Matthew 21:28-32 NIV
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
In this parable of Jesus, we have another short, yet plain lesson on actions being much more important than our words.
The first intended audience of this parable was the Jewish nation, in particular the “religious” Jews.
We see earlier in Matthew, chapter 21, where Jesus drove out of the temple, all who were buying and selling there. He proclaimed that “His house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Also, earlier in this chapter, the chief priests and elders questioned Jesus as to where His authority comes from. Jesus answered their question with a question of His own. When they would not give an answer, Jesus informed them that because of this, He would not provide an answer about His authority.
Jesus faced opposition from the Jewish religious leaders from the beginning. However, after Jesus cleansed the temple of unrighteousness, the opposition became more fervent.
In the parable of the two sons, the first intended audience was the Jewish leaders and secondly, the Jewish nation.
They represent the second son who spoke a good game, but with no actions.
The Jewish leaders represent a son who promises to accept and obey, but does not. Possibly never intended to. The scribes, Pharisees, Chief Priests, elders and the whole of the Jewish nation are represented in this second son, who said he would go work in the vineyard, but did not go.
Throughout the history of the Hebrew/Jewish nation, they repeatedly failed to stay true to God. They would say the right words, but fail to live up to them.
The first son represents those who reject Christ initially, but repent, accept and do the will of the Father.
This first son represents all who have believed, accepted and are obedient to Jesus Christ as their Lord.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but many have bowed their hearts in acceptance of Him. Some are more hardened sinners than others, but when Christ is accepted as Lord, all sins are cleansed with His blood.
This would have infuriated the Jewish religious leaders.
Remember the Pharisee and the publican? The Pharisee prayed that he was glad he wasn’t like these lowly people, but Jesus tells them here and many other places that when sinners truly repent and obey, they become God’s children with the blessings He has promised. Even the publicans (tax collectors) and harlots.
As a follow-up to this parable, in the same chapter, Jesus tells the Jews that God will no longer speak to the world through them because of their disobedience and disbelief. Instead, He will speak through His body of believers, collectively known as the church.
Matthew 21:43 NIV
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
Have you ever bought an item based on a commercial where the quality and usefulness of the product was extolled? Yet, upon receiving the product, you were disappointed, finding that it’s quality and usefulness did NOT live up to the words about it. What we heard were meaningless and false words.
Has someone ever told you that they would do something, but did not follow through? How did you feel?
This parable speaks to those empty words.
This parable teaches us that God DOES NOT accept meaningless words, but expects a commitment and obedience to His word and His will.
As we have noted many times, words are cheap and can come easily. People can be fooled with our words, but our actions will always set the record straight.
Actions really do speak louder than words.