Scripture Reference: Matthew 21:28-32
Jesus never satisfied idle curiosity, but He was always very receptive to the questions of the sincere truth seekers. He was hostile towards hypocrisy, while being tender and merciful towards sinners, readily answering their questions.
For the most part, the religious leaders rejected Him and His teachings. They attempted to brush Him aside as either insignificant or a crazed madman. However, as time went on and Jesus grew in popularity among the crowds, they could no longer ignore Him. In fact, they soon felt threatened by His power and authority. They questioned His authority to His face, tried to trick Him with sly questions and spied on Him every opportunity they had.
It was shortly after they questioned His authority that He started to address them quite directly through a series of parables. They got the reference to themselves in these stories and wanted all the more to get rid of Him. One of those parables was the parable of the two sons.
He starts to relate the parable, interestingly enough, by asking them a question: “What do you think?” It will be their own words, eventually, which will condemn them. A father, He says, had two sons. He asked the one to be of service to him, but the son refused. However, he later repented of his disobedience and did as the father asked. The father asked the second son the same question, and this good boy said yes immediately. But, he never got around to fulfilling his promise to his father. So, asks Jesus, who was ultimately obedient to the father? “First son,” was their reply.
It was the one who appeared resolute in his disobedience who eventually did as his father requested. And Jesus then shows them how this relates to them. The first son signified the ‘sinners’ they looked down upon. The second son were representative of them –the religious leaders –who with their ramrod stiff religious rectitude rejected the way of life John the Baptist came to show them. John did not do religion like they did it and they refused to see that he was sent by God. They did not believe him. Even after they saw the preaching of John resulting in the changed lives of those very sinners they sneered at, they still refused to see the work of God in action. They still refused to believe.
So, says Jesus, those who think they are better than others because of their own religious works; those who think that God can work through no one but through their church; those who think that rites and rituals are more important than changed lives lived out daily as a testimony to the power of God, these are the ones who may think they will enter the kingdom of God. But these are the ones who will be left out in the dark, and those very people they looked down on, they are the ones who will be welcomed in His kingdom. Why? Because they never came to Him resting on their own merits, but remained humble enough to allow the word to change them.
- Ignoring Some Stuff and Looking for the Right Stuff (jesuscarriesme.com)
- There Is No Middle Ground with Jesus (resources.wcrossing.org)