Summary: Jesus made a shocking statement to the religious leaders who were around Him. He says: “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
What Does It Takes To Enter God’s Kingdom
Note: Some materials of this sermon are taken from sermoncentral.com
This morning, we will study the parable of the two sons. The Lord addressed this parable to the religious leaders who were around him that time to find reasons to accuse Him. This parable is very simple and clear. It is about a father who told both of his two sons to go to his vineyard to work. The first son refused but later on he changed his mind and went to the vineyard of his father. The second son said “I go” but never went to the vineyard to obey his father’s command.
The first son represents the prostitutes and the tax-collectors –the ones who were considered the public sinners at that time. The second son represents the Pharisees, the scribes, and the teachers of the law –these were the religionists. Now, guess who are likely to enter God’s kingdom. In verse 31, Jesus made a shocking statement to the religious leaders who were around Him. He says: “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
Well, the Lord did not mean here that prostitution is giving anyone entry to God’s kingdom. He never commended prostitution and tax-collecting above religiosity and spiritual servitude. This parable is not intended to make a comparison between the prostitutes and the Pharisees. Instead Jesus used this parable to teach us important truths to correct some common errors about entering God’s kingdom. This parable teaches us that:
A. GOD WANTS EVERYONE TO ENTER INTO HIS KINGDOM
The father in the parable commanded his sons to go and work in his vineyard. Notice that the command “go work” is an emphatic imperative. He made his command simple, straight, and clear. It means that the father really meant what he said. He made it clear to his sons that he wanted them to be in his vineyard. He does not want to find them in any other place other than his vineyard. It is as if the father had no other option for his sons. There’s only one place that he wanted his sons to be in –his vineyard.
Now look at this: the father in the parable represents the loving God. He wanted every person in this world to enter into His kingdom. In fact, He thinks of no other option for every human being which He created after His own image but to be in His kingdom. He wants them to belong to His family; He wants them to become citizens of His kingdom. God does not want them to be anywhere other than His kingdom. Thus the invitation to enter the kingdom of God has been proclaimed. Thus God calls and sends His servants to proclaim his invitation to every human being.
Now this corrects the idea that God is like an angry despot who would send everyone he dislikes to condemnation. Instead, the Bible tells us that God is a loving and a merciful God who wants every person in this planet to be saved and be spared from condemnation. Hell is not God’s option for the sinners. Hell, however, is the sinners’ option for themselves. Look at the parable: the father summoned his sons to go but he never forced them to obey. This tells us that every person is responsible for the decision and response he makes to God’s invitation.
B. GOD EXTENDS HIS INVITATION TO ALL
We find in the parable that the father approached his sons, one after the other, and told them to go to his vineyard. It was not the eldest or the youngest only, he approached both of them. He never left the youngest or the eldest uninvited. Certainly, the father knew his sons well because everything in a father and son relationship is predictable. He knew his sons very well. He knew their character. He knew their personal preferences. But you see, the father did not mind what his sons are doing and minding at the moment, and he’s not requiring them how they would respond to Him. The personal condition of the sons did not in any way cause the father to make bias actions or did not hinder him to summon them. He just simply approached both of them and told them to go.
This parable corrects the error of God’s selective election. God calls to salvation the good and the bad. He calls to salvation the religious and the pagans, the Jews and the Gentiles, as Paul says, “God is not respecter of person.” This is a shocking teaching to the Jews in general because they thought they were the only chosen people of God and every non-Jew is cursed and rejected by God. And it shocked the Pharisees the more because they were thinking that they were in a better spiritual position than any person –they were Jews and protectors of the law. Moreover, they too lived a very strict religious life.