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The Parables of Jesus Part 15
Matthew 21:23-32 - Do you say “yes, sir”, then walk away from submission to the Lord?
“When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
“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, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They *said, “The first.” Jesus *said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes 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 collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.”
Matthew 21:23-32 NASB1995
The next parable comes from Matthew 21. Jesus has entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and is coming and going to the temple (while staying in Bethany) on this last week of His earthly mission. He is teaching the people and the elders and chief priests approach Him asking where He gets the authority to do the things He has done. He counters their question about His authority with a question: “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” They realized that Jesus has trapped them into an answer that betrays their fears over what happened to John and how the people looked to him as a prophet. They end up with a cowardly statement that “we don’t know”, so Jesus refuses to tell them where His authority comes from.
He then moves into this intriguing parable about the father and his two sons. The father goes to the first son and asks him to go work today in the vineyard. The son answers, “I will not”, but then regretted his answer and went into the vineyard to work. The man came to his second son and asked him to go work the vineyard and he replied, “I will, sir”, but he never went. Jesus asks the interrogators which son did the will of the father and they said “the first”. Jesus then tells them that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of heaven ahead of them because John came in the way of righteousness and he was accepted by sinners but not believed by the “religious experts”.
In researching this, many Biblical commentators are all over the map as to its meaning, hence my picture above of lost people consulting a complicated map. I have to agree with someone who commented on one of my previous parable devotionals that these stories are not meant to be easily interpreted, but to give listeners something to ponder. Unfortunately, the resources at Precept Austin are fairly limited in these later chapters of Matthew (he is apparently still working on the details that are so useful) but I did find an interesting Charles Spurgeon sermon (at this Link), but I was unable to grab the text out of that sermon so you can read that one at your leisure. So I turn once again to Enduring Word to help with the parable:
Son, go work today in my vineyard: There is much to see in these simple words of the father to the son.
The father spoke to this son individually; he did not speak to the sons together. Though the same invitation was given to both sons (he came to the second and said likewise), it was an individual call to work.
The father appealed to him first as a son. Knowing he was the son of his father should have made him willing to do his will.
The father asked the son to work; to participate together in the family business. Yet it was work and not play.
The father asked the son to work today, not in some distant time.
The father asked the son to work in “my vineyard.” It belonged to the father, so it should have mattered to the son.
He answered and said, “I will not,” but afterward he regretted it and went: The first son refused to work for his father. He didn’t want to bend to the father’s will. Yet later he regretted it and went. He spoke wrong, but did right.
[The man came to the second son and asked] He answered and said, “I go, sir,” but he did not go: The second son said the right thing and he said it with respect (sir), but he did not do what he said he would.
There are many churchgoers that imitate the second son.
They admit that the Word of God is true.
They intend to get serious about it someday.
They talk about doing the Father’s work.
They keep up the external appearance of religion, but their heart is not right with God.
They think that words and promises are enough.
“The second son said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he went not; and these people do not go. They talk of repenting, but they do not repent. They speak of believing, but they never believe. They think of submitting to God, but they have not submitted themselves to him yet. They say it is time they broke up the fallow ground, and sought the Lord, but they do not seek him. It all ends in a mere promise.” (Charles Spurgeon)
They are sinning against the light, because they know better. This is dangerous, because it is lying to the Holy Spirit; it is dangerous, because it hardens the conscience.
The first son is disobedient, but knows that is wrong and he repents and goes to work in the vineyard. This son is a lot like some people who initially refuse to do something for God, then realize that they are sinning against the Father and regret that and dig into the work. The second son is an example of so many people that fill church pews in this day and age. They say “yes”, then turn and walk away from submission and serving. They bring an empty promise. They want to be comfortable or in pursuit of “spirituality”, not taking up their cross in full commitment.
The desperate sinners at first said “no”, but then jumped in wholeheartedly, like the first son. The Pharisees thought they had it in the bag with God, but they are frauds, like the second son, because they refused to see Jesus as the Son of God nor did the repentance of others move them. Personally, I think I’m somewhere between the first son and the second son, still wanting my “own space” and unsure of how to fulfill the promise of my commitments. Certainly worth praying about!
My next devotional examines a parable that is told right after this one in Matthew 21, the parable of the tenants. A similar parable is also found in Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord: Help me to be better than either of the two sons, eager to submit to Your will and service and to follow through on my commitments to You. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.