Summary: Message based on Jesus’ words to the religious leaders who were missing the message while the tax collectors and prostitutes were hearing and responding.

Why Bad People Can Get to Heaven

Matthew 21:28-32

July 27, 2008


Me: During my freshman year in college, I went back to my high school to visit and to play in the band for a basketball game.

I had given my life to Christ not too long before that, and was excited about Him.

I also had an inkling that I might be headed toward ministry, even back then.

It wasn’t until about 17 or 18 years later that I really got “the call,” but I mentioned this possibility to the band director’s girlfriend.

She just looked at me with a shocked expression and said, “You? I never would have guessed…” and she started telling me why it seemed unlikely that I would be in ministry.

I won’t tell you everything she said, because it’s embarrassing.

But my point is that based on what she had seen of me before, there was little thought that I would even become a Christian, much less enter His service in ministry.

We: I think I can speak for just about all of us here when I say that you either have had people look at you like that, or that you have looked at others that way.

And for many people, including myself, it’s been both.

I’m ashamed to say that there have been times when I have looked at someone and passed them off rather than try to interact with them and help them find Christ.

We can find excuses to avoid such people. “Gotta go – the laundry’s almost dry and I need to get it folded! Look at the time! Where does it go? I need to get the cat walked, okay, so let’s pick this up another time, alright?”

Are you someone who feels that they’ve been shoved aside as an outcast by good “religious” folk, and it’s left you wondering if you really do matter to God?

Maybe you know someone that’s been treated that way, and it’s turned you off to God and to the church.

Are you someone who would have to admit that you’ve looked down your nose at others and decided they weren’t worth your time?

Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s hope for all of us in this arena.

God: Jesus had some things to say about those who the religious elite would call an “outcast.”

His words to the religious leaders are something we need to take note of, and my hope is that the Holy Spirit will use Jesus’ words to search our hearts as we discuss them today.

Just a reminder of what’s going on:

This conversation takes place during the last week of Jesus’ life, probably on the Tuesday of that week.

He has driven out those who were ripping off the people for the Passover, He’s been healing and teaching.

Just prior to this part, the religious leaders came to Jesus and challenged him by asking Him the source of His authority.

Jesus replied by asking a question that forced them to think through their ideas about John the Baptist and authority of his ministry.

When they answered that they didn’t know the source of John’s authority, Jesus says that He won’t bow to their demands to reveal His source, because John’s authority was also from God.

Matthew 21:28-32 (p. 698) –

28 "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.’

29 "’I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ’I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

Any parents here today? Can I get a witness? Every parent’s been there, that’s for sure!

Then Jesus asks a critical question, even though it seems like it’s not a big deal on the surface:

31 "Which of the two did what his father wanted?"

"The first," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 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.”

Now how do you like that? The tax collectors and prostitutes seemed to have more spiritual insight than the religious types. Interesting, huh?

Jesus sets up a contrast between two sons.

Son #1 initially refuses, then goes to do the work while Son #2 says he’ll do the work then doesn’t.

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