Second Saturday in Advent TWO SONS’ PARABLE 14
Scripture: Matthew 21:28-32
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
In this Advent season, having been in ministry in the church for several decades, having planned scores of Christmas Eve services, and having sat through well over 100 such observances with well over 100,000 worshipers, I’ve noticed how some people grasp the significance of the worship while others come for the candle-lighting at the end. We don’t usually see the candle lighting aficionados again until Easter (for the brass and Hallelujah Chorus) or perhaps next Christmas Eve. These people are the “younger son” Jesus’ parable. Theirs is more of a lip service to faith, but no follow through. Then there is the “older son,” the person who stumbles into the service off the street who was simply looking for a place to get warm and stays for all the services. They grasp the truth of the gospel they have been rejecting and return the following Sunday, having begun a transformed life. Of course, there are the faithful who embrace the wonder and glory of the nativity who are the living part of the church.
A little understanding of Jewish background might be helpful here. Jesus is telling this parable during Monday of Holy Week in still another effort to help the Jewish leaders see who he is, the Messiah, and who they are, sinners in need of a Savior. John the Baptist represents the father. The despised tax-collectors and prostitutes represent the older son. The older boy’s negative response to his father’s command would have been viewed as disrespecting his father’s authority, in other words, a rejection of John’s message. After an initial no, the “older boy” changed his mind, saw his need, and embraced John’s message and repenting of his sin, and entered the Kingdom of God. The fact that these social outcasts would be admitted to the Kingdom of God was unthinkable to the Jewish leadership, a scandal in their understanding of the Law. Their own interpretation of the Law was their true authority not God.
The second son, (the Jewish leaders in this parable,) said he would obey his father, yet in actual practice, he refused to go. These authorities, as children of Abraham, believed their righteousness made it unnecessary for them to repent and thus rejected John’s message of repentance and as a result, rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They gave lip service to God but did nothing. Repentance was for the “sinners,” not for them. In their minds, they didn’t need to repent. Jesus assured the former would get into the kingdom and the latter would be cast out.
This message is always the challenge of a Christmas Eve service helping people realize the sanctuary is filled with sinners all in need of repentance despite pretty clothes, candles, and singing “Silent Night.” Remember, Christmas Eve is not about celebrating Jesus’ birthday. He has none. It’s about the eternal Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega, God’s Son, entering our world in human flesh to save us sinners in need of repentance and who, apart from him, are hopeless. Be sure to invite Aunt Agnes and Uncle Fred again this year!
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” Home Free
O Lord Jesus our God, who called people from their daily work saying to them ‘Come ye after me’, may we your children today hear your voice and gladly answer your call to give our lives to you, to serve your Church, to offer our gifts, and give away our hearts to you only. May our response be not only one of intent, but one of relentless faithful obedience. May we not flack in zeal and spirit. Grant that we may reflect your humble spirit, Jesus, and pick up our crosses daily and follow you to the glory of your Father in heaven who with you and the Holy Spirit, reign one God, world without end. Amen. ―Anonymous
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