The Two Workers
Good evening. We are going to continue our studies on the parables of Jesus.
We only have a few left to do.
Turn your Bibles to Matthew 21. Let’s set the scene starting in verse 23. Matthew 21:23-27 – “23. Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?'' 24. But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25. "The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?'' And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 26. "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.'' 27. So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know.'' And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus has been in the temple teaching and the religious leaders, the Pharisees and the scribes question Him because as far as they were concerned they were the only ones that should be teaching anybody. They asked Jesus what authority do you have to be teaching the people.
Jesus then asks them about the baptism of John. Where did John get his authority? They get together and start talking to one another. “If we say it came from God then we're in a hole because we didn't believe him, but if we say that it was from man then the people are going be upset at us because they believe him to be a prophet.” They were between a rock and a hard place, either answer is going to be bad so they come back and tell Jesus we don't know.
The parable we are going to look at today is reveals Jesus as the Master teacher. Gathered around Jesus was a group of Jews who were seeking His destruction. As we know the Jews always had a problem accepting Jesus’ authority. Jesus tells them this story and asks them their opinion. As we are going to read in a minute the answer they gave was perfectly correct but what they didn’t understand was the story’s implications. It wasn’t until Jesus had finished that they realized the story was about them. That’s hard to accept. They had accused themselves and so fixed their own punishment. We have already discovered the parables of Jesus not only explain truths but they also expose the heart.
We are going to look at “The parable of the two sons”. Let’s go ahead and read it.
Matthew 21:28-32 – “28. "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' 29. "He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. 30. "Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. 31. "Which of the two did the will of his father?'' They said to Him, "The first.'' Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32. "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”[NKJV]
I. What I want to do is break this parable into three focus points this evening. The first focus point I want us to look at is ‘The call’. Jesus asks the Jewish leaders a question in verse 28, "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'”
A. This is about a relationship, father and son. One of the first things that I notice when I read this parable is the direct way the father approaches his sons. He knows he has the right to ask them both to go and work in his vineyard. This illustration reveals the responsibilities of sons. He speaks to both sons in the kindest of terms and says, “Son go work today.” Jesus says in Matthew 21:30 – “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.”[para]
B. In this way God as the Father gently calls all men and women. That’s because God is ever seeking workers. It’s God who takes the initiative to bring the inactive and indifferent world into His vineyard. That’s what Jesus meant when He says in John 6:44 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
C. It is God who draws people to the Savior. We might wonder how He does this. It is not through a weird dream, not through a fascinating vision, not through a Ouija board, not through a crystal ball. It doesn’t work that way. Then what is His drawing power? Read on in verse 45 of John 6, John 6:45 – “It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”
D. God draws people to the Savior through teaching. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 – “to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” People are brought near to the fountain of grace when they learn and receive and submit to the Gospel of Christ.
1. A long time ago when Dr. David Livingstone was working in Africa, a group of friends wrote a letter to him. They wrote in the letter, “We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?”
2. According to a member of his family, Dr. Livingston sent this message in reply, “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
E. The father in the parable asked each of his sons to work. He didn’t say it was easy work, but they were called to work. Listen, folks, God’s call goes out to the entire world. It’s as worldwide as human flesh. It’s as all-pervading as human needs.
1. God’s call went out in the time of John and this parable is about the two different groups of people and their reactions. The religious leaders did not accept it. They didn't accept John. They didn't accept Christ. But the common people did it. In this we see the two sons, the common people, and the religious leaders. Jesus is making a contrast between them. Parables are designed to drive home points and this one is straightforward.
2. God summons each and every one of us to preach the Gospel to all nations. Not a single soul is to be left out, the call is universal and individual. When you read your Bible you will find that He calls me and He calls you... one by one. He wants all His children to enter His vineyard and when a person refuses to go in, they are flatly refusing to acknowledge His authority.
II. Does God call us to become Christians, and then we just sit around and enjoy the blessings of a Christian life? No! Of course He doesn’t. That’s the second focus point: ‘The call from God is a call to work.’
A. A preacher was once asked by his friend, whom he met while on vacation, “How many members do you have in your congregation?” The preacher replied, “One thousand.” His friend said, “Really! and how many of them are active?” The preacher replied, “All of them.” He said, “Around two hundred of them are active for the Lord, the balance are active for the devil.”
B. We ought to consider in which category we are. More importantly where are we in the Lord’s sight? Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 – “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” If we are for Jesus -- then we will work for Jesus. When God calls us it’s not to rest and take it easy. The father’s desire is for his children to work. That’s why he called them.
C. In Tennyson’s poem “The Lotos eaters” he tells the story of a visit to an enchanting land where it was ‘always afternoon’. ‘It’s there that the sailors ate of an unusual lotus plant. After tasting its sweet fruit, all they wanted to do was sleep and dream and live with half shut eyes. They had lost all desire to return to their homeland and were perfectly content to recline on the hills with their dreams’.
D. Unfortunately there are those people in Christ’s kingdom who are like that. I wonder; are we like that? You see some people don’t realize what being a Christian demands. They have not had their eyes open nor seen the clearly described cost of serving. They have entered the Lord’s church like people running to a shelter to escape a storm. When they are inside they just stand around and watch it rain.
1. It is true that there’s a certain measure of safety and security in the church. But the church, like a vineyard, is a place of work. All those inside the vineyard should engage in its program of work. Many Christians only spend about 15 or 20 minutes a week working for the Lord.
2. I notice the father’s call had a sense of urgency about it. He says in verse 28, “Son, go, work today in my vineyard.” Not tomorrow, not next week, today, in other words there was work which needed to be done, and it needed to be that day.
3. Christ’s call is for men and women who will work for Him today. That is after all—all the time that there is. It is our one chance, our opportunity to serve. 2 Corinthians 6:2 – “For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.'' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” If we hold back and put off, if we wait until tomorrow to do the work of today, the chances are the work won’t get done. Then in effect, we are like the son who bluntly said to his father in verse 29, “I will not.”
III. That brings us to the third focus point: “The workers.” Let’s look at the 2nd son first.
Notice how polite and respectful he replies to his father’s request. Matthew 21:30 - “I go, sir”. Although his brother might refuse his father, he wouldn’t. He would go. How courteous he is, how sure of success he is. But why then did he fail his father? Matthew 21:30 says, “... but he did not go.”
A. It’s not that he deliberately deceived his father. He’s not worked out some plot of intrigue by which he hoped to bankrupt his father. He may not have even being trying to purposely lie to his father.
1. He failed his father because in his father’s presence he probably intended to go, but in his father’s absence he found that the doing of the task was more difficult than saying the words.
2. There is a difference between saying and doing. We struggle with that sometimes. We promise and then do not deliver. James 1:22-25 – “22. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24. for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work,— he will be blessed in what he does.”
B. This son represents a large host of Christ-would-be-followers who profess much but practice little. Many people pledge their loyalty to the Master and then they fall down on their pledge. They praise love—but don’t practice love. It’s like a profession without practice, a promise without performance. When people have this type of attitude, they become an enemy to the cause of Christ.
C. If these people are in a congregation it shows. Anyone coming into that congregation is going to see promise without performance.
i. Gandhi was born a Hindu but studied many other religions. He spent some time in South Africa and he wrote in his autobiography “... I came in contact with another Christian family. At their suggestion I attended the Wesleyan church every Sunday. For these days I also had their standing invitation to dinner.
ii. The church did not make a favorable impression on me. The sermons seemed to be uninspiring. The congregation did not strike me as being particularly religious. They were not an assembly of devout souls; they appeared rather to be worldly-minded people, going to church for recreation and in conformity to custom.
iii. Here, at times, I would involuntarily doze. I was ashamed, but some of my neighbors, who were in no better case, lightened the shame. I could not go on long like this, and soon gave up attending the service.”
2. This was not a congregation of the saints but it points out what the observer saw. What do people think when they come to Chardon to worship God? Do they see people trying their best to glorify God and serve Him with all of their hearts, minds and soul? Or do they see a bunch of people who just like hanging out together like some social club?
3. It is not enough to have an outward form of righteousness if you are not really born again. The world is full of religious people like that. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to me, ’Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
D. Let’s look at the 1st son. The first son refused his father and rudely said in verse 29 “I will not go.” This son offered no reason or no excuse, he simply wasn’t going. Isn’t the world full of people like this? When the Father calls them to enter His kingdom, they bluntly refuse to enter. They say things like, “I won’t have anything to do with any kind of church!”
1. It seems to me they think that they can excuse themselves of their sins. In fact they speak freely of their sins as though a frank confession of their sins can serve as a substitute for their behavior. A person is no less a sinner when they admit they are not a saint.
2. However the 1st son made a change for the better. He remembered his ugly mood and the blatant discourtesy he had shown his father. How many of you have heard the expression, “Oh they must have got out on the wrong side of the bed this morning?” When people say that phrase, it’s usually used as an excuse for someone who is grumpy or in a bad mood. The idea is if you get off to a bad start in the morning, the rest of the day will be the same.
3. The 1st son began his day badly but that didn’t mean he had to carry on the rest of the day with the same attitude. He saw no reason to continue in the wrong, so what did he do? He repented. What did his repentance consist of? Not just a twinge of sorrow, he could have grieved much without repenting. He repented only when he changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard.
IV. Jesus goes on to say in verse 29 that, “He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.” It’s at this point that Jesus asks the Jews in verse 31, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” It was an easy question and it was an exposing question.
A. Out of all the questions Jesus could have asked them, He asked them the most important question of all, “Which one did the will of their father?” According to verse 31, they said “The first,” and answered correctly.
1. All else is of no consequence, no matter how good the intentions, no matter how many the promises, the simple fact is that one son did and one son did not.
2. Fine words can never take the place of fine deeds and it’s now that Jesus tells them they have just condemned themselves.
3. Jesus could have asked for example; ’which of the two sons was a good son to his father?’ Neither of them is particularly impressive though are they? Instead He asks ’which of these two did the will of his father?’ and it is clear enough that this has to be the first son.
B. He says in Matthew 21:31-32 – “... "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”
C. As we think about this we realize what an insult this must have been to the Jewish leaders! Imagine the anger and rage in their hearts as Jesus tells them that these so-called unclean people, the people that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law despised were now in a better spiritual condition than they were. Can you imagine that? They must have been fuming. No wonder they wanted to kill Him and get Him out of the way.
1. The meaning of this parable is crystal clear. The first son who refused to work but later decided to work represents the tax collectors and prostitutes. All their lives by their wicked deeds they had been saying “No” to God, but when Jesus comes along they could no longer continue in their sin and instead pressed on to enter the kingdom.
2. The second son represents the leaders of the Jews. They were always making the pretense of serving God but when Jesus came along they didn’t accept Him as the tax collectors and prostitutes did. They despised Jesus’ teachings and they hated Him so much they would eventually crucify Him on a cross.
3. They had rejected John the baptizer and they had rejected Jesus as the Christ and wouldn’t accept His authority. The tax collectors and sinners had turned from their ways but the Jewish authorities had made no amends and had cast aside the heavenly kingdom.
D. Let’s pause there for a moment, because this is something we should consider. The truth is that most people think that being a Christian is all about what you think. To them Christianity is a philosophy of life - a series of beliefs about life, death and the universe. I suspect that if we ask the average person in the church what it is that makes them a Christian, they will also answer in terms of their beliefs.
1. A preacher wrote that when he talked with people and invited them to church some of the standard responses were; ’I don’t believe in any of that’, or ’I used to believe that stuff when I was a kid but now I believe in science.’
2. The preacher went on to say; “the most depressing response I ever get when I invite people to church is the one that goes ’Yeah, I believe all that, I just don’t go to church any more.” He said; “At least the first two responses, which say ’I don’t think the same way you do’, sort of admits that if they did think the same way I did, that it would make some difference in the way they lived.”
3. He continued; “This last response suggests not only that Christianity is about what you think, but that it is only about what you think. What you believe need make no difference to the way you live.”
4. That response is like the approach taken by the second son. He thinks that helping his father is very important. He believes in the value of work. He believes that when your father calls you to action you should answer immediately ’yes sir’. He just doesn’t go on and do anything about it.
5. What makes a person a Christian is not a matter of what comes out of our mouths, the words we speak. The parable suggests that God is less concerned with what we say then He is about what we do.
6. Christianity is about belief, love, and obedience. Obedience not in lip service but in real service, doing the will of the Father because He loves us and we love Him. Because of that love our lives are changed and we show that change by what we do.
E. Along those lines a preacher said that he had been invited over for dinner by a family and they listened carefully while he told them about God and the Bible. Eventually he reached the point of explaining the steps of salvation and the need for baptism. Then he said; “Now you will be a follower of Jesus Christ and God will add you to His church”. “We talked about what this meant - about how God called us to serve Him with our whole lives.... Then something finally clicked and the father said - ’you don’t mean that we have to go to church do you?’ ’Well’, I said, ’that’d be a start’.”
1. We don’t have this problem in other areas of life. I don’t think anyone ever attempts to join a soccer team unless they want to play soccer. I can’t imagine that anyone would go to the trouble signing up, going to practice, and doing all the work involved only to say; “you don’t mean I have to play a game do you? I only joined because I liked wearing the jersey!”
2. People struggle with commitment and that is why in many groups there is a temptation for man to come up with a “list” of things that are “expected” of the members of the church community, a creed. At the minimum this is a disservice not only to God but to people.
3. Some will say to such a list; “that’s a bit much isn’t it?” Others will say, “Ok I’ve done those, I’m done now.” Then there are those that will never grow beyond thinking that is all there is.
A parable is like a window. We look through the parable and see things in a different way, and then at some point we catch our own reflection off the glass. We wouldn’t be honest here if we didn’t see a little of ourselves reflected in the second son. We are the persons who are saying all the right things, yet failing to do what we are called to do.
As Christians we are called to work. What is Jesus going to be looking for when He returns? What does He expect His fellow servants to be doing?
Luke 12:35-40 – “35. "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36. "and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 37. "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. 38. "And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39. "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
40. "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.''” “Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning.”
If as a Christian we find we are struggling to find ways to serve Him then let’s be encouraged to talk to someone about it. I would like encourage each of us to pray about ways in which we can serve Him. Many have reduced it to Sunday Morning. We need to consider the rest of the week.
There are many ways we can serve, many feet we can wash as we see the needs. Perhaps you recall the name Fanny J Crosby. She was made blind by an early childhood illness, yet she wrote more then 8 thousand hymns over her lifetime under scores of noms de plume. Hymns like; “Blessed Assurance”, Jesus is Tenderly Calling You Home”, “Praise Him, Praise Him”, “Rescue the Perishing”, and “To God Be The Glory”.
Crosby described her hymn-writing process thus: 'It may seem a little old-fashioned, always to begin one’s work with prayer, but I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.' Her capacity for work was incredible and could often compose six or seven hymns a day. Her poems and hymns were composed entirely in her mind and she worked on as many as twelve hymns at once before dictating them to a transcriber.
Not many of us will ever compose a hymn but Jesus tells us, “He expects His servants to be ready for service and already be serving.” From the minute we put Christ on in baptism, we declared to the world that we choose His will to be done in our life. We were called to work because there is work to be done folks, lots of work and it starts with the day.
If you’re not a Christian this evening then Jesus asks you “Are you willing to do the Father’s will?” Maybe you have said, “No” quite bluntly to Jesus in the past.
Just because you got out of bed on the wrong side a few times in your life doesn’t mean you have to carry on the rest of your life with the same attitude. You can repent today and change your mind about the way your life is going. You can start saying yes to Jesus today.
Fanny Crosby understood what Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
That’s where she got the inspiration for the hymn called, “Jesus is tenderly calling thee home.”
Listen to the words of first stanza of the song.
“Jesus is tenderly calling thee home, calling today, calling today.
Why from the sunshine of love wilt thou roam farther and farther away.”
Look at the words of the last stanza.
“Jesus is pleading, O list to His voice: hear Him today, Hear Him today.
They who believe on His name shall rejoice, quickly arise and obey.”
Folks Christ is still calling us this day. Maybe we’re struggling to follow His will. Maybe we don’t understand what His will is. Maybe there are those who want to serve God but are not sure how to do that.
If that is you then talk to somebody. Pray about it. Pick up your Bible and read. Attend Bible class. Don’t sit back and twiddle your thumbs. There’s always work to do and lots of it.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Invitation song: # 600 – Jesus Is Tenderly Calling
Reference Sermon by: Mike Glover
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