While I have been feeling that studying Jesus’ parables is difficult, I have also been richly blessed through the process. I have learned so much about myself through the process, and I am so thankful that God is patient enough with me to help me learn! I know I am not a Bible scholar and my views on these parables are simplistic; I have still been stretched and placed in front of God’s mirror for some self-examination. Oh how I pray that God strips me of any portion that is Pharisaical. It truly hurts when God points out something that must go, but what a victory can be claimed in our lives when we decide to trust His work in us!
I think the context of the parable helps us understand why Jesus was even telling His audience this parable. If we go back to verse 23, we can see that Jesus was teaching in the temple (in Jerusalem) when the chief priests and elders came in to question Him. They asked Him about what authority He came to teach. Jesus never answered their question directly because they would not be direct with Him; instead He asked them questions about John the Baptist’s authority. They wouldn’t answer, so He told them this parable instead.
This parable is about two sons who were told to do something by their father. The first said no, but then he changed his mind and did what he was told. The second said yes, but never did it. Jesus then asked them who did what the father wanted. The answer was obvious, it was the first son. Jesus went on to explain that the “sinners” who didn’t obey immediately changed their hearts and listened to John’s message while the others didn’t believe John. The religious leaders were hoping to trap Jesus, instead Jesus exposed their motives. They didn’t want to hear the truth; they wanted to support what they believed.
Sometimes I can see that in myself. I don’t want to hear the truth if it means that I have to change my behavior! But I desperately need to hear the truth so I can please God. What does God want from us that truly pleases Him? Faith. Let’s look at Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Let’s now go back and look at Matthew 21:32, “For John came to you to show 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.” No matter where we are in life, we need to believe God. The problem with some of the religious leaders was that they thought that as long as they plodded along and followed the law exactly, they did not need salvation. What they forgot is that they were not perfect every day of their life and they most definitely needed a Savior.
While God wants us to obey, our obedience is not what saves us. Let that sink in. We don’t obey God for salvation. Our salvation only comes by God’s grace when we have faith in Him. Our faith in God is what will produce good works; good works does not produce faith. In fact, good works without faith can cause resentment. God isn’t looking for the obedient life; He is looking for the obedient heart.
Are you turning to God for your salvation or are you relying on your good works? Pray that God searches your heart so you can walk with Him in faith.