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The Two Sons

The Passage:
Matt 21:28-32

The Parameters

The Pharisees had just challenged Jesus’ authority and He responded by asking them to identify John the Baptist’s authority. They refused to say that JB’s authority was from heaven because they didn’t like JB nor what he preached. But verse 25 shows that they knew what John was proclaiming - that Jesus was the Messiah. They refused to say that John’s authority was from Satan because they feared the crowds. So Jesus refused to answer them. But he tells a parable.

The Problem

What is the reason for the lack of response to JB in Israel?

How does one demonstrate that he is a son of the kingdom?

The Progression

Biographical -it’s about two sons

What does it mean to be a son in this parable? Does being a son = being saved? No. Many think when the read a parable and see that someone is a son or a servant that that means he is a Christian. But in this one and the prodigal son, being a son does not equal salvation.

    First Son

  • Verbal rejection
  • Later repentance

Who does the first son represent?

He represents the sinners, harlots, tax gatherers, and all the outcasts. The outcasts initially were saying by their life style that they didn’t want to follow God. But when confronted by their sin, they changed their mind (repented) and believed.

    Second Son

  • Verbal commitment
  • Actual disobedience

Who does the second son represent?

The second son represents the religious leaders who said “I will obey the law” but didn’t. In fact, their claim was not that they will obey, but that they “did” obey it - all the time. That was the claim of the Pharisee in parable about the Pharisee and the publican praying.

But Jesus taught otherwise. The whole sermon on the mount and many of the controversies with Jesus showed that they were not obeying the law. The verbal commitment of the second son is not a statement of faith. It is representative of the Pharisees who by their actions were saying I don’t need to do any more than I’m already doing. But what they were doing was following ritual. They had substituted ritual for righteousness. This is the message of the prophets (Micah 6:8). By the time of Jesus the religious leaders thought that eternal life came from studying the torah.

    Jesus' Question

What is Jesus trying to do with his question?

When He says that tax collectors and harlots are going to get into the kingdom before the religious leaders, how should the religious leaders feel?

Jesus is trying to make the religious leaders jealous. (Rom 11:11) When the leaders saw these kinds of people repenting, changing their lifestyles, etc., it should have made them wake up. But they weren’t convicted, they felt threatened. They didn’t want the kind of kingdom Jesus was offering. The next parable will tell us what their motivation was.

The Point

Regardless of one’s background, repentance and faith are what qualifies one to enter the kingdom of God.

The Relation of the Parable to the Kingdom Program of God

Same as above

The Particulars

It was God’s purpose for the people to respond to JB but they rejected it. (Luke 7:30) There was a legitimate offer of the kingdom. They didn’t accept, so God replaced them with the Gentiles (temporarily).

Is this parable teaching works salvation? If not, how do you explain that it does not? After all it was the son who went to work that got in. How do you get in? The parable is not teaching works salvation, vs. 32 says to believe. That is the “work” in this parable. The leaders would not believe the message.

“A son does not a believer make” in this parable. The scribes and Pharisees are one son and the other son is the harlots and tax gatherers. Both were sons. One entered the kingdom and the other didn’t. Don’t assume because the word servant or son is used in a parable that it is equal to believer.

The Principles

  • Repentance, faith and obedience are more pleasing to God than self-righteous ritualism.
  • Repentance and faith are demonstrated by obedience. John 15:14
  • Past lifestyles of the repentant are no disqualification from the kingdom.
  • God extends grace to down-and-outers to incite jealousy and faith.
  • God honors faith rather than false profession. That is a controversial statement these days with the Lordship Salvation debate going on, but I think the false profession here is that the religious leaders said they followed God, but they wouldn’t follow His Son. This will be elaborated on in the next parable.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)