13.03.03 Mt. 21:28-32
PARABLE OF THE TWO SONS
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’
29 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went. 30 Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.
“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.
31 “Which of the two did his father’s will?”
“The first,” they said.
Jesus said to them, “I assure you:
Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God
32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness,
and you didn’t believe him.
Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him,
when you saw it,
didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.
This passage is somewhat unusual, as it has two parts commonly referred to as a pericope. The first part is the parable (vv. 28-31) followed by its explanation (v. 32). Here Jesus told the story of a certain man who had two sons to whom he had given instructions to work in the vineyard. The first son refused to obey, but later repented and complied with his father’s instruction. The second son said he would comply, but later changed his mind and was disobedient.
The explanation is that the second son, an illustration of the Jewish leaders, was appointed by God to perform various religious functions, but in fact, they were disobedient, hypocritical, and rebellious toward God. The first son represents those wicked religious leaders who repented, either in the ministry of John the Baptist or of Jesus, and he became fully dedicated and obedient to God. To assume that this parable implies the kingdom would be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles is eisegesis (meaning to replace the original meaning with one’s own interpretation). The theme of the discussion was not on a future position of the church, but rather, on the sinfulness of the Pharisees.
Jesus specifically indicated that prostitutes and tax collectors would get into heaven before these religious leaders. This greatly offended them because they were convinced there was no need to repent because they were the sons of Abraham and, therefore, were guaranteed eternal life. By their confession, they were true descendants (sons) of Abraham, but by their actions they were outside of God’s providence and not Abraham’s children. Repentant sinners, such as the prostitutes and tax collectors, were accepted by Jesus, while the leaders could not imagine that they too were sinners because they were God’s chosen people. They failed to receive the warning and that was the only point of the parable.
. Hagner, “Matthew 14-28.” 612; See Appendix 26.
. For further study, see Scott Jr., J. Julius. “On the Value of Intertestamental Jewish Literature for New Testament Theology.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 23:4 (Dec. 1980). 315-24.
. A rule of hermeneutics is that parables are not to be used for the establishment of doctrines.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 765-66.