In the Parable of the Two Sons (Matt. 21:28-32) Jesus told of a father telling his sons to work in the vineyard. The first son said he wouldn’t, but changed his mind and did. The second son said he would, but changed his mind and didn’t. When Jesus asked them which one did what the father wanted they all agreed is was the first son.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
I have always heard that in this parable Jesus was referring to the work in the church. But in a careful analysis I have found that this is not possible. The fact that Jesus choose that example for making an analogy does not mean that He was referring to any work at all, because at the end the Lord said that He was referring to John (the Baptist) who came to announce the coming of Christ. I would like to hear your comments about this.
Jesus was using a parable to show a group of chief priests and elders that those who give the appearance of obeying but secretly disobey are not doing what the Father wants.
The behavior of the chief priests and elders made made it look like they were being obedient to God’s laws. They didn’t believe that in their hearts they were unrighteous sinners like everybody else.
On the other hand, the tax collectors and prostitutes were outwardly disobedient. But they knew in their hearts they were unrighteous sinners and they had accepted the teaching of John the Baptist on the way of righteousness (Matt. 21:32).
Therefore, the prostitutes and tax collectors were like the first son in that even though they were outwardly disobedient, in their hearts they were doing what the father wants by admitting they needed a savior.
The chief priests and elders were like the second son because they were outwardly obedient but in their hearts did not do what the Father wants because they denied needing a Savior and they had rejected John’s teaching.
The bottom line is that we’re saved because of what we believe, not because of how we behave. Our Father knows we could never behave well enough to be obedient to His Laws (Romans 3:20). That’s why He sent His Son to save us.
What He wants from us is to be honest enough to admit that, to stop thinking we can enter His kingdom by our own works, and accept the pardon He purchased for us on the cross. That is the true meaning of repentance. That’s doing what the Father wants.