God has "two sons" and both give him grief.


 

When Jesus came into the temple, the chief priests and the
elders 
of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and
said, "By
what authority are You doing these things. And who
gave You this
authority?"

But Jesus answered, "I also will ask you one thing, which if
you
tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these
things.
The baptism of John--where was it from? From heaven
or from
men?"

They reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From
heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'
But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count
John
as a prophet." So they said, "We do not know." And Jesus
said to
them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do
these things.

"But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came
to the
first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He
answered
and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it
and went. Then
he came to the second and said likewise. And he
answered, 'I go,
sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the
will of his father?"
They said to Him, "The first."

Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors
and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John
came
to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe
him;
but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you
saw it,
you did not afterward relent and believe him."

                                              Matthew 21:23-32 NKJV, condensed


                                            Authority 

A man had 2 children and unfortunately, neither one of them was
worthy of their family name. You have to feel some sympathy for this
father. For example, he said to his firstborn, "I'd like you to work for
me today." But he said defiantly, "No way!" The father made the same
request of the second child who said "Yes" but didn't mean it and
never delivered. Meanwhile the first one had some regrets. I guess
he felt guilty, so he went and did as his father desired.

This is a crazy maker! Neither kid would be straight forward and
consistent with the old man. He never knew if anything would get
done. I'll bet he often felt like saying, "Screw them! I should just go
out into the countryside and hire some workers who will treat me
with respect and give me a decent day's work." It was a waste of
time to ask those sons of his to do another thing!

Why would Jesus tell such a story and who is he talking about! You
guessed it. All too often in the eyes of God we are those two
disappointing kids. Whether rebellious or well-mannered, we are
in this picture. And in true Jesus fashion, the one who comes out
better in the end is the one who knows he or she is a sinner.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem he made an impact. First by riding
in on an untamed colt amid chants of "Save us now!" or as we
know it, "Hosanna!" Then by declaring the court of the Gentiles to
be part of God's house of prayer and driving the profiteers out
and upsetting the tables of the moneychangers.

In the morning Jesus was back again, walking through the temple
courts. The place sure looked good after that housecleaning. The
general public gathered around to hear his stories, to eavesdrop
on the conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees, to watch his
unorthodox way of interpreting the Laws of Moses while ignoring
some ancient traditions.

Today they witnessed a game--You asked me a question, I'll ask
you one; you answer me, I'll answer you. The temple authorities
had challenged the audacious behavior of Jesus with, "Who do you
think you are? King of this place?"

Jesus countered with a trick question to which there was no safe
response. It was a catch 22. The Jerusalem elders had never liked
John the Baptist either, but the people did. John was already in his
grave and they didn't want to resurrect this controversial subject.
Since Jesus had created the rules, he naturally won this round. The
bystanders were entertained. They loved it when those in superior
positions were brought down a notch.

Then came the story, and the thought-provoking question: Which
one of these two sons made his father proud? It's another parable
from the heart of Jesus that's not a neat little package with everything
wrapped up the way we like it. One son was rude and disrespectful,
but actually did accomplish what his father asked; the other son was
agreeable and polite, but didn't do what his father requested.

"Which one pleased his father?" The issue is not which one looked
like the better son, but which one did the will of his father? Join the
debate. Go back over the facts of the story. One said "Hell no!" but
went anyway; the other said "Yes sir!" but didn't. The defiant elder
son had a change of heart. He turned around and came back to his
father's field and did as his father requested. The second son did
not understand the concept of remorse and repentance.

What's the bottom line? I want to say--but for the amazing grace
of God, none of us would get to heaven; the story puts all of us in
our place, and no one can feel superior to another. However, that's
not how Jesus ended it. Jesus compared the leadership at the temple
to crooks and hookers and concluded the crooks and hookers will
precede the religious people into God's kingdom!

This is outrageous talk. What right did Jesus have to say such a thing
and make those influential people look so bad just a day or two
prior to the Passover festival and in front of all these pilgrims and
hometown folks! Everyone knew their rage would not simmer for
long.  There will be consequences.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: How much authority do you have? In what areas
                      is your word accepted as "the law"? 
                      (If you're coming up short, have your group help you out.)

 

In what way does the parable of the two sons remind you of your own
family or a family you know?

 

Everyone has regrets.
            What are some of yours?
To what extent were you able to make amends for something you said or did?
My father-in-law liked to say, "Look at the good side."
            What do we do if there appears to be no good side?

 

Jesus mentioned only two sons and two reactions to their father's request.
            What are some other possible responses?
Think of the father as God and the sons as God's children.
            What is the task that God has for us?
            How well are you fulfilling that task?

 

This is a good place to review the teachings of Jesus and ask yourself,
            "Where and how am I doing what Jesus taught?"

 

How do forgiveness and grace play into this parable? Is it possible
for someone who never "messed up" to understand and appreciate
forgiveness?

 

This parable highlights the present condition of a person's heart toward
God. If you repent, your former sins will not keep you out of God's
kingdom. If you don't repent, your religiousness will not get you in.
            Is this how it works?

 

The leadership team at the temple honored prophets from the past but
refused to accept the ones God sent to their own generation.
            Is it easier to recognize a dead hero than a live one?   
                  Explain your answer.

 

Why wouldn't Jesus directly answer the question put to him by the officials?
            Where do you see pretense and insincerity in this text?
            Did the religious elders deserve to be publicly humiliated?
Since entering Jerusalem Jesus seemed to be deliberately calling attention
to himself and stirring up controversy.   Why might that be?

 

What Father's/Mother's Day gift would you like to give to God?

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