After Jesus had made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the start of chapter 21 of Matthew’s gospel, the question that everyone was wondering was – is he the one? Is he the long awaited anointed king, the one the Jewish people and leaders called the Messiah? So, Jesus tells a parable to the religious leaders. The parable is in answer to their question: ‘By what right are you doing that?’ For country bumpkin Jesus from backwards Galilee had come into the temple and acted with great authority. In fact, he behaved as if he owned the place.
Two sons are asked in the parable to go and work in their father’s vineyard: one says no but then ends up going; the other says yes but doesn’t in fact go. At a simple level, the parable emphasises that doing is more important than mere words.
On a deeper level the religious leaders imagined that they were doing the will of God yet they refused to believe in both John the Baptist and now in Jesus. But those who seemed to be a long way from God like the tax collectors and other sinners who were regarded as deeply sinful and as violators of the law – they had responded to the call of John to repentance.
The challenge of this passage for us today is partly this: to make sure we are responding to Jesus, allowing him to confront us at any point where we have been like the second son and said ‘Yes’ to God while in fact going off in another direction.
Secondly, the powers of that age were deeply challenged by the things that Jesus was doing. So a good question to ask as the followers of Jesus today is: What should we be doing that would challenge the powers of the present world with the news that Jesus is indeed its rightful Lord? What would provoke people to ask us similar questions? What stories should we be telling that would help people to find the source of true life?
+ Jesus – we have said yes to you by being part of the Church. Help us say yes again by actively welcoming and encouraging others to join us in this field hospital for all the sick and needy in our world.
Grace and peace.
** Please pray for me as I undertake an Ignatian thirty-day retreat during this month near Boston, MA **