Passage: Matthew 21:28-32
This passage tells a story that is quite simple–it doesn’t have a very complicated plot.
- A man had two sons (v. 28)
- The father gave an imperative to both of his sons–“Go work today in the field” (v. 28b, 30)
- Son #1 said “No” at first, but later regretted and obeyed (v. 29)
- Son #2 said “Yes” at first, but ultimately disobeyed (v. 30)
Basic Listening Comprehension Test
Next, Jesus asks a question to test the listening comprehension of His audience composed of the chief priests, the elders of the people, and the Pharisees (v. 23, 45)–“Which of the two [sons] did the will of the father?”
And what did they respond? Surprise, surprise–they passed with flying colors! They responded, “The first [son].”
What Jesus says next is not a congratulatory remark for their correct understanding of the story, but harsh words of indictment: “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you” (v. 31).
What? How can that be? How can immoral people such as tax collectors and prostitutes get into the kingdom of God before the righteous (or so they appear to be) Pharisees, elders, and chief priests? What does God want? What is “the will of the Father?” Are God’s standards arbitrary?