We’re continuing to look at the final days, or hours, leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Last week, we looked to Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was a journey that begun with a parade and celebration, but the tone changes once Jesus enters the temple as He runs the money-changers out and criticizes the empty faith of the Pharisees. The next day, we see the account of the withering fig tree – all symbolic of the spiritual kingdom that Jesus had come to establish.
This morning, we’ll be looking at the next two days (Tuesday/Wednesday), in which Jesus realizes that He only has a few moments left with His followers. And I believe that this is a good moment to propose this question: How would you act if you knew you only had a few days left to live? Who would you make sure to spend time with? What would be the legacy that you would desire to leave behind?
As I’m sure Jesus was considering all these things, He continued to teach on some controversial subjects:
“But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’
“He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.
“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.
“Which of the two did his father’s will?”
“The first,” they said.
Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you! For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.
Jesus begins to share the parable of the two sons. A parable – a simple definition anyways – is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And to give you some insight to this parable, consider this: Have you ever felt like God was commanding you to do something, but in your spirit, you want to say “No.” Sometimes we don’t feel like being obedient or giving sacrificially. But somewhere in our journey, the Holy Spirit changes us and there is repentance, and God leads us towards His heart.
So again, in this parable, we have a son who was disobedient, but then acted in obedience. On the other side, we have a son who said that he would go, but didn’t follow through. And in this case, I’m sure that there are many times that we are quick to jump the gun in our spiritual life, only to find ourselves later in a place of disobedience.
Jesus shares both scenarios and asks the Pharisees, “Who did his father’s will?” Given their answer, Jesus makes one of the most controversial statements of His time on earth. These men were revered and highly valued in society. But the truth of the matter was this: The Father had called them out first, but they didn’t follow through with their commitment. Rather, it was those who were marginalized and on the fringes of society, the outcasts and sinners, who – although they had first rejected God – were now turning to follow Christ.
Jesus continued with another parable:
“Listen to another parable: There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away. When the grape harvest drew near, he sent his slaves to the farmers to collect his fruit. But the farmers took his slaves, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again, he sent other slaves, more than the first group, and they did the same to them. Finally, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance!’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?”
“He will completely destroy those terrible men,” they told Him, “and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his produce at the harvest.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord
and is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. [Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder!]”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they knew He was speaking about them. Although they were looking for a way to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they regarded Him as a prophet.
Once again, Jesus is calling the Pharisees to look within their own hearts. Not only that, but Jesus was even prophesying as to what they were about to do. Quoting the passage from Psalm 118, Jesus began to illustrate His own life. He knew that the Jews would not respect event the Son and would even go so far as to take his life.
By this point, both the Pharisees and Sadducees were taken aback. These two groups that usually didn’t associate with one another quickly came and put their heads together to try and stump Jesus:
When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
As it turns out, Jesus comes back with a more than appropriate response, but He doesn’t stop there. Instead, Jesus continues to warn those who had been following the Pharisees:
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.
If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8
As Jesus continued to speak to the Jewish leaders, they became angry. They had rejected the “chief Cornerstone,” and even the vilest of offenders would enter Heaven before they would.
Self-deception is a terrible thing. Primarily because we don’t know it is there. Any other sin, we see the symptoms and choose to overcome or ignore. However, when we are deceived, we don’t even know it. We lie to ourselves, and out of our own broken and sinful nature, we neglect the truth. Jesus called the religious leaders of the time out on their hypocrisy, but it also serves as a clear warning to His followers as to the life that we should live: to proclaim and practice the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, we come to You humbly to ask for Your blessings over the reading of Your Word and the application of it to our lives. Search our hearts and find any offensive way within us, so that through the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit, we may repent and get back on track with Your will in our lives.
Lead us far from temptation, from the deception that we far too often allow in our lives, but draw us closer to You, so that we may become a clearer reflection of Christ. Help us to mature in our faith, to trust in You, and to love as You have first loved us.
Lord, help us to make you the Cornerstone, the firm foundation and anchor to which we can cling and build upon. Help us to bring a pleasant sacrifice into your presence that can stand the test of fire, so that we may have something of worth when we stand before you. And finally, do not let us neglect such a great salvation, but display it in every facet of our lives. For we ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.