This is the Parable of the Two Sons. I pray that what you gain from this teaching will minister to your spirit. The passage is found in Matthew 21:28-32.
“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.’ 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. 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. 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.”
Jesus might have appeared to be harsh with the Pharisees here. He was giving them a rebuke. It’s a loving thing to grow up in a family and have a father rebuke and discipline you in love. Regardless of His rebuke, Jesus was nothing but a loving Person.
Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries, a very well known missionary who operates a healing ministry, wrote a book called Compelled by Love on the beatitudes, (Part of the Sermon on the Mount.) found in the Gospel of Matthew. In the foreword, her husband Rolland Baker wrote that wherever he went, people he asked about the Sermon on the Mount would say they were not sure it was possible or practical to live what Jesus preached.
It is indeed impossible to live a life that way without the help of the Holy Spirit, but Heidi believed that it was not only possible, but that is the way we should live our life. The only way a Christian can do it is through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. A Christian cannot do it in his own flesh. He cannot just love Jesus and obey the commandments given in the Sermon on the Mount by his own strength or will-power. Let us be filled with the mind of Christ and live a supernatural life in a supernatural dimension. When you follow every thought that comes to you from the Holy Spirit, then you are living a life that Jesus said is possible when he spoke about the beatitudes.
The Sermon on the Mount is still part of the Law. Legalists say that if you don’t obey it, you are not going to be worthy. The Law is meant to bring you to your knees and say, “Jesus, Jesus, please help me.” It’s only when you come in submission, that the power of the Holy Spirit is released. As a Christian, when you come to the end of yourself, and say, “I just cannot stop sinning. Lord, please help me,” that is when the Lord steps in and operates supernaturally through your life.
The Pharisees were strict in obeying the Law, and sometimes Jesus had to rebuke them because they had this mindset that was stuck in obedience to the Law above all else. Yet, their heart attitude toward their fellow man was uncaring and pathetic!
Jesus told this parable regarding the two sons, and he said someone came to the first man, “Son, go and work today in my vineyard.” The son said, “No, I am not going work in your vineyard.” And then later he changed his mind and worked in the vineyard. He said to the second man, “Work in my vineyard.” And he said, “Yes.” But then he didn’t do it.
Jesus was saying that the Pharisees profess to follow the Law: they profess to want to please God and to obey Him. On the one hand, they were saying that they want to obey everything that God commanded, but when John the Baptist came to preach repentance, they resisted. So it was like they were saying “Yes” to God, but then in the end didn’t follow through. However, the prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners, whose lifestyles indicated a rejection of God, changed their minds when they realized that they fell short and needed to draw close to God. They are like the son who initially said “No”, but then changed his mind and came to work in the vineyard after all.
See, it’s a lot easier for someone who has sinned greatly to come to Jesus, because they know only too well, their many faults. They are lost and have no answers for the questions of life. It’s amazing when someone who doesn’t know God comes: falls on his knees and gives his life to Jesus, but it is a terrible thing for a prideful person: who is puffed up with self righteousness, to think that he is obeying the whole Law.
It is really hard to teach a person like that. It’s almost impossible to correct a person who thinks they do everything right! The Bible calls these people scoffers: they are un-teachable. Scoffers were around in the days of old and will still be around in the future days. “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke; A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands; The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer in an abomination to men; Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath; Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts.” (Proverbs 13:1, 14:6, 24:9, 29:8, 2 Peter 3:3)
The Pharisees were very good at interpreting the Law, justifying themselves and saying that they were perfect by the Law’s standards. That was the reason why Jesus shared this parable. Essentially, Jesus used a parable to say to the Pharisees, “You want to please the Father, to be righteous and to do everything the Father says, but here I am, a prophet, telling you a new and better way, but you will not receive it. Nor will you receive the baptism of John; you will not receive Me. I have a new yoke; I am a Rabbi with a new form of teaching. There is a new way of doing things now. You need to turn around and follow My way, but you will not do it. You are obstinate, stubborn and extremely proud: you are full of self-righteousness.”
“The sinners and the tax collectors are entering into the Kingdom before you. They are like the son who said, ‘I would never come.’ They were people steeped in sin. They were so far from God and then they relented and said, ‘No, God is the answer: I will obey Him! I will put away my life of sin and I will start to walk in a righteous and holy way.’”
This parable still rings true today. To the sinner, there is hope. To the person who has said no to God all their life, but is weighed down with a lack of answers and hope, there is a way to give in and say “Okay God, you win.” You can change your mind - God will be only too pleased to welcome you into the Kingdom.
You might be a person who thinks that you are good enough and do not need God; you might be a sweet and kind person who does more right than wrong; you might be very spiritual and into all things about God except to say Jesus is the only way. You might be a little like these Pharisees of old who thought they were justified by all the good things they did, but didn’t respond to the words of Jesus Christ.
The judgment against sin has been paid for by Jesus. Happy is the person who acknowledges this fact. Scoffers, on the other hand need to look after themselves: they have all the right answers! These people refuse to acknowledge that they even sin and if they ever did sin, then they themselves will make retribution for it! God sees their folly but will never take away their free will to choose death instead of life.
Which son are you? Are you going to work in the vineyard for God?