28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said,
‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
29 And he answered,
‘I will not,’
but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”
Jesus said to them,
“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
It is startling to see that the “hero” in Jesus’ parable turns out to be the son who defiantly tells his father that he will not do what the father tells him to do. The first son, the disrespectful, disobedient, dishonoring, arrogant, and smugly self-confident son is the one who, in the end, “changed his mind” and did what the father told him to do.
The word translated as “changed his mind” is a word that means “to rethink” and depending on context is translated as “to regret” or “to repent.” Repentance is Jesus’ whole point. It is why in verse 31 he compares the first boy, who does wrong but repents to the tax collectors and prostitutes who repented and believed John’s testimony about him and then in verse 32 compares the second boy to the chief priests and elders. They too heard the message of John but did not repent, they did not “change their minds and believe him.”
And so the startling, exhilaratingly exciting message is that repentance is more important than the bad, wicked, sinful, corrupt, horrible, hurtful, things we have done. Even if we have done them over and over and over again (tax collectors and prostitutes). Repentance changes everything. Repentance humbles the heart. Repentance is the key that open the door to the kingdom. Or rather, repentance coupled with belief. That is what Jesus is driving at. When these two things travel together, when they inhabit the heart, everything changes. Forgiveness comes to those who repent and believe.
Pray for that in your own heart. Pray for that in every heart you encounter in life. Tell them about Jesus and call them to repent and believe. Just like Jesus.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God and saying,
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”