Jesus is in the temple and begins this parable…“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, 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 tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)
Matthew’s Jesus has just entered Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna!! Right out of the box, Jesus cleanses the temple, curses the fig tree, has his authority questioned and then provides today’s short but powerful parable. The fundamental question of the parable is about who does the will of the Father.
It is a very human story about a man who owns a vineyard and his 2 sons. The man needs work done in the vineyard and goes to the first son who at first refuses and then changes his mind and goes. The second son politely, using ‘sir’, agrees to the request and then goes away doing nothing. In this parable, who does the will of the Father? This is the question Jesus asks to the chief priests and the elders of the people.
Truth be told, both sons leave a little bit to be desired. Yes, the first son, representing tax collectors and sinners is a bit better than the second son who Jesus uses to represent the Scribes and Pharisees…but, neither are perfect. Ideally, the one who brings real joy to the Father is the one who willingly hears and gladly obeys.
Devotional Thought: This past Sunday many Americans sat around watching the Super Bowl for the half-time commercials. Maybe you had your favorite. Have you ever considered yourself to be a commercial for Christianity and the Church? Every day…think about it, every day, the way we live our lives either attracts or turns away people to Christianity. Every person who is either a member or has some functional role in the Church is a living advertisement…a living commercial for Christianity and the Church. This is awe-inspiring and, quite frankly, very intimidating when placed in the context of doing the will of the Father and it led me to think about the song by Sidewalk Prophets…”Live Like That” containing the following lyrics:
Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs.
Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song
I want to live like that…