Clusters of grapes hanging in a vineyard.

The Parable of the Two Sons, Repentance, and God the Father

Near the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shares the Parable of the Two Sons. He says, “…A man had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind, and went. 30 He came to the second, and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I’m going, sir,’ but he didn’t go.” (Matt. 21:28-30).

In the initial context, this follows the religious leaders’ question about Jesus’ authority. In the text, there is a man who has two sons. He says the same to both, “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” The first son rejects his father’s command. He says, “I will not.” Afterward, he changes his mind and goes to the vineyard. He initially disobeys his father, but he repents and does what he was told.

The father says the same to his second son. He answers correctly. “I’m going, sir,” but he does not follow through with action. He lies, and does not work in his father’s vineyard.

As the conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders continues, we learn that these two sons represent different groups of people. The second son is an illustration of the chief priests and the elders. The first is a demonstration of tax collectors and prostitutes. As verse 31 teaches, they are entering into God’s Kingdom before the religious leaders. Sinners were entering while the righteous were left outside.

Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Most certainly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into God’s Kingdom before you.

Matthew 21:31

The Passage for Us Today

I find the above to be amazing. Shouldn’t the righteous be the ones who are entering the Kingdom? Surely sinners don’t deserve to enter!

That’s the point. Nobody deserves to enter the Kingdom of God. The difference is that the tax collectors and prostitutes repented. The chief priests and elders did not.

Although this parable doesn’t use the word “mercy,” it is a great image of it. If you study the Bible as a whole, you will find the merciful nature of God on display repeatedly. In a sense, this same principle is demonstrated here. The first son rejects the command. The father is merciful. He does not punish his son for disobedience. Later, the son changes his mind, and does the will of the father.

This aspect of the Almighty extends to ourselves as well. He does not deal out justice against us as soon as we deserve it. He is patient with us, so much so that He often allows us to change our minds years after the fact. Even if we make the wrong decision, we often have multiple opportunities to reverse course. As we develop an understanding of His Word, we can see the error of our ways, and turn back to Him.

Thinking back to our time of disobedience, when we were in that state, we were like the tax collectors and prostitutes, and no better than them.

Thankfully, in the story, the son doesn’t remain disobedient. He changes his mind. He goes to the vineyard as his father commanded. He is obedient and does his will. We can also change our minds, and seek to follow the will of God the Father.

Like the sinners who were entering the Kingdom of God, the Lord also liberates us from the power of darkness and translates into the Kingdom (Col. 1:12-14). That is, if we obey the Gospel and are added to His body.

Without the mercy and grace of God, none of this would be possible.

Encouragement for Those Without an Earthly Father

A black and white illustration showing a family holding hands together. Everyone in it is represented as a silhouette. Unfortunately, the image is torn. The husband that was once holding hands with his wife is torn from the rest of the image.
Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with an earthly father.

In the story, the father knew where he wanted his sons to go, and what he wanted them to accomplish. He told them a direction for a particular period of time. By doing so, he gave them a purpose and an understanding of what was expected. One of the two rejected this instruction. The young man who obeyed knew that he was working as instructed, and following the commands of his dad.

For those who grew up in broken homes, such sons and daughters lack some of these directions and expectations. Not that many of us work in vineyards, but fathers (and mothers) help guide their children in the ways they need to go. They teach them what is appropriate in the family, and how to work for others. They also encourage them by acknowledging a job well done.

In a broken home, at least part of that guidance is missing. Such absence hinders the positive development of children. This is a shame, and something that should be avoided.

The great thing about the Bible is that it teaches all of us in the way we need to go, and what we should do. This is the case even if one’s physical father is absent from the family. When we consider the Word of God, we simply have to decide how we respond to such instruction. All of us have the opportunity to benefit from such guidance.

In addition to that, the Scriptures reveal that there is a Father who is available to all of us. To you, and to me. Even if you grew up without a physical father, you can still be a child of God. You can still have the Father and know His will. You can be a part of the family of God, having Jesus as your Lord and brother, and enjoying the blessings of being adopted as a child of God (Matt. 12:48-50; Gal. 4:1-7).

These are all marvelous, but we all have to change our minds before we can participate in them. I hope that all of us may do so, and be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Images Used

Purple Grapes at a Vineyard by JillWellington from Pixabay.
Family Divorce Illustration by geralt from Pixabay.

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