Summary: God wants complete obedience to His word. In return for our reentant behavior, we are forgiven.
Obedience and Forgiveness
In our Gospel message today, we see a parable read to the chief priests and the elders of the people. They were looking to find a way to squash Jesus’ authority and stop the spread of His influence. For centuries, the Pharisees had ran the temple as an social organization filled with man-made rules; they were more interested in the outward appearances of obedience to God; religious appearances with a cold heart. Rituals and rules rather than repentance and remorse, not so concerned with turning to God as to the look of righteousness.
They had achieved an elite position for themselves with influence throughout the culture. They had no intention of giving up that influence. But, to maintain their position, they needed to embarrass Jesus, or at least catch him in some sort of error. They challenged His authority hoping He would slip up. But, instead of putting down Jesus’ power, they received a lesson in how to act. Once again, the great teacher has a lesson for us all.
One son said "I will go and work." His response indicated that he’ll go immediately and serve zealously in the father’s work. But he never did go to work. He was selfish, disregarding the father and his needs. He went about his own life, living and working for himself. He professed respect for the father and professed to work for the father, but he never went into the father’s vineyard. He never did the father’s work.
The other son rebelled and showed disrespect. He said, "I won’t work." Instead of working for his father, he wished to go his own way in life; he rebelled at being told what to do. He would have his own way and do his own thing regardless. However, note that this son also repented and went to do the work. This son turned from his self-chosen life of rebellion, turned back to his father and went into the vineyard to work. He did exactly what his father commanded him to do. (based on text form James Drake, “Matthew: The Parable of the Two Sons”, http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=96836&libronix=1)
One son chose to honor his father with his words, but not with his actions. Talk is cheap. But, what we do shows what our intentions really are. James said it best “faith without works is dead.” Although our works don’t, and won’t, save us, it’s our actions that reflect the faith that’s already in us.
Go today and work today. Don’t wait to do your father’s bidding. Don’t dally to wait for an easier job. Do this now. That was the command. But, we don’t always obey as readily as God would like.
Have you ever felt compelled to do something, speak to someone or go somewhere and you didn’t know why? Have you ever felt led to do some task and you couldn’t explain why you felt that way? Perhaps you were led to do an unusual task, or maybe accomplish a normal task in a way different than you were used to. Maybe you were even led at some point in your life to do something new, maybe you felt unprepared, were uncomfortable or even felt scared to take on the challenge. We may not always understand why God chooses us to do certain things, but His plan is always greater than our own. Look at how easily the activities of one man can affect the outcome of greater events.
In “How Life Imitates the World Series,” Dave Bosewell tells a story about Earl Weaver, former manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Sports fans will enjoy how he handled star Reggie Jackson.
Weaver had a rule that no one could steal a base unless given the steal sign. This upset Jackson because he felt he knew the pitchers and catchers well enough to judge who he could and could not steal off of. So one game he decided to steal without a sign. He got a good jump off the pitcher and easily beat the throw to second base. As he shook the dirt from his uniform, Jackson smiled with delight, feeling he had vindicated his judgment to his manager.
Later Weaver took Jackson aside and explained why he hadn’t given the steal sign. First, the next batter was Lee May, his best power hitter other than Jackson. When Jackson stole second, first base was left open, so the other team walked May intentionally, taking the bat out of his hands.
Second, the following batter hadn’t been strong against that pitcher, so Weaver felt he had to send up a pinch hitter to try to drive in the men on base. That left Weaver without a bench strength later in the game when he needed it.
The problem was, Jackson saw only his relationship to the pitcher and catcher. Weaver was watching the whole game.