New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Two Sons

I got kids. This parable rings true. None of my kids were consistently like the second one, but occasionally…

Let’s read the passage and think on this message from the Father and His Son.

Matthew 21:28-32

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Matthew 21:23 informs us that the chief priests and elders of the folks who came to Jesus, but not as followers, but as adversaries, challenging His authority. They really didn’t know who they were dealing with now did they?

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given during Jesus time in Jerusalem. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

Matthew 21:23 let’s us know that Jesus was in Jerusalem, even in the temple of God. His Father’s House

Why did the Lord give this message?

This parable seems to be a direct response to the chief priests and elders challenging the authority of Jesus. The Master replied to the two part question of

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23b

by asking a question of His own.

This is instructive on it’s own, since we are sometimes asked questions as believers that have no simple answer, or that cannot be answered with a yes/no response. This is not the time to be defensive, apologetic or to cower, but to go on the offensive and expose the weakness of their own worldview. And what better way than to ask them a question that will cause them doubt.

Of course in this passage, the Jewish leaders would not answer, since either response would cause them heartache and trouble, so they simply refused to answer. In like manner, the Lord accepted that, informed them they had no response to their original question coming, and them launched off into this parable we are considering today.

What was the message for the original audience?

After the Jewish leadership refused to answer, Jesus opens the discussion with another question.

What do you think? He is giving these Jewish leaders a chance to reason, think and maybe admit of their incorrect assumptions!

The parable is a simple one (seemingly) in that it describes one who has authority (the man with two sons) and the two sons. Jesus equated the man in the parable with John the Baptist. (Remember this parable is a result of the previous discussion about John the Baptists, and Jesus authority.)

It seems obvious, that after the parable is completed, that the two sons represent two classes of people in the audience. The first son appeared rebellious, but actually obeyed the fathers will. The second son appeared obedient, but actually rebelled against the fathers will.

The message is clear. Sinners and tax collectors were pictured in the first son, the son who appeared rebellious but actually believed the message from John. First century Jewish leadership, the very people Jesus was talking to, were pictured in the second son, the son who said great things, but refused to believe, refused to enter the Kingdom.

Jesus equates going to work in the vineyard with belief in this a parable. In the parable, the will of the father was for his son’s to work in the vineyard. Jesus equates the sinners and tax collectors as those who were working in the vineyard, while the religious high faluting leadership were simply putting on a good show, talking but not walking!

It is also so good to see the patience of the Master here, as in the last phrase of the parable.

Matthew 21:32

 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Did you catch it?

The leadership have had multiple opportunities to believe. First, when John came. But no, they didn’t believe then. Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners began to follow. Even upon this occurrence, they “did not afterward change your minds and believer him.” That is, believe John the Baptist.

Now they have the One whose shoe John wouldn’t even unlatch, and they still would not believe. How can our Father be so patient? The mercy of God to each of us is far greater than we can comprehend.

What is the message for us today?

Repent of rebellion against the Father when you have a chance, even today.

I am convinced that the Father is seeking repentance from rebellion far more that great swelling words of religious boasting, of speaking how we are righteous and a blessing to God. Speaking of how we are “Righteous in Christ” while hurling hatred at a brother, while committing fornication, or as we lie to a friend is simply covering our sin with great boasting words. We must come to grips with the fact that we have offended many, and if so, must repent before God and the one we sin against.

The father was offended by both the sons rebellions, one by words and one by action. Yet the repentance of the second son brought him into the Kingdom, and was a witness to those still in denial.

Don’t be in denial.

Consider your life, and the many ways you have avoided admitting to wrongdoing against God and man. To offend a fellow believer is to sin against Christ. To hate an enemy is to deny His example and command.

He is Good.


Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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