Matthew 21:23–32 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 11:27–33; Luke 20:1–8)
23 Now when He 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?”
24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”
And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Jesus used wisdom and skill to thwart the efforts of the religious leaders to ascertain by what authority Jesus performed His miracles. When they asked Him from where it came, He asked them from where John’s baptism came, heaven or men. When they were hesitant to answer, Jesus refrained from answering their question as well.
28 “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.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 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. 32 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.
Jesus then told the people a parable about two sons, one who refused to obey the command of his father, but then relented and obeyed after thought and regret for his refusal; and the second who who agreed to obey, but did not. He asked the listeners which one did the father’s will. They said that the first son, who at least eventually obeyed the command of the father, fulfilled his father’s will. This parable was to demonstrate that those who did not serve God, and even denied Him initially, would enter heaven upon their repentance before the religious leaders who claimed they would serve God, but instead served themselves.
This story demonstrates the need to obey God in truth and action, rather than just in word. Don’t just say you love God, live your love for God. Don’t just wear His t-shirt or bracelet, write His law on your heart and obey it. God is looking for obedient disciples who will follow through in His will. Let that be you, or else know that you can be replaced!
Artwork from https://www.findshepherd.com/march-28-2018-matthew-21-31.html