But Religious Leaders Don’t
Verse 29 tells us “…he changed his mind and went” (21:29). In the end, the first son did what his father had asked him to do.
The first son came around.
So Jesus asks the religious leaders, “Which…did what his father wanted?” Obviously, the religious leaders get the message loud and clear and reply “the first” (21:31a).
But this story isn’t just about a couple of sons and a vineyard. This is about something far more important and far more eternal.
It’s all about the Kingdom.
As we’ve seen many times in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom again. Though there were two sons, there’s only going to be one survivor.
When all is said and done, only one type of son is going to make the cut. Because only one son listened to his father’s instruction, only one son will survive, only one son will see the Kingdom.
Jesus lays out the harsh truth.
At this point in the conversation, Jesus gives the religious leaders a good verbal smack-down. Though he speaks absolute truth, Jesus words would have been incredibly insulting; especially considering the amount of people who were in earshot.
Jesus tells them that “…tax collectors and the prostitutes…” will get into the kingdom before they will (21:31b).
Then Jesus comes full circle back to John the Baptist’s ministry (see Sunday’s post), but this time, homes in directly on their heart condition: Jesus says, when “…John came…you did not believe…” (21:32a).
Tax collectors and prostitutes will make the cut.
You see, in Jesus day, tax collectors and prostitutes were not well put-together people. In Jesus’ day, these folks were the lowest of the low. But according to Jesus they can make it into the Kingdom.
According to Jesus, they’re the ones who joined John the Baptist down to the water and repented. According to Jesus, even tax collectors and prostitutes can experience the good life. Even with all their struggles, their heartache and their baggage, they can survive to see the Kingdom.
These religious leaders don’t get it!
John the Baptist showed them how to receive righteousness, but they never repented. And yet, the most defiant and rebellious people, people like “…tax collectors and the prostitutes,” these people were willing to “…repent and believe…” (21:32b).
Like the first son in the parable, these sinful people turned back and repented, but the religious leaders continue their deceptive façade.
And even now, as Christ calls them to the carpet, they’re still acting like they appreciate John the Baptist’s ministry, just so they’ll be popular with the people.
The religious leaders deception is nauseating.
Coming back to our previous thought, Jesus makes it very clear that there are two types of people. However, only one type of person will survive and see the Kingdom.
The person who turns and comes back to the Father will survive.
So what’s the take home for us?
Well, once again, every time Jesus focuses on someone’s heart condition, I find Jesus working on my heart condition as well.
As I contemplate the application from this parable, I find that I must ask myself a difficult question: What type of son am I? Or better phrased, What type of Christian am I?
Am I the defiant son?
Am I like the first son, a Christian who’s been making some bad decisions lately? Have I been directly defying what my Father wants for my life?
Have I heard the Father’s instructions, but have chosen to rebel? Have I rejected the Father’s voice to go my own way and do my own thing?
Am I the deceptive son?
Am I like the second son, a Christian who’s like the religious leaders, concerned with saying and doing all the right things so that I look good?
Is my primary concern that people think I’m a godly person?
Perhaps you’re asking these questions?
What type of son (or daughter) am I? What type of Christian am I?
Thankfully, we have good news. Regardless of which son we are; regardless of which type Christian we’ve been, we can always come back to the Father’s instruction.
Whether we have been living in deception or defiance, we can turn back and head for the Father’s vineyard to complete the work He has set before us. We can turn and come back to the vineyard.