“Then Jesus explained His meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did.”
Jesus often used questions to present His listeners with a powerful teaching. Today’s passage is no different. In the preceding verses, the Pharisees approach Jesus and question by what His authority He was able to teach others and to do the signs and miracles that He was doing. He never directly answers them but instead, in the next passage, throws a question back to the Pharisees in the form of a story.
He explained that there were two sons. The father was an owner of a vineyard and asked his older son to go out and work in the vineyard. He flatly refuses and says ‘No, I wont go!’ After a while the older son changes his mind and agrees to work in the vineyard. The same question is asked to the younger son who gladly agrees but never goes. Jesus asks His listeners the question, “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They all answer rightly, “The first”.
Jesus explains His question but highlighting a simple truth. The tax collectors and prostitutes obeyed and will enter the Kingdom of God, but those who don’t, won’t. Although there is a much deeper meaning to this statement, there is also a simple truth. Jesus doesn’t differentiate between tax collectors and prostitutes (sinners) and the so called Pharisees (hypocrites). He is more interested in those who although may refuse the Gospel at first, turn from their sinful ways, acknowledge they are wrong, repent and enjoy the blessing of a redeemed life. However there is a strong warning for those who agree to following the Gospel in word, but in reality their lifestyles and actions are contrary to what the Gospel teaches.
Let us take the opportunity to turn from our rebellion, put our trust in Jesus, rely on His grace and not just be followers of Jesus in word but also through the way we live our lives.