Jesus has been both instructing and illustrating greatness in the Kingdom, and great crowds began to follow him. Most recently he has, for the third time, specifically predicted his death and resurrection, though most did not understand this was the redemptive fulfillment of His life. What is coming is a sham trial, public beating and mocking, and the death of a condemned criminal among criminals. We are now in the last week of Jesus’ life. His entry into Jerusalem, his final instructions to the crowds and to the disciples, and the courage to face the cross contrary to his will but in obedience to the heavenly Father.
28 “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.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “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. 32 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. Matthew 21:28-32.
Understanding the True Nature of Repentance. In this paragraph of the two sons, a number of misconceptions about faith, the kingdom, and repentance are addressed:
First, repentance comes from one who has failed, has recognized their failures, and has turned to a different way to follow Jesus. Do you see this? God honors one who starts in the wrong direction but CHANGES HIS OR HER MIND. The pilgrim who stumbles and falls but gets up, gets his or her bearing toward the Kingdom and commits to that course.
Second, repentance is never counted to one who with a good start, turns a different direction and does not follow through. The true measure of faith is a life that follows. One of my favorite verses in this regard: 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19. There are at least two applications to this verse, but for sure, confession, repentance should lead to a life that does not turn back, that is marked out as different, as honoring to God.
Third, the Kingdom of God is marked out by the poor, the outcast, the marginal in our society, the ones who have not, but have learned of their need, have repented, and turned to Jesus. The tax-gatherer, the prostitute. Heaven will never be marked out and attended by the "who’s who" as we know them in our world.
This passage is primarily about discipleship, about honor in the Kingdom, about "who is first," to follow the context of the Zebedee family and their request. Do you see Jesus word? "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Greatness in the Kingdom is for the least, the lowest, the most humble, the child, the unworthy, and unfit who have in faith reached out to Jesus. What an honorable message at the beginning of this Passion week, and the message of grace and mercy at the cross. This theme is continued next week with the message of the church – Jesus who was rejected by Israel has now brought us in, the Gentiles, and He will say, ‘it is marvelous in our eyes. Matt 21:42. Best to you this week.
- John Moore