“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.
Grace and Forgiveness
Jesus’ question was not hard to answer. Could it have been any simpler? Although the first son answered his father harshly and rudely, in the end he did what was asked. Although the words of the second son sounded sweet and polite, in the end he only paid lip service to his father.
It was meant to be an easy question with an obvious answer. But then Jesus transitioned to his true intent. The deeper spiritual point was meant to be just as clear to his hearers. That audience was made up of upstanding people, including the religious leaders of the day: Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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” (Matthew 21:31b-32).
The first son represented the openly sinful. They had turned away from God and his will. They had lived a life that was obviously contrary to the commands of God. But then John the Baptist came. He called out to sinners to turn from their sinful ways. He urged them to place their trust for forgiveness in a coming Savior. Many heard the message, believed it and lived!
The second son represented the outwardly righteous. They boasted about their relationship with God. They believed they had earned that relationship by who they were and the good they had done. But then John came. When he pointed out that they too were sinners who needed a Savior, they rejected his message and the Messiah (Jesus) who followed.
God the Father comes with this message today: “Go and work in the vineyard.” Jesus himself tells us that “the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). Jesus was sent into this world as Savior of all. He lived, suffered, died, and rose again to redeem you and me and everyone else from the punishment of God that our sins had earned. Now, he calls on us to place our trust in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Have you lived an openly sinful life? Turn to Jesus and his promised forgiveness…and live! Do you place your confidence of a good relationship with God on the goodness that others can see in you? Listen to Jesus’ call today and turn from that misguided idea. Place your trust in the righteousness Jesus alone can give…and live!
Lord Jesus Christ, help me always to see my need for your grace and forgiveness. Help me always to turn to you in humble faith for the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and life that you alone can give. Amen.
This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.