EZEKIEL 18:25-28 | PHILIPPIANS 2:1-11 | MATTHEW 21:28-32
Let’s put today’s Gospel passage into its context. Jesus had recently entered Jerusalem with great fanfare, cheers and waving of palms. He went straight into the temple where he performed a prophetic act. Quoting from the prophecy of Isaiah, “My temple shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,” he overturned the tables of the money changers and those selling pigeons. The chief priests and elders confronted him the following day when he returned to the temple. They demanded to know by what authority he had performed the prophetic act. As an answer, Jesus confronted them with the parable we’re reading today.
A man had two sons. He asked both of them to work in the vineyard. One refused, but eventually went. The other said he would go, but never did. Jesus then directed a question to them. “Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?” They had no choice but to say it was the one who refused to go but eventually did. It was the better of the two choices, but neither was pleasing to thefather. They knew that Jesus was comparing these two sons to them – stubborn, rebellious, contrary. Neither son was a joy to his father. Just in case they didn’t get the point, Jesus moved in with the big artillery.
The religious leaders looked down on the ordinary people. They were smug and judgmental. They scrupulously obeyed the laws, but never allowed the spirit of the law to touch their hearts – melt their hearts – transform their hearts.
“The prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you!”
This parable about the two sons is a call to conversion. A person may follow every letter of the law, but isn’t guaranteed entrance into the kingdom of God. The heart is the path to the kingdom of God. The prostitutes and the tax collectors opened their hearts when they heard Jesus’ message, the religious leaders hardened theirs.
We’re being called to conversion, to open our hearts to God, to follow the new commandment Jesus gave us. “Love one another as I have loved you.”