Stopping God: Matthew 21:28-32

Focus Passage: Matthew 21:28-32 (NCV)

28 “Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ 29 The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him.

Read Matthew 21:28-32 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

It is passages like this one that make me think Jesus enjoyed irritating the scribes and Pharisees. A simple reading in context tells me that Jesus had just finished responding to the challenge of where He got authority, and the discussion could have ended there. However, instead of changing the subject to something unrelated, it seems as though He turned and then began speaking directly to them.

What really surprises me is Jesus’ boldness. In the last verses of this passage, Jesus basically flips the spiritual tables on the religious hierarchy by telling them that tax collectors and prostitutes (i.e. the worst in society) will enter heaven before they do.

What is the entrance test given here for God’s kingdom?

Jesus tells us. It’s the action of repentance – specifically belief in Jesus that leads to the action of repentance. Verse 32 directly says the reason for this: “you still refused to change your ways and believe him.” The context is Jesus talking about the religious leaders discounting and ignoring John the Baptist’s message of repentance while tax collector’s and prostitutes would turn from their sinful ways.

John’s message was simple and clear – and John never made any while or crazy claims about being the messiah. The religious leaders were likely indifferent towards him, acknowledging that he was helping to point people to God, but not wanting to associate with his wildness in any way, shape, or form. We don’t see the hostility or frequent challenges posed at John that we do see posed at Jesus.

Perhaps they didn’t really see John as a threat – even though he was drawing a crowd. So they discounted him and his message, which set them up even more for discounting Jesus and His message.

This leads into the big thought for this passage: Believing that you don’t need Jesus or that you don’t need to change your ways stops God from being able to work in your life. It is only when we acknowledge our need and take steps to change our ways that God can step in and help us turn to Him.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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