October 18-20, 2014
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 21:28-32
“WHAT THE FATHER WANTS…”
1. Those who change their “yes” to “no?”
2. Those who change their “no” to “yes?”
Matthew 21:28-32 (NIV 1984) "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. 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.”
I’m pretty sure it comes from my sinful nature, this irritation I feel when people get ahead of me. I say that because of the times it happens. Like when I am driving down the interstate and traffic is tight and that lane darter is easing along side to gain that one spot in the pole position and instead of letting him in I just want to speed up and squeeze him out. I just don’t want him ahead of me. Or have you ever had it happen at the store when the lines are long and you spot the shortest one and just as you head there someone else does too? When that happens to me I just get this overwhelming urge to speed up and get there ahead of them—even if it’s a lady or someone older than me. I know foolish, childish, from the sinful nature. I wonder then how the chief priests and elders of the people felt when they heard these words from Jesus, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Those are hard words to hear. How did it happen? Let’s find out.
Our text takes place during Holy Week. Jesus had triumphantly rode into Jerusalem to waving palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Do you remember how the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law reacted? They told Jesus to make the people stop. You can see, can’t you, how their sinful natures were being fed, jealousy rearing its ugly head? Now it is during Holy Week. Jesus knows He has come to Jerusalem to suffer and die, to face the pains of Hell for the sins of all. So what does He spend His time doing? He’s teaching in the Temple courts! Can we learn something here, people, about the importance of learning God’s word more and more, about making sure it gets taught? See your Savior’s priorities, what He spends His time on when time is short.
As Jesus is teaching in come those chief priests, elders and teachers of the law again. This time they question Jesus’ authority to be teaching God’s word. Jesus told them he would answer their question if they would answer a question about John the Baptist. Where did he get baptism from? You get a little peek at what kind of people they were from their discussion of the question. “They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' 26 But if we say, 'From men'--we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet." 27 So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Weasels! But Jesus still loved them and so He said to them, "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. 31 "Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered.”
The parable seems pretty obvious. When a father tells his son to do something what kind of a son does he want? Does he want one who says yes but changes later to a no? “Well of course not!” we all say. Children, you know that, right? If dad says, “Go clean your room!” and you smile and respond, “OK, I will,” but then go to your room plop on your bed and play games on your Gameboy for the next two hours I would expect it would not go well with you. But that is exactly what the chief priest, elders and the teachers of the law did to God. They read their Old Testament Bibles that proclaimed God’s holy laws, that pointed out again and again how God’s people failed to keep them and needed a Savior, that promised that the Savior, the Messiah would come and they said, “Yes, God, send that Messiah.” But they changed their Yes to a No. They changed the message of God’s word from you need a Savior to you can save yourself if you are good enough. They exchanged God’s way of saving them with their own. So Jesus said to them, “For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him.” Not what the Father wants!
How about the other son, the first one? Remember he was the one who said, “I will not go,” but later changed his mind and went. Again children think of things in your home. Dad is on his way out the door and says, “Clean your room before I get back from the store,” and since you are in the middle of a game on your Gameboy you say, "No” to his back as he goes out the door. Later you start to feel bad, guilty. So you clean your room before Dad gets back. Well that’s better right? Jesus pointed out that some of the tax collectors and prostitutes of His day were like that first son. They had said No to God when they chose to make money by stealing and fornicating. But John the Baptist called on them to repent, to own up to their sinful way of living. He told them to go to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. And they did. That they could actually be forgiven by God amazed them and they left their sinful ways of living and followed and believed in Jesus as their Savior, Messiah, God’s way to save them. They had said No but changed to a Yes.
Now when you read God’s word and there is a parable with 2 different people to identify with it kind of calls you to make a choice. Which son am I? Am I like the first son who lived a life apart from Jesus but now I know forgiveness and it has totally changed my life? Some here can say that. Well am I someone who has known God’s Word and my need for a Savior but now says well No I think I’m good enough to get to heaven on my own? I sure hope none of us can identify with that. I seriously doubt that describes any of us. Well where are we in this picture then? By God’s grace we are the third son that’s not talked about. How about a son who says yes and does yes? Isn’t that the kind of son a father wants? And that is us. You see this parable is not really about what we do. It’s about what we believe. Listen again to Jesus’ response to the chief priests and elders. "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.”
So the third son would be the one who believes that Jesus is the Savior, the way of righteousness, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and who keeps believing in Him life long. That’s how all our readings fit together. You can’t go to God and say but I used to believe. Nor does God come to you and say but you used to be an unbeliever. Today is important. Test yourself today. Believe in Jesus and you are saved. Only He is the way the truth and the life. Hold on to that truth as the pressure continues to mount in our nation. Satan batters at the walls of salvation only through Jesus.” Isn’t it enough to believe in some god and to try to be good? Maybe Jesus is one way of many ways to the Father and everyone finds their own path.” But that’s not true. And it’s not what the Father wants. Because what the Father really wants is you. He wants you with Him forever in heaven. He’s given Jesus for you. He’s brought you to faith and provided word and sacrament to keep you there because what the Father wants is you. Amen.