WHICH SON DID HIS FATHER'S WILL?
During His confrontation with the chief priests and elders, Jesus asked them whether John's baptism was from heaven or from men, and they refused to answer. Then He spoke to them the parable of the two sons: "'But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, "Son, go, work today in my vineyard." He answered and said, "I will not," but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, "I go, sir," but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?' They said to Him, 'The first.' Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him'" (Matt. 21:28-32).
Even though the chief priests and elders refused to answer the question Jesus had asked them about the source of John's authority, and even though they claimed not to know whether John's mission were human or Divine, Jesus made an application of the principle involved, in such a way as to indict them for their self-righteous hypocrisy.
The Israelite people in the first century could be compared with a man's two sons. One son made great claims about honoring his father. He spoke great swelling words about his willingness to work in the father's vineyard. But upon examination, the fruit of any such labor was not to be found. His honor to his father was in words only. The other son was openly rebellious. He did not intend to honor his father or work in his vineyard -- but later, he repented of that attitude and went to work. Jesus' question to the priests and elders was "Which son did his father's will -- the one who said he would work but didn't, or the one who had not intended to do such work, but changed his mind and did the work his father asked? His question implied that one of the two sons did indeed obey the father. The priests and elders correctly identified the obedient son as being the one who repented and did the work. Then Jesus made application of the parable: When John came preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, a Divinely commissioned message, and pointed to Jesus as the "Lame of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), it was, for the most part, those who had earlier rebelled against God's will who were led to repent -- the harlots, tax collectors and other "hardened" sinners. On the other hand, those who talked long and loud about their devotion to God and claimed to be faithful workers ended up rejecting God's chosen messenger and his message. As Luke writes, "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him" (Luke 7:30). --CRJ
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