By retired Seventh-day Adventist Pastor, Ian Cotton
Remembering how John had repeated the prophecies concerning the Messiah, remembering the scene at the baptism of Jesus, the priests and rulers dared not say that John’s baptism was from heaven. If they acknowledged John to be a prophet, how could they deny his testimony that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God? And they could not say that John’s baptism was of men, because the people believed John to be a prophet. So they said, “We can not tell.”
Then Christ gave the parable of the father and the two sons. Matt. 21:28 ff. The father went to the first son, saying, “Go work in my vineyard,” the son answered, “I will not.” He refused to obey, and gave himself up to wicked ways. But afterward he repented, and obeyed.
The father went to the second son with the same command, “Go work in my vineyard.” This son replied, “I go, sir,” but he did not.
In this parable the father represents God, the vineyard, the church. The two sons represent two classes of people. The son who refused to obey the command, saying, “I will not,” represented those who were living in sin and made no profession of piety, they openly refused obedience to the law of God. But many afterward repented and obeyed the call of God.
In the son who said, “I go, sir,” and went not, the character of the Pharisees was revealed. Like this son, the Jewish leaders were impenitent and self-sufficient. Their religious life was a pretense. When the law was proclaimed on Mount Sinai by the voice of God, all the people pledged themselves to obey. When Christ came in person to set before them the principles of the law, they rejected Him.
Christ had given the Jewish leaders abundant evidence of His authority and divine power, but although convinced, they would not accept the evidence. Christ had shown them that they continued to disbelieve because they had not the spirit which leads to obedience. He had declared to them, “You made the commandments of God of none effect by your tradition… . In vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:6, 9.
After giving the parable of the two sons, Christ asked, “Which of them did the will of his father?” The Pharisees answered, “The first.” They said without realizing that they were pronouncing sentence against themselves. Then Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and you did not repent, that you might believe him.”
John the Baptist preached truth and sinners were convicted and converted. These would go into the kingdom of heaven before the self-righteous ones. The publicans and harlots were ignorant, but these learned men knew the way of truth. Yet they refused to walk in the path which leads to the Paradise of God.
Open sinners who loathed themselves had received baptism by John; but these teachers were hypocrites. They resisted the conviction of the Spirit of God. They refused to obey God’s commandments.
Christ did not say, You cannot enter the kingdom of heaven; but He showed that the obstacle which prevented them from entering was of their own creation. The door was still open to these Jewish leaders; the invitation was still held out. Christ longed to see them convicted and converted.
– Adapted from Christ Object Lessons