by Dr. Samuel Lee   05/04/2000     0 reads



Matthew 21:28-32

Key Verse: 21:31b

"Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and

  the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.'"


1. Read verses 28-32. To whom was Jesus speaking this parable? How is

it related to the previous passage? (18-27)

2. Review the father's conversation with the first son (29-30). What

kind of person is he? Can you think of anyone in the Bible or

anywhere else who first said "no" but later obeyed?

3. Review the conversation with the second son (30). What kind of

person is he? Why did he agree to go in the first place? Why did he

back out?  What question did Jesus ask? What was the answer?

4. How did Jesus apply this parable to the tax collectors, prostitutes

and the religious leaders? How had they responded to the preaching

of John the Baptist? Why is this important?

5. What can we learn here about Jesus from Jesus' parable? With whom do

you identify?




Matthew 21:28-32

Key Verse: 21:31b

"Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and

  the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.'"

In the last passage we learned from Jesus the power of faith. If we

have faith in Jesus, we can grab a mountain and throw it into the sea.

As God promised Abraham, we can be great and be a source of blessing if

we have faith in Jesus. But if we have no faith, we must live in this

world with only our physical strength, and life is suffering itself. It

is not easy, however, to live by faith because after the Industrial

Revolution the people of the world began to live absolutely by human

reason and claimed unlimited human freedom and personal rights. It

sounds good. But when they do so, they abandon God and become godless.

As a result, immorality and violence rule humankind. Jesus' teaching

about mountain-moving faith is indeed inspiring to us. Today, Jesus

laments over the unrepentant Jewish religious leaders.

First, those who said "no" but finally obeyed (28-31a). Look at verses

28-29.  "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went

to the first and said, Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' `I will

not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went." These

verses tell us that one son, who said "no" to his father's instruction,

finally repented and obeyed his father's instruction. Then the father

went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, "I will,

sir," but he did not follow his father's instruction (30). Jesus asked

the Jewish religious leaders, "Which of the two did what his father

wanted?" "The first," they answered. From this point, Jesus wanted to

talk about the unrepentant Jewish religious leaders and sinners who had

been helpless in their sin but had repented in Jesus and became the

children of God. Let's think about the one who said "no" and then

changed his mind and obeyed his father's instruction. If we are going

to talk about ordinary modern man, this lecture would be impossible to

construct.  On the other hand, if we think about Bible stories, we find

many of those who at first said "no" to God's command but finally

repented and fulfilled the mission through much suffering. Let's think

about some exemplary persons in the Bible who said "no" but finally

obeyed God's command.

Moses. God had a clear purpose to make his chosen people Israel a

kingdom of priests and a holy nation. For this, God sent them as slaves

to the Egyptian Empire. God trained them under godless peoples' cruelty

and no mercy so that they might come to know God's mercy that he wants

to save the whole world through his chosen people Israel. When God saw

his people, they had been suffering too long, and God's heart was so

painful to hear their groaning and crying out for help because of their

slavery. Finally their groaning and crying out went up to God. God

heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with

Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned

about them. God visited Moses.  He was born a Hebrew. Once he was a

prince of the Egyptian Empire. But he sided with his own people when he

saw a Hebrew being beaten up by an Egyptian. He delivered a deathly

punch to the Egyptian and ran away to Midian. He became a criminal

refugee and lived in Jethro's house for forty years. Now he was eighty

years old. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire. God

called to him from within a bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here

I am." Then God said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham,

the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face,

because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, "I have indeed

seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out

because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their

suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the

Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and

spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honeythe home of the

Canaanites...So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people

the Israelites out of Egypt" (Ex 3:7-10). Moses' life as a political

criminal had lasted forty years. In his mind Moses thought he had

nothing to do with the world. He looked like a man of sorrow and

despair. What was Moses' answer to God? Moses said to God, "Who am I,

that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Ex

3:11) God tried to persuade him, but he made many excuses. He had no

confidence that he could persuade King Pharaoh of Egypt. He had no

confidence that his people would follow him. Moses lived among seven

women -- his wife and six sisters-in-law. The sisters talked too much.

So he did not speak and became a man of slow speech. He said to the

Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor

since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue"

(Ex 4:10). God said to him, "I will be with you." Finally Moses

repented and went to Pharaoh to deliver his 600,000 people. When he

thought about himself, he was too weak to carry out God's mission. But

when he accepted God's promise that God would be with him, he could

challenge King Pharaoh of Egypt and he won over him. In this way the

Exodus was possible.

Isaiah. As we know, Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets. As long as

King Uzziah was on the throne, his national situation was safe. But

when King Uzziah died, Isaiah felt that the bell was tolling not only

for King Uzziah but also for the nation of Israel. He was in deep

despair. By chance, when he went into the temple of God, he saw the

Lord seated on the throne, high and exalted. And his angels were there,

covering their feet, singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa 6:3). When King Uzziah died,

Isaiah despaired, and a pessimistic idea ruled and overruled his heart.

So he wanted to live as an ordinary person as long as he lived. Then he

heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go

for us?" And he said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isa 6:8) Then God said to

him, "The people you have to shepherd are all rebellious. They are not

willing to understand. Their hearts are calloused. Their eyes are

closed." Then Isaiah said, "For how long, O Lord?" The Lord answered,

"The holy seed will be the stump in the land" (Isa 6:11-13). It is

indeed amazing. Isaiah really wanted to live as an ordinary man. But

when God called him to go to his rebellious people and proclaim God, he

changed his irresponsible mind and went to his people. Since then, he

suffered more than enough in the course of living with God's mission.

Jonah. Jonah was a patriotic prophet. He wanted to evangelize his own

people, Israel, but not the Gentiles. Once, God ordered him to go to

Nineveh.  But he went the other way. Then a whale swallowed him up.

After three days it vomited him out onto the seashore of Nineveh. Jonah

proclaimed God's message. Then the people of Nineveh repented and cried

covering their heads with ashes (Jnh 3:3-5). Jonah was very unhappy

about that, thinking, "Why should these people be saved?" Whether he

wanted to or not, God helped him to obey his mission.

Here we learn that God made us to do something good. God also made

us to carry out his mission for the purpose of fulfilling his world

salvation plan. We are all made by God with the dust of the ground and

by God putting his life in us. As long as we live, we must listen to

God. As the first son listened to his father, we also must listen to

our God, God Almighty.

Second, Jesus laments over the unrepentant Jewish leaders (31). Look at

verse 31. "`Which of the two did what his father wanted?' `The first,'

they answered. Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth, the tax

collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of

you.'" This is Jesus' lamentation over his chosen people. God brought

them out of Egypt and told them his specific plan for them. Exodus

19:5-6a says, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out

of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole

earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy

nation." When God brought them out of Egypt, he wanted to make them a

kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Simply speaking, God wanted to

make them a shepherd nation for the whole world. But they only enjoyed

flowing honey and milk; they abandoned God and followed the culture of

the Canaanites. So God had to drag them to the Babylonian Empire for

the purpose of training them again. After that, God again wanted to

make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God hoped that they

would be Bible teachers and shepherds for all the Gentiles, until the

Gentiles came to know God. But they abandoned God's purpose for them.

Jesus was extremely sorry. When he saw them, they had become like an

old wineskin.  They were useless to God. They were not a kingdom of

priests and a holy nation, but they had become like stock market

runners, standing all day long on the floor of the stock exchange doing

their best to make a little more money. God's purpose for them to

become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation had been clear to them

for a long time. But they did not change their minds. They were all the

more earthbound and attached to the things of the world. So Jesus was

very sorry that the leaders of his chosen people had become so

corrupted and violent toward his people. Furthermore, they did not

proclaim God's word to all nations.

Third, the repentance of sinners (31). Look at verse 31b. "Jesus said

to them, `I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes

are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.'" As we studied, when

John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Lord, so many people came

to him. Then John warned them, "Who warned you to flee from the coming

wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance...The ax is already at

the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit

will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Then the crowds exclaimed,

"What shall we do then?" John answered, "The man who has two tunics

should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do

the same." The tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they

asked, "What should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are

required to," he told them. Even some soldiers asked him, "And what

should we do?" John replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse

people falselybe content with your pay" (Lk 3:8-14). The crowds beat

their chests and cried loudly, repenting their sins. Then John baptized

them with the water of the Jordan River. It was indeed a beautiful


When we study the gospels, we are greatly frustrated knowing that

the chosen people, the Jewish religious leaders, wanted more and more

to kill Jesus. But so many sinners repented at the proclamation of

Jesus concerning the kingdom of God. So Jesus said, "I tell you the

truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom

of God ahead of you."

Among the sinners, Matthew was an outstanding sinner. His original

name was "Levi, the tax collector." In that hard situation under the

Roman yoke, he studied, passed the CPA exam and became a tax collector.

At that time a tax collector was known as a quisling and a renegade to

his suffering people. But it did not matter to Matthew whatever they

said to him. He wanted to make money. For this, he cheated his

conscience and hardened his heart and began to extort money from his

suffering people. Once he was eating a peanut butter sandwich in a tax

collector's booth. Jesus knew his loneliness. Jesus knew that people

treated Levi like a leper. Jesus knew that Levi the tax collector was

self-seeking and rejected the truth and followed evil, and that he was

tortured by God's wrath and anger. His soul was troubled and his

distress was greater than the amount of his money. Jesus knew that he

was a very bright and promising young man. But he was going astray

without a shepherd. So he knocked at the door of the tax collector's

booth and said to him, "Follow me" (Mt 9:9). Jesus believed that Levi

would follow him because he had experienced enough mental torture and

unbearable loneliness. When Jesus said to him, "Follow me," he

immediately followed. "Follow me" meant to give up his job and be one

of Jesus' disciples. In the gospel accounts Matthew didn't say much.

But he grew until he could write the Sermon on the Mount: "You are the

light of the world. You are the salt of the earth" (Mt 5:13,14). He was

a despicable tax collector. But he was changed and became one of Jesus'

disciples. He became a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. As we

know, there was a prostitute named Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:1). We don't

know whether she became a prostitute in her own will or she was sold by

an evil pimp. Anyway, she became the most pitiful person in the world.

To a woman, purity and virginity is the same as her life. But Mary

became a prostitute. Once she heard that Jesus came to her town  for

dinner in a rich Pharisee's house. She took the perfume earned by

selling her body and poured it on Jesus' head and feet. Thus she made

Jesus awkward before the Pharisees, and she freely touched Jesus' feet.

The Pharisees were indignant and despised Jesus. But Jesus was happy to

see that she did so as the evidence of her repentance (Lk 7:47). We

read about the women who followed Jesus in Luke 8:2-3. It says, "...and

also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary

(called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife

of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others.

These women were helping to support them out of their own means." These

verses describe that Jesus and his disciples were largely supported by

converted woman sinners. And Mary Magdalene was one of them.

Fourth, changed people and unchanged people (32). Look at verse 32.

"For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did

not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And

even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him." This

verse tells us that the chosen people heard the voice of John the

Baptist. They also heard the way of righteousness. But they did not

believe John. They were unbelieving people. Their outward appearances

and positions looked decent and pious.  But their inner men were

totally corrupted and useless. On the other hand, those who had lived

without Jesus sinned much and became useless. But when they came to

Jesus, their sins were forgiven and they became new women and men, and

they could have a living hope, eternal life and the kingdom of God in

their souls. Those who changed rejoiced in their lives, whatever

situation they were in.

There are people who, like Abraham, call on the name of God while

living in this money-oriented world. However, most people say they are

Christians, but live in despair because they do not have hope or

eternal life or the kingdom of God in their souls. We must know that

many outwardly good-looking white American girls who seem to be

untouchable, are terrible sinners and are crying out for help. So we

must have hope of planting the word of God in them so that they may

live by the grace of God.

Today we studied about the professional religious leaders and the

terrible sinners living in this world. The professional religious

leaders did not repent and they did not enter the kingdom of God. But

the notorious sinners repented and entered first into the kingdom of