THE TWO SONS
Matthew 21:28-32 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, son, go to work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, the first. Jesus saith unto them, verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
The lessons taught using parables would be meaningless if the hearers did not know the characters, places and things represented bythem. The disciples to whom He was teaching knew very well the examples Jesus used in His parables. In this parable, the vineyard is used. One of the first places it is mentioned is found in Genesis 9:20 which tells us that Noah planted a vineyard. It is evident that the climate and soil condition were very favorable for growing and harvesting the fruit of the vine, the grape. In Numbers, chapter 20, we find the 12 Jewish "spies," Moses sent to inspect the land of Canaan, brought back very large clusters of grapes to prove the fertility of the Promised Land. Grapes were one of the primary sources of food and drink for the Israelites, and much land was devoted to vineyards in which they were grown. Not only was the vineyard or its grapes used in this parable, but, because they were so well known, they were also used in the parables of "the new cloth & new wine" (Matt. 9:16-17), "the laborers in the vineyard" (Matt. 20:1-16), "the wicked husbandmen" (Matt. 21:33-45), and "the barren fig tree in the vineyard" (Luke 13:6-9).
This parable, the parable of the two sons, was a condemning lesson delivered to the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Jewish people that questioned His authority. Jesus had just entered Jerusalem. He knew this was His final visit to Jerusalem and that only a few days remained before he would be crucified on the cross of Calvary. Prior to His entry He had told His disciples, behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death (Matt. 20:18). Fulfilling the prophesies found in Isaiah 62:11, and Zechariah 9:9, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. A multitude of people witnessed from the roadsides praising Jesus as a prophet of Nazareth. The whole city was moved. With authority, Jesus entered the temple, cast out the money-changers and all that bought and sold merchandise, and condemned them for the sacrilege they brought into the house of God. At the temple, Jesus healed the blind and the lame that came to him. Cries went out from all that witnessed these events, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David.
Becauseof the massive gathering of the people of Jerusalem around Jesus and the public praise and acclaim bestowed upon Him, Matthew writes of the Jewish leaders, they were sore afraid (Matt. 21:15b). After lodging in Bethany for the night, Jesus returned to the temple. Again, He was questioned by the chief priests and elders; by what authority doest Thou these things, and who gave Thee this authority (Vs. 23)? Jesus answered with this question of them. The baptism of John, whence was it, from heaven or of men? Realizing that if they said from heaven, they should have believed him, but if they said of men, they feared the reaction of the many people that hold John as a prophet. Therefore, they replied, we cannot tell. To this Jesus replied to their original question, neither tell I you by what authority I do these things (from Vss. 25-27).
No doubt Jesus perceived their evasive answer and condemned their disbelief by the application of this parable. Two sons were asked by their father to work in his vineyard. The first refused, but later repented and went into the vineyard to work. The second said he would go, but later refused to go in and work. Jesus, then, asked the Jewish leaders, which of the two did the will of the father? Their immediate reply was, the first. With this answer, they condemned themselves for their disbelief. With the use of this parable, and their reply, Jesus tells them of their own condemnation by saying, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you (from Vss. 28-31).
In the parable, the father represents God, the Father of all mankind. The two sons represent the two, and only two, possible reactions that mankind can have to the commandments of God. Each person can either accept and obediently do God's will, or refuse to do so. The parable also teaches that it is not how faithful and obedient one starts out in life that determines entry in to the kingdom of God, but how one finishes life in total obedience to their heavenly Father. The first son represents publicans and harlots, considered to be the lowest of sinners, that later repented, changed their ways and became obedient children of their Father in heaven. The second son represents the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel, considered to be "holy men of God". Yet, having total access to His word, they denied God by rejecting His Son as the Messiah, the Savior promised as a blessing to the world through the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, later from the seed of Jesse -David the King of Israel.
The publicans and harlots, representing those least likely to come to know God's will, accepted the baptism of John, and Jesus as their Savior. If faithful, they will find salvation in heaven. The chief priests, scribes, and elders of the Jewish nation, had far more access toknowledge of God's plan of salvation, but still denied John as His messenger, as well as his message announcing Jesus as the Savior. They even denied these words of God as He acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah - This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matt. 3:17b). Although they had opportunity to do so, they failed to repent of their sinful disbelief, and unless they did so in the future, they will fail to find salvation in the kingdom of God.
To those that are sinners, God calls you today to come to Him and labor in His vineyard. Repent of your sinful ways, obey God's will, accept His Son, Jesus Christ as your Savior, be baptized into His body, and spend the rest of your lives faithfully serving your heavenly Father. The reward is eternal salvation. To all those in the world that are trying to lead "good" lives, that consider themselves "holy", examine your spirituality. The leaders of the Jewish nation considered themselves as both "good" and "holy", yet they did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah and submit themselves to Him under God's terms. Not only does God's word tell us to hear His message of salvation, but that we must believe it and desire it to the extent that it is obeyed to the letter. Prior to hisbaptism,the Ethiopian eunuch made this confession; I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Philip said believing and confessing this truth with all thine heart is necessary for one's conversion to be complete (read Acts 8:267-39). Those, on the Day of Pentecost, when they heard the invitation message of the apostles, had this same belief, which caused them to ask, what shall we do? The answer of the apostles was, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (from Acts 2:37-38). These are the acts of obedience that puts one into the body of Christ, and only in Christ is found the hope of salvation. Being a "good" person, and thinking you are living a "holy" life is not sufficient in the eyes of God.
Judgment Day is coming. Be prepared. As the first son noted in the parable repented and later responded obediently to his father's command, so too must we repent and be an obedient child of our Father in heaven, and be added to His church, the church of Christ. Why? Because in Christ, and only in Him, can be found the hope of eternal salvation.