Week 13 | The Seventh Sunday After Epiphany
O Lord, you have taught us that without love, whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Genesis 45:3-15: God has sent me ahead of you...
Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42: Trust in the Lord and do what is good.
Matthew 21:28-32: Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!
1 Corinthians 15:35-50: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven
Like another that Jesus tells about two sons, this story has deep theological, sociological, and philosophical themes. Pay close attention to the attitudes and actions of the sons.
His story was told for those who think they have their tickets to heaven…but do not act like it.
This story is told after Jesus had presented himself as the Messiah in the Triumphal Entry and by cleansing the temple. These acts were something that the Messiah would or could do. Even though they were waiting and searching for the Messiah, the Jewish leaders were questioning Jesus’ right or authority to be and act like the Messiah.
Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that he will answer their questions if they answer the question correctly (Matthew 21:24). The question was, “Did John’s baptism come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” The Jewish leaders did not want to answer the question because they knew that their answers would not work. But also, if they did reply, they would in one way or the other have to submit to the authority of John the Baptizer as a prophet. If the Jewish leaders were under John’s authority, they would also place themselves under Jesus’ head. The leaders decide to take the safe route and tell Jesus that they do not know. Jesus tells them that they will not get their answer from him.
The Jewish leaders did not get an answer, but they did get a story. Jesus begins to tell the story of a man with two sons. The father tells his first to go and work in the vineyard. The son refused to go and said, “I don’t want to” (Matthew 21:29) but eventually changed his mind and went. The father went to the second son and told him to work in the vineyard. The son told his father that he would go but changed his mind and did not go.
The point of Jesus’ story is found in his question. He asked, “Which of the two sons did what their father wanted” (Matthew 21:30).
Q|Which son do you think did what their father wanted?
The only logical answer is that the first son did what his father wanted.
By telling this story, Jesus was teaching that a profession of obedience, or saying you are a Christian, does not make you one.
The Pharisees claimed to be sons of God but did not obey the law nor fulfill the righteousness of the law and so could not be counted as sons of God. Or said another way, the Jewish leaders claimed to be citizens of God’s Kingdom, but they did not submit to the King nor participate in his kingdom.
On the contrary, Jesus tells the religious leaders that the social dregs and outcasts were entering the Kingdom of God before those chosen leaders. They were entering in because they heard John the Baptizer’s message of repentance and righteousness and believed him. Proving that those who submit to the King or do what the King says are the actual citizens of God’s Kingdom, not those who say they are citizens but do not do kingdom citizen things.
Ironically those religious leaders who said they were in the Kingdom would never accept tax collectors or prostitutes into their temple.
Lord, we are grateful that grace and truth come through you (John 1:17).
May we never use grace as an excuse to sin.
May we never abuse the grace you have given us.
May we give your grace and love away abundantly.
May we place our trust in you.
May we receive our rest from you.
May we be a city on a hill for all to see your light.
May people see you in us.