Summary: Assumptions. We all have them. We all make them. In fact, we live our lives assuming that our assumptions about people and situations are accurate. It takes something strikingly different to make us stop and look at things from a different perspective.
Jesus Brings the Truth to Light—Part 2
Assumptions. We all have them. We all make them. In fact, we live our lives assuming that our assumptions about people and situations are accurate. It takes something strikingly different to make us stop and look at things from a different perspective.
Jesus is the master of getting people to do that. His parables, which are scattered through the gospels like large, loose diamonds on the forest floor, use the familiar to engage people in His story, and, once He has their interest, He leads them to a knew conclusion about what they had assumed they knew.
Our passage today is just one more example of that. There is such irony in this conversation as Matthew records it for us.
In our last study of this escalating confrontation of Jesus with the religious leaders in the temple, we saw Jesus lay the ground rules for how this conversation was going to go. He was bringing things into the light, and the truth was going to be glaringly obvious by the time He was finished.
The chief priests and the elders of the people asked Him, “by what authority” He did these things. He answered them with a question. We saw that they fell into the trap and refused to answer. So, He did likewise.
But, He doesn’t leave things like that. He moves right into teaching mode and tells a parable. And here is the irony: these men who insisted on knowing where He got His authority, and assuming that He really had none, submitted to His leading by remaining and allowing Him to engage them in His this little lesson.
By what authority? No one was saying it, but it was inherent in His personality and character. Why else would they remain engaged if there wasn’t something in Him that drew them to Him, even if they assumed that He was their enemy?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I get very uncomfortable when my assumptions are exposed and shown to be wrong. And, when they are shown to be glaringly wrong, I have a tendency to struggle against the light even harder. How about you?
I love Jesus’ opening: “But what do you think?” I really need to learn from this. One minute He stands in open revolt to their assumed authority over Him, the next He is leading them down the garden path to an important truth, and they are following Him!
There they stand, still engaged, still in conversation, and allowing Him to teach them. What is really amazing about this is that, once they realize what has happened, still they remain! We will see next time that they are gong to stick around as the lessons get harder and cut deeper with ever passing moment, but they won’t be able to tear themselves away.
Now let’s look at this parable. It really is quite simple in its structure and its meaning. This is part of the beauty of Jesus’ approach to teaching people—even His sworn enemies. (I really need to learn from this!)
This parable of the two sons could not be clearer. It is directed specifically at the religious leaders in their formalism and their over-devotion to the temple. I say over-devotion because they were more devoted to the temple then to the people who came to worship God there.
We have to be careful when we sit this far away from this type of teaching from Jesus, too. It is easy to sit here, look back at those men, and think that what Jesus is saying to them doesn’t apply to us. If you have been here very long at all, or if you have studied the Scriptures very much yourself, you know that these teachings almost always have present-day implications.
Two sons; two different reactions; two different hearts; two different results. The first sin is all over the father’s request. “Oh, you bet, Dad. I’ll get to it right away.” But, he doesn’t do it, does he? What’s that about? His obedience is merely a formality. It’s verbal; not practical. It is actually non-existent. His verbal, “I will,” is a stop-gap to put his father off.
We do that sometimes, too, you know? We read a Scripture or hear a message, and we say, “Man, I really need to take this to heart.” But we don’t. We walk away from that reading time or that Sunday school class or that evening service and we get caught up in our activities and forget we made a commitment to do something about what God revealed to us, what He told us we needed to address.
It is not that we are insincere or that we intend to be disobedient. Our intentions are good at the outset. But, are good intentions enough? You know the old adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”? There is great truth in some of those old sayings. Faith without obedience is a dead faith—it is not really faith at all.