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Parable of the Two Sons

Sermon Series:

Religion vs Relationship

Ryan Kimmel
Ryan Kimmel

Lead Pastor

Peace Church

Main Passage:
Matthew 21:28-32


Today is the day the Lord has made. So let us rejoice and be glad in it and you all best rejoice. So let me hear you say, Amen. Amen. So who here agrees with this statement? There is beauty in the simple things. You agree with that? I completely agree with that. One thing is so true for our world is that we over complicate things but there is such beauty in the simple things and listen I know that I'm the lead pastor of a large fast-paced multi-site multi-million dollar church that just went through a huge capital campaign but I'm just tearing out my heart the heart of my heart is for the simple things at the end of the day I want simple.

And I think this is part of why I love Jesus so much. He was the undisputed master of showing the beauty in simple things. He was the master about showing the power in the simple things. And this is what he does through the parables. Parables are little story analogies that are told simply, but yet reveal so much power and beauty. Last week we looked at the parable of the prodigal son. Pastor John brought us through that about the two brothers and today we're going to be looking at another parable about two brothers. The other parable of the two sons, the two brothers.

If you have your Bibles, would you please turn to Matthew 21. We'll be looking at verses starting at verse 28. So as you're turning there in your Bibles, Jesus gives us this little parable to highlight and to challenge us what it means to believe in God versus actually following God. Jesus gives us this parable to help us to identify if our religious obedience is matched with a true love for the Father. And that's been our sermon series, this quick little two-week sermon series, Religion or Relationship – What Actually is the Christian Faith? faith. So in this story that we're going to read, it's a parable, and what's interesting, here's what you need to know, is that Jesus told this parable in the temple days before his crucifixion. He was in Jerusalem and people had gathered in this time to celebrate Passover. Passover was a Jewish celebration. Now listen, during Passover, Jerusalem could swell to six times its normal size. So it was incredibly packed as people from all over would come to celebrate this religious festival. And now what Passover did is it commemorates God's saving work in bringing the Hebrews out of Egypt.

Now, I think what's very interesting is that Jesus gives this parable during a highly religious observance. It's almost as if he's making them think about whether or not they're coming to celebrate Passover out of religious duty or out of love for God. And I'll just let the cat out of the bag right now. Same goes for you here. Are you coming to church out of religious duty or out of love for God? And so let's let Jesus encourage us and challenge us here this morning. With this, would you hear the word of our Lord? Matthew 21:28-32. This is God's word. Jesus says,

Matthew 21:28-32

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.

This is God's word. Let's pray. We'll continue. Let's pray. Father God, the fact that you have revealed yourself as our father shows the kind of relationship you want to have with us, oh God. And so I pray, Father, here in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus, by the fellowship and power of the Holy Spirit, that you would help us to see how our faith is more than just a religion. It is a relationship that we have with you, our living God. And it's in your name we pray these things. Amen. Amen.

So, church, as we look at this little story here today, I want to give you the main idea. I want you to chew on this one for a little bit. You have a relationship with God.

You have a relationship with God when you obey the Will of God.

Now, as we look at this little parable, there's a couple things we're going to pull out and discuss as we chew on this here this morning. So here's here's kind of your outline. We have a relationship with God when we obey the will of God as seen in the contrast of the two brothers.

  1. The contrast of the two brothers (vv. 28-31)

  2. The challenge of the religious leaders (vv. 31-32)

1. The contrast of the two brothers

So with the crowd listening and with the religious leaders listening, here's what Jesus says. And I love how he starts out. Now imagine as he's sharing this story here, I'm just going to imagine those religious leaders, just their smug looks on their face, dressed all nice, this air of superiority. And Jesus just comes and he just delivers, just the powerhouse of a parable. He's going to go for the mic drop here, because if actually, if you read earlier, Jesus has already challenged him. He's already put them in their place. And now he kind of just, he goes for the final nail in the coffin. I love how he starts. He says, what do you think? He's like, what do you think here, boys? And then he tells this story. He says, so this dad has a farm and his dad has two sons who are brothers. And he says to the one son, Hey, go out and do your chores. And that son says, no, I don't know about you. I was not allowed to say no to my dad. He says no. But then afterwards he, he goes and changes his mind and he does it. No, no. It says, Jesus says that he changed his mind. The son changed his mind. We'll come back to that. Well, this farmer dad has another son and he says, okay, boy, you go do your chores now. And this little brown-nosing son says, yes, daddy, sure, daddy, I'll go do it, daddy, right away, daddy. But then does not actually do this.

Now, here's what I can tell you right now. Here's what I'm willing to bet that I know about you right now. You already kind of like the first son, and you're already really annoyed with the second son. And I'll tell you now, it was probably the same for the crowd when they heard it back in Jesus' day. But I love how Jesus frames the question. So he tells the story, and then this is how he wants them to think about it. He says, which of the two, verse 31, which of the two did the will of his father? He's saying which one proved that he actually respected his dad. Now, hopefully you know this, but this story is clearly meant to teach us about us and God. And I'll just say one of the first things we see right off the bat is that you don't have to be perfect to have a relationship with God. But we do have to obey his will.

The whole point here is that Jesus is concerned about which son actually obeys his dad. Notice, notice Jesus does not ask which son loved his dad more. Jesus asked that in a way that's proven by their actions because what's truly in our hearts is shown in our actions. What's truly is in our hearts is shown in the way that we live. I'm not saying we don't mess up. I certainly do. I know you do, but you cannot deny the connection between what's in our hearts and how we conduct our lives. Jesus is telling us a profound truth in this parable. He's saying you don't get to just say you're gonna do your chores, you actually have to do them. He's saying you don't get to just say you love God, you actually have to obey his will. And listen, Jesus said the same thing in John 14. Jesus said, if you love me, you will obey my commands. He's saying you don't get to just say you love God. He's saying that you have a relationship with God when you obey the will of God.

2. The challenge of the religious leaders

And then, and then Jesus takes this parable and like a shotgun on opening day, he takes it and he turns directly at the religious leaders. So let's look at the challenge that he brings them. So the religious leaders, they answer Jesus and they say, well it was the first son who did the will of the father. And with the shotgun pointed right at them, Jesus pulls the trigger and look what he says in verse 31 and 32. Jesus said to them, truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. He goes on to say, for John, speaking of John the Baptist, for John came to you in the way of righteousness, but you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you religious people saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. Okay, there's so much to unpack here.

So firstly, if you're unfamiliar with what Jesus is saying here with the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Let me clarify. During Jesus' time, tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as the lowest of the low, the worst sinners. They were seen as immoral and traitors. So here's the context. In Jesus' day, Rome had basically conquered all of the surrounding world. They were the world's superpower at that time. And they had occupied Judea and Jerusalem, where Jesus lived and ministered meaning if you lived where Jesus did when Jesus did you would have seen Roman soldiers all around as they occupied the land they were foreign rulers and what Rome did was they exacted a tax a high tax on people and so what Rome would do is that they would hire local people to collect the taxes. They would hire Jewish people to collect the taxes, meaning fellow Jewish people would start working for their foreign rulers, collecting taxes for Rome, but if that weren't enough, for instance, here's how it would work. For instance, if Rome said the tax was $50, these Jewish tax collectors would charge $60 and then pocket the 10. And Rome just kind of batted an eye at this.

So these Jewish tax collectors would be in cahoots with their occupiers and steal from their own people. This of course was seen as an incredible betrayal. It was dirty, it was corrupt, they were seen as traitors. And this is what Jesus is hitting on when he talks about how the tax collectors are getting into heaven ahead of you. This is a group of people who were utterly despised by the religious leaders. And so prostitutes were just that, and I'll try to keep this PG for us here today. Prostitutes were just that. Women who would give up their bodies in exchange for money to anyone willing to pay. This was seen, like it is today, as purveying a perverse culture of debauchery.

So for the people of Judea and Jerusalem, tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as lowest of the low. And yet Jesus is saying to these religious people, he's saying that those sinners are actually getting into heaven ahead of them. Listen, I'm not sure you are fully feeling the weight of how much of an affront that must have been to those ears. Like we just hear this all the time because we read our Bibles all the time. This would have been utterly shocking to them and even highly offensive to them.

Now, here's what I'm gonna say to you, church. I know so many people who feel like they're just not growing in their faith. And I'll tell you why I think many people stop growing in their faith. It's because they stop feeling the challenge. They no longer are challenged by the faith. They think they know it all. So let me try to bring a correlation here that might help you feel how much of a challenge this might have been. This would have been like if Jesus was speaking to religious people here today, and he would have told you or me in particular as a religious leader, hey, the drug dealers and the drag queens are getting into heaven ahead of you. Like that's the level of like challenge that they felt that we need to feel. To really discern are we doing this because we're just religiously superior or do we have a humble? Repentant faith as we follow God.

Then let me just say something because I want to make something Abundantly clear here. This is very popular to bring this up these days Jesus yes, he did hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes. But why? He hung out with tax collectors, Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes in order to bring them out of their sin and into the kingdom. Look what Jesus says in verse 32. He says, for John, again speaking of John the Baptist, John the Baptist came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes, what? Believed. The tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. I can't underscore this enough because people in our day, we want to say that Jesus hung out with sinners and prostitutes for no other reason other than the fact that he was just a tolerant person and a staple of progressive inclusion. That's not why Jesus hung out with them. He hung out with them because he loved them. Yes, but he loved them enough to proclaim the gospel to them, to let them know there's room in the kingdom for them if they repent and believe in the gospel. It's the religious who need to be challenged on this.

And I want to tell you about a time that I had my own, Oh no, I'm a religious person moment. Number of years ago, uh, when I was the family pastor here at peace church, before I became the lead pastor, I went with our children's ministry team to a conference in Atlanta. And our children's team was composed mostly of women, and at that time I went with our Matt Witte, who is currently our facilities director, but back then he was our bold boys leader, our young boys ministry leader. And so we went, we were the only two guys on the strip with a group of ladies. And so we landed in Atlanta, big airports. And in those bigger airports, if you've ever been there, you know that you often have to take like a little train from your terminal to the baggage claim. You know what I'm saying? Okay, so it's Atlanta, so it's big, it's bustling, it's busy and it's packed.

And so we, me and the, all these ladies and me and Matt, we get on this little train and we're just scrunched in, it's packed. And this woman came on the train after us. And again, I'll try to keep it PG here. Let's just say it appeared that she was a working girl. And she was clearly medically altered in her appearance and had no problem dressing in a way to show this off. So on this train, she walks in and me and Matt look at her, and then me and Matt look at each other, and then me and Matt look at the ceiling. Oh, look at that. Carpet on fiberglass. Oh, interesting. We're not looking around, right? We're godly men here. But this short little ride, I noticed also on this train in the front, there was this group of these guys. And listen, I'm a pastor and I try to love everybody, but I'll just tell you right now, these guys just didn't, just something about them, okay? Something about them just rubbed me the wrong way. And they were pointing at her and they were clearly talking about her. And so we got to our stop. And of course, you know, when those things stop, everyone wants to get out the exact same time.

So we're all getting like shoved out. And it just so happened that she gets shoved up right next to me. And she's got her baggage claim ticket in her hand. And she's trying to show it to me and she says, do you know where this is? And without even looking at her, I said, no, I don't. Sorry. Truth is, I will just tell you now, I wanted to maintain my self-righteousness. I didn't want the women of our children's team thinking that I was hitting on her. I wanted to be above reproach. I didn't want anyone else judging me for talking to her. So we get off the train and there was like five rows of escalators, all right? And I tried to distance myself and I went and got an escalator and we're going up and I look over at one of the escalators down the way and I see her and that group of guys had just surrounded her and the Holy Spirit just spoke to my heart, broke my heart. And I think the message was something like this. Are you really any better than those guys? It was like God was saying to me, that was my lost daughter, and I brought her to you for help, but you were too concerned about your image to help her. It's like God was saying, you're just like those guys. You only saw her as an object. You saw her as an object to be avoided to maintain your self-righteousness. They saw her as an object to be acquired to satisfy their own desires. Was I really any better than them? I looked over and I saw her surrounded by those guys and I will tell you this time I saw her through God's eyes. I saw her as a human, as someone who Christ came to save. But I didn't think that because I was too worried about what people would think of me.

You see, here's how you know if you are a religious person. Do you only see people through the choices they've made or do you see people made in the image of God?

Now listen, nobody wants to be the religious person but here's what I'll tell you, it's easier to be that person. And here's what I'll tell you, it goes both ways. See, for religious people on the right, we often avoid sinners so that we can feel self-righteous. But I would say religious people on the left, they hang out with sinners so that people will think that they're inclusive. Either way, religious people use others as a means to an end to build up themselves and their own image.

But Jesus provides a true and loving way. Listen to me, he didn't hang out with sinners because he was tolerant and progressive, and he didn't avoid them, even when he was criticized by the religious crowd for doing it. I'll tell you now, that story that I just shared with you haunts me, because I wonder, if I had brought her to the baggage claim, if I had brought her to the baggage claim, could I have brought her to the kingdom of God? Now listen, she was not an attractive person. She's what the Bible calls sensual. And maybe there are some guys in here who probably should have avoided a person like that. But it was a crowded space. And I had an opportunity to be a true witness for the gospel with an opportunity that God literally brought right to my doorstep, but I was too concerned about maintaining my pristine religious image.

I'll say it again. Guys like Jesus and John the Baptist, they spent time with sinners because they loved them, but they loved them enough to proclaim the gospel to them, to invite them into something better than the life they were living. And look what happened, verse 32, "'But the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed.'" There's the difference, they believe. The tax collectors and the prostitutes, they're getting in front of the line into heaven, not because Jesus thinks they're cool, but because they're sinners who repent and believe the message of the gospel. That's how anyone is getting to heaven. No one is good enough to get into heaven. It is simply and only and wholly and fully the work of Christ. And once we place our faith in Him, that's how we get into heaven. Because when we place our faith in Jesus, the righteousness of Christ is given to us. Not because we earned it, but because God is good and He graciously gives it to us.

And the true test as to whether or not a person has repented and believed the gospel, if they're truly sorry for what they've done, is in their changed behavior. Jesus said a tree is known by its fruit, meaning a person is known by the actions, by what happens in their life. Jesus saw the changed behavior of the tax collectors and the prostitutes based on their And Jesus connects them with the Son, the first Son, in the story that we just read. They're the first Son. They first said no to God, but later on they changed their mind and followed Him, unlike the religious people who say yes to God, but they actually don't follow His will. Let me spell this out. Jesus is saying the religious leaders are the second Son. They say they follow God. They say they love God. They say they do God's will but they don't actually do it. You have a religion which is a true relationship with God When you have a when you follow and obey God's will and it's at this point people That you've been listening to Jesus contrast two different parties the first son and the second son, the sinners who repent and the religious people who don't. And it's at this point you have to ask yourself, which one are you? For those who can hear me right now, for those of you in another venue, for those of you listening right now on a podcast in some tree stand. Oh, I'll call anybody out. Don't you worry. Which one are you?

Do you follow the right thing to do out of religious duty or out of love for God? Do you sacrifice your preferences to follow God's Will or do you selfishly follow your own wills?

Jesus told this parable days before his crucifixion. Before a crucifixion he knew was coming. And when Jesus died on that cross, He died on the cross in our place for our sins. It was our sins that nailed Him there. Jesus took our punishment and we have to ask ourselves, what is our response? To either reject God and go our own way or to repent and change our behavior because we've changed our minds. Listen, I will tell you right now, God is not some distant God. Jesus is not some distant Savior. He is the resurrected and triumphant savior who calls us into relationship With him. This is why the word Reconciliation is such a powerful word for christians because reconciliation means that we've been brought back into relationship with god That's who we are. We are the sons and daughters of the king Remember you have a relationship with god when you obey the will of God. This is such a profound truth and it kind of goes against probably our common notions of what it means to be a Christian. But we have a relationship with God when we stay in His will. Jesus came to pull us back when we stepped outside of His will.

But Church, I want you to remember, when we fall short, because we will, and that's not an excuse to fall short. It's just the reality of the world that we live in. When we fall short, remember this, God does not. When our faithfulness waxes and wanes, remember, the faithfulness of God is the greatest there is. Great is His faithfulness towards us. This is why we lean into God. This is why we follow Jesus. Because their love, God's love for us, Christ's love for us, His faithfulness towards us is greater than our own. So, let's prepare our hearts to sing, great is thy faithfulness, because God has yet again shown this church how great His faithfulness is, amen? Amen, would you please stand? Church, I'm gonna ask you to bow your heads, whether you're here or in another venue, would you bow your heads and just reflect for a moment?

God has been so good to us. God's been so good to this church. With your heads bowed, I want you just to stand in a moment of gratitude for the way that God's moved in the hearts of this church, the ways He continues to move. And this is because His faithfulness is great, not because we've earned it but because he's good. And so when you sing of God's great faithfulness, do this because you know that he is good. So, Father, we are thankful for the ways that you have moved in this church, but we are even more eternally grateful. The fact that you are God. We are eternally grateful for the gospel that Christ died in our place, for our sins, so that we can be brought back to you, have fellowship with you, and you've sent the Holy Spirit to fill, fuel, and guide your church in this faithfulness. And so, Father, I pray, as we sing these words, Father, I pray that we'd sing them as a church that knows these words are true, that we believe these words are true, because you've shown them time and time again. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.

Church, let's worship together.

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