28 “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.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 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. 32 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.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
I guess we would say that they were misled, and it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. After all, the Devil is a master at misleading human beings. In fact, it seems that Satan is especially good at leading men to do evil -- in order to appease God! The worst kinds of evil have been done in the course of history by people who actually think that they are serving God, that they are doing what He wants them to do!
· Klu Klux Klan members actually think that their organization has its basis in the Bible, and some think that they are doing what God wants them to do.
· Saul of Tarsus stood by and held the coats of those who murdered Stephen and then he breathed murder and violence against Christians. He was convinced that Christianity was the worst kind of evil, a cult, and that he was doing God’s will. He even traveled out of the country to arrest and imprison the followers of Jesus.
When Jesus appeared to him outside
“…I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”
The Apostle Paul is a success story of God’s grace. There are many others who continue to oppose what God wants – while still thinking that they are doing what God wants. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day would certainly fall into this category. They took pride in themselves and their religious positions. They were convinced that they were doing what God wanted them to do – even in opposing Jesus and plotting to kill Him.
Well, they are dead now, and now they know the truth, but it’s too late. However, it is not too late for those who still live on earth in the midst of their time of grace. It’s important that we ask what does God want of me? Even more important is that we find the answer to this question in God’s Word. We will see this morning from this portion of God’s Word what God wants of us. He wants us to repent of our sins. He wants us to trust in Him for forgiveness. Fortunately for us, He by His Spirit moves us to both regret and repent of our sins, and trust in the Savior Jesus for forgiveness. May God the Holy Spirit guide us this morning as we study this portion of God’s Word. Amen.
There are many examples in sports today, of athletes who were once told they were not good enough, who then used their rejection as fuel to accomplish their goals. They worked harder and longer than some more gifted athletes did in part simply to disprove their critics, to prove them wrong.
In a much more heinous way, the religious leaders of Jesus day tried again and again to disprove and undermine Jesus’ ministry, but they failed. They tried again and again to bait Jesus into saying or doing something wrong, but failed. They questioned by what authority Jesus taught and did the things that he did. Their goal was simply to discredit Jesus. Jesus knew their goal, so when they questioned His authority, he asked them (Matthew ):
“…The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”
Jesus’ question was a sticky one for them. If they said that John’s Baptism was from heaven, that God sent John to baptize -- Jesus could ask them why they refused to repent and be baptized by John. If they said that John’s Baptism was from men -- that John was baptizing without God’s authorization -- the people would reject them, for they believed that God sent John.
Rather than be confronted by their opposition to God’s plans or be opposed by the people at large, they refused to answer Jesus’ question. So Jesus asked them a question they would answer:
“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.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”
Jesus used this simple illustration to reveal their hypocrisy and to explain what the Heavenly Father wanted of them. There was a man who had two sons. He came to each of his sons and using affectionate language, asked each of them to go and work in his vineyard. The first didn’t ask to be excused for some other purpose, but simply refused his father bluntly and disrespectfully. However, later he was moved to regret his refusal and went and did what his father wanted. The second son answered respectfully, “Yes, Lord, I go.” Although he made it sound like he on his way out to do what his father asked, he did nothing. So which of the two sons did what their father asked? Was it the disrespectful son or the respectful one? Only the first, though he at first refused, regretted his sin and did what his father wanted.
In answering Jesus’ question they had unwittingly condemned themselves.
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. 32 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.
It must have been like a slap in the face for those self-righteous religious leaders to be told that the very people they so loved to look down on as the worst kinds of sinners, who in their minds had no place in God’s Kingdom – would be entering before them. Jesus explained why they would not be entering. When John came calling the people to repent of their sins and be baptized – they refused. Instead, public sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) came to John and were led by the Holy Spirit to regret their sins and be baptized, trusting in the Promised Savior. They entered into God’s Kingdom. They were like the first son, who though at first bluntly refused the father – later repented and went into the Vineyard.
The very men who boasted that they were the Leaders of God’s People, that it was their job to do what God wanted – were merely ‘yes men’ whose religion amounted to word and no action. They were the first to stand and say, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” They were proud of themselves, “Look at me, I’m serving God!” They did not do what God wanted, for they refused to repent of their sins and be baptized. They who said, “Yes, Sir I go!” Instead opposed God’s plans and rejected God’s Savior when He arrived. Even when they saw the change of heart and mind that Jesus caused in public sinners, they still refused him. God wanted them to regret their sins and turn in faith to Jesus and be forgiven. They refused.
My dear Christian friends. Let’s not imagine self-righteously that we are a hybrid of the two sons. Let’s not imagine that we always say, “Yes, Sir I Go!” and then willingly follow through. The Lord isn’t seeking ‘yes men’ that step forward to carry His banner – but don’t really follow Him. Jesus isn’t looking for sons who hear His Word, but think that it’s OK for them to not put it into practice. The Lord warns us in the Word because He doesn’t want our religion to be of the mouth, but not the heart and mind. He doesn’t want us to be hearers who do not follow through, for it is written (James ):
“…But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
What does God want of me? What does God want of you? He would have us, like that first son, regret our sin, repent of them and look to Him for forgiveness. This he moves in us by His Spirit. We not only regret our sins, but despise them and like a garbage bag full of rotting trash throw it away from ourselves, trusting that Jesus has taken it up and disposed of it. The Lord not only forgives, but also by His Word and Sacrament leads us to serve Him willingly. He Himself guides us on the way of righteousness to show our faith by our actions and to look continually for opportunities to glorify Jesus – without looking to see if anyone else notices.
What does God want of me? He wants my religion, my faith to be a matter of the heart. He wants to be the center of my universe. He wants everything in my life to revolve around Him. What he wants of me he will also create in me by the regular hearing of His Word. The hymnwriter makes our hearts rejoice, reminding us (TLH 358:3-4):
Jesus gives us true repentance
by His Spirit sent from heav’n;
whispers this transporting sentence,
‘Son, thy sins are all forgiv’n’.
Faith He grants us to believe it,
grateful hearts His love to prize;
want we wisdom? He must give it,
hearing ears and seeing eyes.”
So we pray in closing:
Lord Jesus, the repentance you seek of me and the service you ask of me – create in me for your love’s sake.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
-Pastor Andrew Schaller