parable of the Two Sons, the first of three parables, in sequence, that depict God’s indictment and sentence of the present Jewish Leadership, unless they realize their errors and turn to the truth. Jesus does not reject Israel as a whole, only the current leadership, which has rejected him. The contrast is not between Jews and Gentiles but rather between those who reject and those who accept Jesus.  Here is this parable as found in Matthew’s gospel.

But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, Son, go work today in the vineyard. And he answered and said, I will, sir’; and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, I will not; yet he afterward regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father?  They said, The latter.  Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.” Matthew 21:28-32.

This parable starts by introducing a man who has two sons. There are several things that need to be done, so he goes to one of his sons and says, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” Matthew 21:28a. The son tells his father he will go out and work, but then does not.  He then goes to his second son and says the same thing, and he tells his father no, he would not go, but later regrets his decision and ultimately goes out and does what his father asked.  Both sons give opposite answers, but later do the contrary of what they told their father.

In this parable, Jesus is addressing the Jewish officials who continue to refuse to accept His divine authority, or to acknowledge John’s prophetic ministry.  “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.” Matthew 21:32.  What Jesus was saying here was that the most notorious of sinners, tax collectors and harlots, will get into heaven before they will. This does not mean that ethical considerations do not apply and that the worst of sinners keep on with the worst of their sins in the kingdom. It means that sinners like outcasts could respond to the message of the kingdom much more readily than sinners whose sins were cast in the conventional mode that brought no rebuke from the religious establishment.  As long as there was no rebuke from the Jewish leadership, then they believed there was no problem.

God has called us to do His work just as the father called his sons to do his will. Are we like the son who said ‘yes’ but did not carry through, or like the one who said ‘no’ but then repents and does it?  Many times, people promise to do things for God, or have every intention of doing them at the time but fail to because something else came up and was raised to priority one, over and above what God called us to. Like the son who ultimately disobeyed, some promise but do not perform it as they promised and so are rejected by God. Like the son who ultimately obeyed, some rebel but later submit and so are accepted.  The Jewish leadership would not accept Jesus as the promised Messiah because He did not fit the mold they believed the Messiah would follow, even though John laid out clearly who Jesus was. 

I want to close this with a quote from the Theologian Adam Clarke. “It is very difficult to get a worldly minded and self-righteous man brought to Christ. Examples signify little to him. Urge the example of an eminent saint, he is discouraged at it. Show him a profligate sinner converted to God, him he is ashamed to own and follow; and, as to the conduct of the generality of the followers of Christ, it is not striking enough to impress him. John, and Christ, and the apostles preach; but, to multitudes, all is in vain.”

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

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