Today’s reading: Matthew 21: 23-46
In today’s famous scene the Pharisees question Jesus as to where he gets his authority. Jesus answers their question with a question. “Whence did John’s baptism come, from heaven or men?” The Pharisees cannot answer, knowing that if they say, “From heaven” they should have followed John, and if they say “from men” they will upset the crowds. The Pharisees refuse to answer.
Jesus then explains their failings with two parables. First, the story of two sons. One says he will not do that task that his father asks of him but then changes his mind and does it. The second says that he will do the requested task but never gets around to it. The first is a sinner who repents. His life is an answer of “No” but he changes his tune and then does what the Father asks. The second are the Pharisees and, by extension, anyone who outwardly says “yes” to God but does not follow through by living a moral life and responding to the promptings of God.
The second parable is the parable of the vine-dressers. They rent a vineyard from the owner who subsequently sends his servants to collect his share of the profits. Eventually, he sends his son, whom they kill. The Pharisees understood that this parable was about them. The passage makes it clear that even understanding this, they wanted to lay hands on and kill Jesus.
What is interesting to me about this series of passages is how fully the Pharisees reject the teaching of Jesus. Three times he puts them on the spot, showing how their actions are contrary to how they should live their lives, and three times they do not repent but rather become more obstinate in their sin.
Tomorrow: Matthew 22: 1-22