Read Matthew 21:18-46 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it 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 man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. 28 What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. 33 Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:‘The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone;this was the Lord's doing,and it is marvelous in our eyes’?43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. In Jesus’ parable about two sons it seems strange to give positive support to a son, who was initially obstinate and disobedient, just because he later “changed his mind.” I am sure we would like it better if there could be a third son, one who is asked, agrees, and does the will of the Father. However, there is only one who fits that character profile and He’s telling the story. Jesus uses this parable to highlight the contrast between two groups of people from his interactions. There are the “sinners” whose lives have been full of disobedience to God but heard Jesus’ call to repentance and turned to Him. Then there are the chief priests and elders whose lives seem to demonstrate obedience to God but who refuse to believe the testimony of John the Baptist and turn to Christ. The word used in “changing his mind” gives a sense of being filled with regret and can be connected with the ideas of repentance. From the time Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He has done nothing but concern Himself with people repenting. There are many ways we deceive ourselves or try to fool others with a charade of obedience. But this really is no different than the second son giving empty lip service. Instead, Christ would recall John’s testimony in order to persuade us to repent: Flee the final judgment, turn from sin, turn to Christ and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:1-12) Prayer Father, forgive me for all the ways I disobey You. Forgive my feigned obedience by looking instead at the perfect obedience of Jesus and His sacrificial death. Strengthen my faith by Your Holy Spirit and produce in me fruit in keeping with repentance. Amen.