It’s Jesus’ final week on this planet. Even though the religious leaders were plotting to kill him, Jesus went to the temple courts and started teaching the people. That didn’t exactly sit well with the leaders:
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Here’s how Jesus responded:
I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism — where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they said, “We don’t know.”
Jesus responded with a rather blunt statement followed by a parable:
Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
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.
Jesus summed up with a question:
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, 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.”
(Matthew 21:23-32; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8)
In this story, the first son represents the biggest sinners in town. They initially refused to do the father’s will but then did what he asked. They seemed far from God but believed and repented. They’re on their way into God’s Kingdom.
The second son represents the religious leaders. They said they’d do the father’s will but they didn’t. They held themselves out as God’s peeps but refused to believe and saw no need to repent. They’re on their way out of the Kingdom.
The message? As Jesus has said many many many times:
BELIEVE AND REPENT
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com / Csaba Pterdi)