Printable PDF: 10-11-2020 Pentecost 19 Sermon
Pastor Jacobson ~ Pentecost 19 ~ October 11, 2020 ~ Matthew 21:28-32
28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you 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.
SEE YOURSELF IN THIS SALVATION STORY
- Don’t make light of your sin like the Pharisees.
The Parable of the Two Sons is relatable to us. Imagine being a child and being told to do something. That’s not so hard to imagine. “Clean your room.” “Pick up after your pet.” “Put your dishes in the dishwasher.” “Take the garbage to the road.” We have all been on the receiving end of such direction, and if we were wise, we said, “I will” and did it. If we were foolish we said. “I will not.” The first son in the parable says, “I will not.” How defiant! Such defiance is typically met with strong discipline. If you are a brother or a sister in this scenario you probably want to keep a safe distance. The discipline could get ugly.
“I will not” is how Jesus depicts the sin of the tax collectors and the prostitutes. What open and blatant defiance! “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the Bible says, but tax collectors cheated their neighbors for all they could get. What scumbags! The Bible also says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” but the prostitutes rented out their bodies like an overnight hotel room. How disgusting!
The sin of the tax collectors and the prostitutes was obvious. The sin of the chief priests and the Pharisees was less obvious. They were like the second son in Jesus’ parable. The second son said what any father wanted to hear, “I will, sir.” “I will clean my room.” “I will pick up after my pet.” “I will put my dishes in the dishwasher.” “I will take the garbage to the road.” Those words are music to any parent’s ears, but as the drama of this parable unfolds this second son doesn’t go to work in the vineyard. The first son does.
The chief priests and the Pharisees clearly see the sin in the story Jesus tells. When Jesus asked, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” they quickly answered, “The first.” The chief priests and the Pharisees had a more difficult time seeing the sin in their own life. Jesus helps them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to show you 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.”
Remember John the Baptist? What is one thing you want to remember about John the Baptist? What is John the Baptist known for? What is the thing John the Baptist primarily did? John the Baptist baptized people. John the Baptist baptized the tax collectors and the prostitutes. John the Baptist did not baptize the chief priests and the Pharisees. Why was that? Why did John the Baptist baptize the first group, but not the second group? I think you know the answer. The tax collectors and the prostitutes, those openly blatant sinners, saw the seriousness of their sins and repented. The chief priests and the Pharisees, those outwardly righteous people, did not see their sins and did not repent and so they were not baptized.
Like the chief priests and the Pharisees, we easily see the self-righteous, holier-than-thou sinful attitude in their story. It’s so easy to see the sin in the story, but like the chief priests and the Pharisees it can be more difficult to see the sin in our lives? Do you see the sin in your life? When was the last time you gave yourself a page 156 examination? Page 156 in our hymnal is titled, “Personal Preparation for Holy Communion.” The first question reads, “What does God tell me about myself in his Holy Word? Answer: “He says that I am a sinner and deserve only his punishment.” Question: “What should I do if I am not aware of my sins or am not troubled by them?” Answer: I should examine myself according to the Ten Commandments and ask how well I have carried out my responsibilities as a husband or wife or single person, as a parent or child, an employer or employee, a teacher or student. Have I loved God with all my heart, gladly heard his Word, patiently endured affliction? Have I been disobedient, proud, unforgiving? Have I been selfish, lazy, envious, or quarrelsome? Have I lied or deceived, taken something not mine, or given anyone a bad name? Have I abused my body or permitted indecent thoughts to linger in my mind? Have I failed to do what is good and right?”
Your sin is a big deal. And there might not be a more damning sin than being outwardly righteous. Outward righteousness sounds good and looks good especially next to open defiance, but where the openly defiant are more likely to be shown the error of their way, the outwardly righteous are more likely to be applauded for their good appearance. You are not a better sinner than any other sinner. You know that, but even still there’s always a little chief priest and Pharisee in us that says, “I’m glad I’m not like other people,” and “Look at all the good things I do.” And so next time when your brother is getting the discipline he deserves, don’t think about how much better you are than he. Think about your own sins. See yourself in this salvation story. Don’t make light of your sin like the Pharisees, and don’t miss out on the power of the Gospel in your life.
- Don’t miss out on the power of the Gospel in your life.
Each brother made a mistake in this parable. The first son’s mistake was open defiance. The second son’s mistake was outward righteousness. They both made mistakes, but the first son we are told, “later changed his mind and went.” We’re not told what changed his mind and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the tax collectors and the prostitutes changed their minds about the lives they were living, and we know what changed their minds. It was the gospel.
John’s baptism, like our baptisms, is the gospel. The gospel is that our sins are freely forgiven through faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ earned forgiveness for all people through the perfect life he lived and through the atoning sacrifice of his death on the cross. The gospel forgives cheating scumbags. The gospel forgives disgusting morals. This gospel forgiveness not only wipes away the debt of such sins, but also empowers a new life in Christ. The tax collectors could have kept their day jobs, but they couldn’t keep cheating people. The prostitutes had to find new work, and they did. The difference was night and day. The people couldn’t miss seeing the power of the Gospel in how their lives had changed!
That power, up to this point, had no effect on the chief priests and the Pharisees, but Jesus wanted that to change. The gospel forgives the outwardly righteous, too. Jesus doesn’t give us the ending to the parable of the second son. We don’t know if the second son changed his mind like the first son or if he did not. Jesus was not looking at the chief priests and the Pharisees to give him the conclusion, but Jesus was steering them in the right direction. Jesus said, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering ahead of you,” but Jesus didn’t say the door to the kingdom of God had been closed to them. They didn’t believe John the Baptist, and they were not baptized by him, and they remained unchanged even after they saw the great change in the tax collectors and the prostitutes; but on this Tuesday of Holy Week, in three days Jesus will die for their sins, Jesus is still holding the gospel on the doorstep of their hearts. Will they receive it with joy and change their life, or would they stubbornly refuse the gospel and stay the same?
That is the same question God is asking you this morning? Do you see the error in your way? Do you see your sin of outward righteousness? What should you do? What does page 156 say? Question: When I realize that I have sinned against God and deserve his punishment, what should I do? Answer: I will confess before God all of my sins, those which I remember as well as those of which I am unaware. I will pray to God for his mercy and forgiveness. Question: How do I receive his gracious forgiveness? Answer: His Word assures me that Jesus led a pure and holy life and died on the cross for me to pay the full price for all my sins. Through faith in Jesus, I have been clothed in my Savior’s perfect righteousness and holiness. Question: How will I respond to this priceless gift from Jesus? Answer: I will daily thank and praise him for his life to me. With his help I will fight temptation, do my best to correct whatever wrongs I have done, and serve him and those around me with love and good works.” Amen.