“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.”
The Third Son
“What do you think?” Strange, right? Jesus, the Son of God, asks mere human beings what they think. I think that this story called the parable of the two sons, is best understood if we see it as a story of three sons.
The parable features two sons whose attitudes and actions cannot be pleasing to the father. We are like those two sons. Sometimes we think we will just skip Sunday worship for no good reason, but when we awake Sunday morning we change our mind and we get up and go. Other times we wake up, fully intending to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” but a bright sunny morning calls us to the great outdoors.
The same disconnect between attitude and action can apply to all areas of Christian faith and life. I might strive to be completely honest at all times or to work hard and cheerfully each day, but find myself fudging on the truth and slacking in the workplace. Because I sin and fall short, I need to know the third son in the story.
The third son, Jesus, the Son of God, not only tells the story but is the story. Jesus told the people, “John came to you to show you the way of righteousness…” Jesus is the way of righteousness. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, he entered the world without sin and living as true God in human flesh, he committed no sin. Jesus is the Son whose attitudes and actions are perfectly pleasing to God the Father.
Those who see in Jesus the righteousness of God, as did tax collectors and prostitutes, and believe in him as they did, have his righteousness credited to their account. The significance is that Jesus secures our place in heaven not only by his death on the cross where he removed our sin, but also through the crediting of his righteousness to our account.
Let us not forget that Jesus lived righteously for us and then died sacrificially. His life and death compel us to change our mind about less than God-pleasing attitudes and actions.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the third son, your Son, our Savior. Lead us to turn from sin to faith in him. Amen.