GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Sometimes this will be called the story of the two sons, sometimes it is called the parable of two sons — I am going to refer to it as a parable because I do think it is a kind of a riddle, it's a story that has a question embedded in it.
It can be found in Matthew 21:28-32.
It is a short gospel for this week, but it is very important.
It says this…Jesus said:
"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.'
And he answered, `I will not'; but afterward he repented and went.
And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir,' but did not go.
Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.
Okay, so what do we make of this particular parable?
Although it is brief, there are several points that need to be made.
First and foremost, the context.
If you go back up to Matthew 21:23, it's very clear that when Jesus says these words he's in the Temple, and he is speaking to “the chief priests and the elders of the people.”
So the context of that parable is him addressing the leadership within Jerusalem — and that context is very important for the meaning of the parable.
When we turn to the parable itself, we see that the story revolves around two sons of a vineyard owner.
When the vineyard owner commands his sons to go into the vineyard, they have different responses.
The first son, his first response, is that he will not, it's one of disobedience, and yet he repents.
He changes his mind, and it says that afterwords he did in fact go into the vineyard and work the vineyard.
The Greek word there — although some translations will say he repented — the Greek word there metamelomai
literally means he changed his mind.
So he had a change of heart or a change of mind, and then he goes into the field and carries out his father's wishes.
The second son however gives a first response of apparent obedience.
He says “I go, sir,” but his actions don't follow his words.
And so although he speaks a word of obedience, he actually disobeys and doesn't go into the vineyard and doesn't work the fields.
So Jesus asks a real simple question, which of the two did the will of his father?
And the answer is obvious there, it's the one who actually went into the fields and worked the fields.
So why does Jesus asked such a seemingly obvious parable?
Why does he present to them such a seemingly obvious riddle.
Well the answer is simple.
It is that the primary meaning of this particular parable is the application to Jesus’ audience.
So this is one of those parables where it's very clear that the meaning is determined, above all, by his first century Jewish context, and by the immediate context of who he is speaking to in this particular parable.
And if you recall that the context is that he's speaking to the chief priests and the elders who had rejected John the Baptist as being an authentic prophets sent from God and so Jesus immediately ply applies the parable to them by saying John came to you meeting John came to you chief priests and you elders in the way of righteousness which you didn't believe him but the tax collectors and the harlots the prostitutes believed him and even when you saw them converting and repenting and changing their ways you did not afterword repent and believe him so Jesus is applying the parable to them in such a way that he's correlating the first son correlates with the tax collectors and the prostitutes whose initial response to John the Baptist or in this case was initial response to God is one of disobedience right there living lives of sin are not following the will of the Lord is certainly not working in the vineyard of Lord because of their response to John's message of repentance they turn from their lives of sin and they begin to live according to the law of God they begin to cultivate lives of virtue or in the language a parable they go into the vineyard award and they begin to work in the second son is being correlated to the chief priests and the elders who give lip service to the law of God they say that they're going to obey but they do not in fact actually repent from their sins so when John comes to the people of Israel with a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins think back here to the Gospel Matthew chapter 3 each describes John the Baptist's ministry as a message of repentance because the coming of the kingdom and is a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin when the chief priests and elders encounter John the Baptist far from repenting they reject him they reject the idea that he is a prophet sent from God and they do not repent and they do not turn from their own wickedness they don't turn from their own sinfulness so Jesus correlates them with the second son who says he is obedient but does not affect do the will of his father okay so with that in mind then the parable there is a great example of how Jesus's parables would often have the role of a kind of prophecy of indictment of his contemporaries to be like the Old Testament sues over and over again Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel one of their primary roles as prophets was to call out the sinful leaders of Israel and took to indict them for their sinfulness and to call them to repentance to change their ways while the same thing was true of John the Baptist who was a prophet and the same thing is true now of Jesus Nazareth who in addition to being the Messiah of the Savior the son of God is also a prophet he's coming to the people and bring to them the same message that John brought repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand and the irony of that situation is that many of the most gravely sinful people like the tax collectors and the prostitutes open the message of John and they're open to the message of Jesus and they repent and they turn from their Liza sent and begin to live lives of virtue whereas those who you would expect to repent who would expect you would expect to know the law and therefore respond to the prophets of God namely the chief priests and the elders these races equivalent of like the biblical scholars described in the older they don't turn away from their sin and they don't and they don't listen to the message about okay so the basic meaning of this particular parable of the two sons the main emphasis is the importance of repentance.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
I hope you can tell that he just said a lot. There’s a lot going on in these verses. So I’m just going to kind of walk through them and try to unpack them for you. So let’s begin with the first theme here. The first theme is the humility of Christ—Christ as a model for the Christians at Philippi. So notice the first point Paul says here is:
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
The Greek word tapeinophrosynē
—that’s a long one—literally means “lowliness.” So if something is tapeinaō
, it’s low. Latin writers will say the same thing about the word “humility.” It means to be close to the ground. So humility, lowliness, is the opening theme that Paul gives to the Philippians before he gets into the hymn itself, before he starts talking about Christ. He exhorts them to have the same mind (intellect), the same love (meaning the heart, the will)...
...being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So what he’s trying to tell the Philippians—before he gets into the hymn about Christ Himself—is that first, as Christian, you need to learn to cultivate the virtue of lowliness, of humility. And what does that virtue entail? Well, first it entails counting others better than yourselves. That’s a fascinating thing. Most of us are naturally inclined to think of ourselves as better than others. Pride is all about a disordered self-love by which we exalt ourselves over others. We think ourselves better than others. We put ourselves first. “I am first, number one. I’m number one.”
Paul is saying, “No, no, no—to the contrary”:
...count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So instead of being self-focused and rooted in self-love, humility is focused on the other, and it’s rooted in love of God and love of neighbor. So Paul is trying to cultivate a virtue here of humility, and he grounds that virtue that he’s teaching to the Philippians in the imitation of Christ. So he’s going to say, “The reason you Christians need to exercise humility is because that’s what Christ did.” The reason you want to think of others before you think of yourself is because that’s what Christ did. That was the mind of Christ. The reason you want to look out for the interests of others over your interest is because that’s how Christ lived. That was the heart of Christ.
So in the Greek, you can actually see this, that Paul is using the same words to describe the Philippians that he uses to describe Jesus. So for example, he says first, the Philippians are to do everything in humility—tapeinophrosynē
, I just mentioned that. Well, in the verses we’re going to see in a second, what is Jesus going to do? He humbles himself—tapeinaō.
In other words, He lowers Himself. Secondly, he wants them to regard others, to think about others as better than themselves. Hēgeomai
is the Greek word. Well, what is Christ going to do? He does not regard—same word, hēgeomai
—his equality with God to be something grasped, but he lets it go. He empties Himself of His glory in order to take on the form of a servant, the form of a slave...take on a human nature.
So the first point is just that Paul is trying to teach Christians that the reasons Christians should cultivate the virtue of humility is because as a Christian—he doesn’t use this language, Paul never says anything about being a Christian. That’s the language we get from Acts. Paul doesn’t use it in his letters. But as a Christian, they are to imitate Christ. They are to be little models based on Christ Himself.
Okay, so what is the humility of Christ? What does the humility of Christ look like? Well, here we have to go to the hymn itself, where Paul describes in these beautiful verses—which are very poetic, almost like a song in Greek, kind of a hymn—the kenōsis
or the emptying, the self-emptying of Christ, both in His incarnation and in His passion and death. If you want to dive in a little more deep than what I’m going to do now, you can check out this book that I co-authored with Michael Barber and John Kincaid called Paul, A New Covenant Jew
. We have a chapter in here on Paul’s christology, on his theology of Christ. And a lot of that chapter is actually focused on Philippians 2 and the whole issue of how Paul understands the humanity of Christ, as well as the divinity of Christ. So that’s the place you can go if you want to dive in more deeply.
But for our purposes here, I just want to make a few brief points. So let’s back up and walk through the hymn slowly. First he says:
...Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself…
Pause there. The first point we want to look at here is...what does it mean to be in the form of God? Well, the Greek word for form, morphḗ
—it literally means an outward appearance. So for example, if you think about the Transfiguration when Jesus goes up the mountain with the disciples, and it says that His appearance was altered.
The Greek word there, we get the English word “metamorphosis.” It’s a change in the outward form, the outward appearance. He begins to become luminous from within. The light of His divinity shines through (so to speak) the veil of His humanity, so that the disciples get to glimpse it for a bit. So Paul says here that originally, Christ is in the form of God, and He possesses equality with God. So this would obviously be before the incarnation. This is the preexistent state of the eternal divine Son.
And it’s really important to see here that Paul talks about the equality with God. So in Philippians 2, Paul is teaching the co-equality of the Father and the Son. So God—whenever Paul says God, he usually means God the Father. It’s implied. And when he talks about the Son, obviously he’s going to talk about Christ, but he’s saying that they are equal. So Christ has the form of God, but He doesn’t count His equality with God the Father as something to be grasped at or held onto, but instead He empties Himself, and He takes the form (same word) of a servant.
Now the Greek word here for “servant” can also be translated as “slave.” So it’s a very lowly status. So he goes from being in the form of God to taking on the form of a servant or the form of a slave. Well, when does He do that? It’s in the incarnation, because it says:
...being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:7c)
So Paul doesn’t use the language of incarnation. That’s from the Gospel of John. We get that from John 1, where John says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
Down to verse 14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… (John 1:14a)
So incarnation means to take on flesh. Paul doesn’t use that language, but he’s describing the same reality here in the kenōsis
hymn. So he describes what we would call the incarnation based on John’s language with the language of self-emptying—taking on the form of a human. So He has the form of God; He’s equal with God, but now He assumes a human nature and is found in a human form. And the distance between being in the form of God and being in the form of a human is literally infinite, because God is infinitely above human creatures. And yet, the Son lowers Himself to take on a human nature in His birth:
...being born in the likeness of men.
And then He keeps going, because that’s actually not the full extent of Jesus’ self-emptying. He doesn’t just humble Himself down to the form of a human being. He goes deeper. He goes lower...
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