Read Matthew 21:23-32
As a whole, the religious leaders of Christ’s day only seemed to grow in their antagonism of Him. They were jealous of the following He received. They stood opposed to the company He kept. They disagreed with the freedoms He allowed Himself and His followers. As a result, they voiced their hatred, they tried to trap Him in trick questions, and they eventually pursued the opportunity to arrest and execute Him.
On one such occasion, when they sought to trap Him with the question of the source of His authority, Jesus responded first with His own question that silenced them and then with a parable that exposed them. The story was that of a man with two sons. The father was representative of God. The two sons represented two groups of people. The first son illustrated tax collectors, prostitutes, and people of reputation as “sinners.” The second son was designed to point to the religious leaders of the day.
It seems that the father asked both of the sons individually to go and work for him. In the first conversation, the younger son refused immediately. He would not serve his father. Meanwhile, the older son agreed immediately. In spite of their responses, however, neither son did what they had promised. The younger son did indeed go to work later. Similarly, the older son did not keep his promise. He did not go out to work.
In like manner, Jesus was pointing to the fact that many once rebellious and obstinate “sinners” were now repenting and giving themselves to the work of God. They had responded to the preaching of John the Baptist and to that of Jesus. On the other hand, the highly respected religious leaders . . . those who had at least historically given lip service to obedience to their heavenly Father . . . they did not repent, believe, and turn out to serve.
Some of the core truths of this parable are just as accurate today. Thankfully, even the person with the vilest past can turn from his/her sin to the Savior. While those with an air of religion may never recognize their sin, which is just as real, and turn to serve Jesus.
Extend the gospel to all and be careful in judging any!