Scripture: Matthew 21:23-32 NIV
In our passage today, we find Jesus teaching in the temple courts in Jerusalem. When the chief priests and elders question His authority to do so, Jesus perceives that they have hard hearts. They hold a grudge against Jesus, probably due to how popular He had become with the crowds. The religious leaders ask Him a question, trying to trick Him. Jesus does not answer them directly. Instead, He presents a parable of two sons. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks these so-called authorities, “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?” They answer, “The first.” (This was the son who said “No” at first, but then changed his mind and obeyed.)
Does Jesus’ reply to their answer surprise you? After all, isn’t the son who eventually obeyed better than the son who said he would go and work, but didn’t do it? Jesus’ harsh words took these esteemed leaders down a peg or two. In essence, Jesus condemns them for saying, “No” to Him and for refusing to listen and obey Him. Their hearts were hard, so much so that they were unable to say, “Yes” to Jesus at all. With His answer, Jesus exposes the condition of their hearts. A hard heart says “No” to Jesus. It must be softened, or else it will not experience God’s presence and deeds.
There are occasions when we have hard hearts too, don’t we? This parable reminds me of an interaction that I had with my father when I was a teenager. When I was young, I loved baseball a lot. Saturday was my favorite day of the week because it was baseball day. But Saturday was also cleaning day, and I had jobs to do in the house. One Saturday, my dad asked me to mow the lawn right after breakfast. I hated mowing the lawn. It took me away from playing baseball, so I said, “No, I don’t want to do that.”
Later that morning, though, I felt terrible about my disobedience, so I went outside, started up the mower, and got the job done before lunch. When my Dad came back from work that day, he thanked me for mowing the lawn after all.
The next Saturday, again my dad told me to mow the lawn. I said, “Sure, Dad. I’ll mow it as soon as I put my breakfast dishes away.” But I had many other things I wanted to do that day, so I never did get around to mowing the lawn. My friends invited me to play baseball, and we played the whole day. Time passed and it got late. When my dad got back home from work he saw the un-mowed lawn. He was very disappointed to see that the grass hadn’t been cut and told me so clearly and told me so. I also received other painful consequences due to my disobedience.
I tell you this story to show you how one person can behave like the two sons in this parable. On one day, I first said, “No,” but then I changed my mind. On the other occasion, I said, “Yes” immediately, but in the end, I disobeyed. Which response was right? I think that the answer is neither. My Dad had the authority to give me jobs to do. My role was not to question his right to do so, but to say, “Yes” and then do what he asked me to do. I learned a great lesson that day. I repented and asked my dad to forgive me. After this, I stopped disobeying him. I was given a second opportunity to listen and be obedient to God and my parents.
The parable in our scripture passage teaches us that sometimes we may behave like the first son. Other times we are like the second. Sometimes we say “No!” but later change our minds and do what God called us to do. Other times, we say “Yes!” but fail to follow through. God will continue to give us chances to say, “Yes” and opportunities to obey Him in what He asks us to do. We must learn to trust and respond to God’s call and do His holy will.
Jesus always gives us second chances to return after we have said “No” to Him. I am glad that Christ died to cover the whole spectrum of sins. If you have received this truth and believe it, then celebrate the second opportunities you have been given through Jesus’ forgiveness, and obey Him.
Let’s celebrate that Jesus is happy to give us second chances. He did it not only for tax collectors and prostitutes, but even for repentant priests. Everyone who says “Yes” and follows Him trusts and obeys His call. He wants us to return to Him. When we do, He grants a lifetime of opportunities to say, “Yes.” And this, my friends, is really, really Good News.
God, we are so thankful for parents who give us good instruction. We know You are our heavenly Father who has the authority to ask us to do anything for Your glory. Help us understand how important it is to be obedient and cheerful in all our ministries. Amen.