Matthew 21:28-32. “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons: and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto Him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily, I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.”
Jesus was still addressing the chief priests and elders when he told this parable. He had just refused to answer their question about His authority, because they would not answer His question about John’s baptism. He then went on to teach this parable, and I can only imagine the consternation, anger, frustration, malice, and deadly rage those haughty men must have felt as the Master spoke. Why didn’t they just walk away and leave Him standing there talking to Himself? They couldn’t! I believe that His authority was so compelling that they were literally unable to turn their backs on Him until He was finished with them.
The story doesn’t need a great deal of interpretation. Jesus made the meaning and the application clear. These polished, cultured, educated religious priest and elders were far worse, far more obnoxious than the tax gatherers and harlots they despised, yet Jesus told them clearly that publicans and sinners would enter heaven ahead of them. Outrageous statement! Preposterous!
The publicans and harlots are represented by the son who said he would not go, but then repented and went. The second, the liar, is not repentant. He represents the proud religious Pharisee, the high priests and elders. The root of their problem was unbelief.
The next parable is even more inflammatory. Stay tuned.