The Jews confronted Jesus, asking what authority He had to do and say the things He did. He answered:
I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: the baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men? (Matthew 21:24-25)
They pondered His question, but would not answer. If they said from heaven, He would ask why they rejected John; if they said from men, they feared the reaction of the people, for they believed he was a prophet. So, they simply said that they did not know. Since they refused to answer His question, He in turn did not answer them (though He cited His authority several times before). However, He did share a parable with them to illustrate their relationship with God. He told them:
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. (Matthew 21:28-30)
Who Did The Father’s Will?
There are times when we see Jesus involving His hearers in the analysis of His teaching. He does so here. He asked those who were listening which of the two sons did his father’s will. They knew that it was not the son who said he would go but did not; but rather the one who had sorrow over what he had said to his father; and went into the vineyard. It is not the declaration that we will serve God that makes us His servants, but the doing. We need to put our hands to the plow and work for Him.
As He explained the parable, He likened the tax collectors and harlots to the first son. By their manner of life, they had said to God, “I will not.” Rather than doing the things which pleased God, they did wickedly. However, hearing John’s message, they turned away from sin and sought to please the Lord. Luke 3:10-14 shows John instructing the people on what they should do to please God. It is likely that he did so multiple times with multiple people.
The religious leaders were like the second son, who told his father that he would go, but then did not. They publicly claimed to be God’s servants, but in their works they denied Him. And rather than repent of their failure to serve God, especially given the change of heart seen among the tax collectors and harlots, they continued in unbelief.
Which Son Are You?
Which of the two sons describes us? Do we tell God, “I will go,” but then choose to do our own thing? Have we laid aside the will of the Father for our own will? Or are we among those who perhaps at one time walked our own way, balking at the idea of serving God, but have since decided to render obedience to the Father of spirits? May we be like the first son, who repented of his selfishness, and put his hand to his father’s work.