Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.
Don Schwager offers a poignant reflection on this passage.
Any father (or son) can relate.
Jesus asks us a simple question: What do you think? Who will inherit the kingdom of heaven? Scripture warns that the proud and the haughty will fall, but the humble and lowly will be raised up. Pride leads to sin and rebellion. Humility leads to repentance and submission to the will of God. The prophets of Israel warned their people that unfaithfulness and disobedience would lead to their downfall they would be scattered among the nations and lose everything that was once precious to them their temple and holy city Jerusalem, their royal priesthood, their unity as a holy nation, and their covenant relationship with God as his chosen ones would be damaged as well. Israel suffered disgrace and lost hope of mercy and restoration. The prophet Zephaniah reminded his people that God would bring healing, pardon, and restoration to those who turned back to him with repentance and trust. Jesus shocked the self-righteous Jews, who outwardly practiced the external rituals of their religion while inwardly harboring evil thoughts and intentions, by declaring that the tax collectors and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before them. Jesus illustrated his point with a simple story of two imperfect sons. The father amply provided for his sons everthing they needed food, clothing, and shelter. He thought they would be grateful to work for him in exchange for his generous provision and care for them. He expected them to show their gratitude and respect through their obedience and diligence in tending his vineyard. Although the “rebellious” son told his father to his face that he would not work for him, he afterwards changed his mind and did what his father commanded him to do. The “good” son said he would work for his father, but didn’t carry through. He did his own will contrary to his father’s will. Now who was really the good son? Both sons disobeyed their father; but one repented and then did what the father told him. Jesus makes his point clear: Good intentions are not enough. And promises don’t count unless they are performed. God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our actions that we respect his will and do it. God offers each of us the greatest treasure possible unending peace, joy,
happiness, and life with him in his kingdom. We can lose that treasure if we refuse the grace God offers us to follow in his way of truth, love, and righteousness. Jesus encourages us to think to think about the consequences of our choices, especially the choices and decisions that will count not just for now but for eternity as well. The choices we make now will affect and shape our future, both our future on earth as well as in the life of the age to come. Are you ready to obey your heavenly Father and to choose for his kingdom of righteousness and peace?