After their first skirmish, Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders three parables that combine to form a serious indictment of their continual, chronic and habitual refusal to hear God’s truth. If you have not read Saturday’s post Rising Tensions I would encourage you to do so before you read this one, since the context and scene are set in that post; this (and the next two as well) is a continuation of that encounter, in essence Jesus’ counter move.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
This parable is perhaps the easiest in Matthew to figure out; the sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) are the son who said ‘no’ and then did as his father told him to do. The Jewish religious leaders are the son who said ‘yes’ and then disobeyed. The father, of course, is God.
Notice that Jesus told them this parable, and then asked them which son did as the father wanted, and they were so blind that they answered without noticing that they were stepping in a trap; please think about that for a moment.
Who was on the offensive in this scene; remember that it began in verse 23 where they were demanding to know by what authority Jesus had done the things He did on the previous afternoon. They had come after Him to attempt to trap Him into saying something that would cause Him to become unpopular with the crowds, and so they could charge and kill Him. In the previous text, they were plotting, scheming and calculating, and yet here, mere moments later, Jesus asks them an obvious question about a very straightforward parable, and they blindly step into His trap. Is it possible that they, brilliant as they were, really didn’t see the trap? You might remember that earlier in this scene when Jesus asked them what the source of John’s baptism was, that they saw the trap in that question (21:24-26).
So, do you recall when the disciples asked Him why He spoke to the people in parables? (13:10)
His answer was in 13:11-17, and essentially it was this:” Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (13:13b).
This may be the most obvious example of what Jesus told the disciples back in chapter 13 in the entire New Testament; the Jewish leaders did not see the obvious, for they had not been given the ability to see, because they did not want to see at all.
So Jesus springs His trap in 21:31-32, and I’m sure it warmed the hearts of those leaders to hear they are worse than tax collectors and prostitutes…
This thrill-packed episode will continue next time; see you there!