Sermon Notes: A Tale of Two Sons (Matthew 21:23-32)

The following sermon was preached on October 30, 2011 by Rev. Joe Troutman at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas. Listen to the sermon at this link, or subscribe to the podcast.

In fulfillment of the old Testament Scriptures, Jesus Christ came to bring salvation to every sinner who repents and believes in him.

A Question of Authority (Matthew 21:23) 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?”

  • The beginning of a long series of exchanges between Jesus and the Temple leaders which culminates in the seven woes pronounced upon their hypocrisy in Matthew 23.
  • The leaders should have known Jesus’ authority was from heaven.

A Question in Response (Matthew 21:24-27) 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. 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?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 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.

  • Jesus demonstrates his authority by asking a question of the chief priests.
  • Jesus’ question makes them weigh the politics of their answer. They want to admit John’s authority from heaven, but knew doing so would be to regard Jesus as something more than just a rabble rouser.
  • The leaders lie when they claim to not know the source of John’s authority, and Jesus, knowing this, refuses to answer them.

The Answer (Matthew 21:28-32) “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.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 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. 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.

  • Jesus’ parable illustrates the chief priests’ weakness and inability which comes from unbelief.
  • Neither the first nor the second son were honorable in their response to the command of their father.
  • The tax collectors and prostetutes represent the first son of the parable.
  • The chief priests and elders represent the second son who professes faith and obedience yet fails in both regards. They should have known
  • Christian churches are full of unbelieving, unrepentant sinners who profess faith but do not demonstrate this faith in their walk.
  • It is often asked how can we hold accountable to God those who never hear about Jesus? But this parable, and Jesus’ encounter with the chief priests and elders of Israel show us that knowing about Jesus is no guarantee of faith and repentance.
  • Without God working in your heart, you will not be able to believe but God is working, using his Word, calling each of us, believer and unbeliever, to repentance and faith.
  • Christ suffered the consequences of the sins of the first son in the parable, and likewise those of sinners today who come to Christ in faith. Repent of your sins and trust Christ today, and you will be forgiven of your sins, and you will have done the will of your Father in heaven.
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