“The parable of the two sons,” recorded in Matthew 21:28-32, was precipitated by a confrontation Jesus had with the chief priests and elders. They demanded to know who gave Him the authority to teach and to perform miracles (V. 23). Jesus countered them with a question which they refused to answer. He then told them neither would He answer their question (vv. 24-27). He went on to describe these religious leaders in the parable of the two sons. It reads as follows:
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him (Matt. 21:28-32).
The chief priests and elders ostensibly adhered to the teachings of the Old Testament. But not the publicans and harlots. The publicans and harlots made no pretence about keeping the Law of Moses. Yet, when they heard the message Jesus brought, they accepted Christ as the Messiah and repented. The religious leaders gave lip service to doing the will of God, but refused to repent. They rejected both John the Baptist and Christ. So the question in the parable is: Which of them did the will of God the Father? The parable illustrates that appearing to be righteous does not really mean one is righteous. One proves his righteousness by what he does, not by what he says. If one does not really practice what Jesus taught, then he does not really believe it. The parable is a stinging indictment against those who appear to do the will of God, but refuse to obey God when put to the test. Jesus said: “. . . Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). The religious leaders, no doubt, believed that if they repented and accepted Christ as the Messiah, they would be forced to give up their status and position in life. The cost was too great. They were like the son who agreed to work in the field, but refused to do so when it came to the reality. In spite of what was said, the son did not really intend to obey what his father required, and neither did the religious leaders intend to obey what God required.
Next, let us go to Luke 14:16-24. This parable has been called “the parable of the feast,” and was given because of a comment made to Jesus during a Sabbath meal. On this occasion Jesus noticed how those who attended had chosen the chief places to sit. So, He bluntly told the host: “. . .When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (vv. 12-14). Since Jesus’ words carried the idea of a great feast in a future recompense, a man next to him felt it to necessary to comment. He said to Jesus: “. . . Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15). In response, Jesus gave this parable:
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper (Luke 14:16-24).
The parable is about the Kingdom of God. The “certain man” who “made a great supper, and bade many” is the Father. The supper is likened to the marriage supper in Matthew 22:2 and Revelation 19:9. Many had been invited to the home of the Pharisee on this occasion (Luke 14:1). In like manner, over the years, God has invited many to join in the marriage supper of the Lamb. The servant in Luke 14:17 appears to be a reference to Christ. Many had been invited to join with God in the past, but now the supper was ready, that is, the culmination of God’s work and purpose was nearing completion. Paul writes: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). Moses had foretold this Servant: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deut. 18:18). What those who attended the meal at the home of the Pharisee did not realize was that the One talking to them at that very moment was this Servant! The people of Israel refused to acknowledge God’s servants in the past, and Jesus knew they would end up rejecting Him as well.
Notice what the parable says about those whom the “certain man” (God) had invited: “And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:18-20). How important are physical things to most people? This parable tells us. The historical record is this: Many who have received God’s invitation to salvation have rejected it. They have been willing to trade God’s summons to the Kingdom of God for the temporary amenities of this life. Paul tells us: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19).
While the man in Luke 14:15 said to Jesus, “. . . Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God,” Jesus illustrated that most people neither appreciate nor recognize the value of the Kingdom of God. The physical amenities in the parable (vvs. 18-20) were given as excuses for not responding to the invitation of God. They must be understood in their proper perspective. None of these things are wrong in themselves. It is not evil to buy land, to own and appreciate livestock, or to get married. But, to place these things ahead of the Kingdom of God and to reject it because of them is wrong! This is why John wrote: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17). We must love God and His Way more than anything that is physical, even our own lives. Jesus said: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). “Hate” in this verse has a comparative meaning, that is, “to love less by comparison.” We must love our relatives and even our own lives less than we love God.
The parable continues: “So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (Luke 14:21).
Quite often those who often respond to God’s Truth are not those who have an ardent desire for the physical amenities of this life. They are the ones Jesus mentioned in the above verse. Most of those who seek to enjoy the pleasures of this life are people who either have wealth, or desire it. They crave wealth in order to enjoy what wealth has to offer, or they seek it for the power it gives them. Jesus illustrated the folly of this reasoning when He said:
. . . The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21).
Those in the parable who “began to make excuse” obviously were not the poor. One could afford to purchase land, another could buy five yoke of oxen, and the last could afford a wife. But they were not rich toward God. None of them had time for the Kingdom of God. The man who remarked about eating bread in the Kingdom of God had no idea what was involved. He did not realize that many people who receive that opportunity reject it. In the parable the servant came and said: “. . . Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room” (Luke 14:22). “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (v. 23). The fulfillment of this statement is seen by the fact that the nation of Israel, as a whole, had rejected Christ, so now the Gentiles were invited into the Kingdom of God. Jesus had actually foretold this in Matthew 8:11-12: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The children of Israel rejected the invitation, but the Gentiles did not.
Of the Gentiles Paul wrote:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:11-13).
The Gentile people, as a whole, did not reject Christ. By a national policy, the Jews did. In Luke 14:24, the master of the house summarized what happened as a result: “For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.”
This parable shows that it is easy to give lip service to something that is not really understood. This is illustrated by the man’s comment to Jesus in Luke 14:15. But to really recognize and appreciate what is actually involved in entering the Kingdom of God is another matter. The fact is: Many of those who have been given the invitation to enter the Kingdom of God, neither understood nor comprehended the tremendous blessing being given. They were too wrapped up in the amenities and physical pleasures of this life to take time for God.
Matthew 21:33 begins another parable. It is a very powerful parable and reads as follows:
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Matt. 21:33-44).
The householder is God, and the vineyard is the nation of Israel. This parable was certainly substantiated by what has happened historically. Jesus described it: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city” (Matt. 23:34). The prophets were rejected and some of them killed. Jesus said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). Jesus knew they were going to reject and kill Him. This is why He gave the parable.
The nation of Israel was God’s vineyard, but look what happened to it.
Isaiah tells us:
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? . . . For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry (Isa. 5:1-4,7).
Paul described the persecution of the prophets and wise men of God. He wrote of those who faced the wrath of a rebellious nation. “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:36-38).
Jesus denounced the religious leaders for their part in this persecution and murder:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation (Matt. 23:29-36).
Peter described what happened to Christ: “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12). “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner” (1 Peter 2:7). The nation of which Christ spoke in the parable is not a physical nation. It refers to the Kingdom of God. God will rule the whole world in His Kingdom. Those who reject God and Christ-the rebellious of this world-will not be in that kingdom.
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. . . . And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
All that Jesus described in the parable has taken place, or will take place in the future. This parable is a potent reminder of the power of God, and what will happen to those who ultimately reject Him.