Monday, December 13, 2010


28 "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29 He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For 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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

1. It is a polemical parable which is allegorically interpreted. The Father represents God. The first son represents the tax collectors and prostitutes, those who were lax in the law but came to obey God through John’s ministry; the second son represents the chief priests and the elders, those who despite their religious profession disobeyed God, by not believing John.

2. The Father addresses each one as child. The Greek word used here is ‘teknon’ pointing to affection not merely son in legal terms. Fatherly and filial love is the bond between them and this involves the most tender obligation on their part. Whatever it is called upon, a child of God should show its relation to God by its works of faith.

3. The reply of the first child comes as a shock; it is blunt and rude reply without a trace of respect. ‘I will not.’ He has dismissed even the hypocrisies with which others cloak their sins; but later this child regretted his refusal. Everything he knew about the Father and about his obligation towards that Father and about his unnatural and wicked action in treating his Father as he had done, led him to regret his shameful action.

4. The Father talks to the second son in the same way he talked to the first. The call is no stronger in the case of the one than in the case of the other, so that neither may excuse himself by saying, “I would have come if the Father had asked me as he asked my brother.’ The response was emphatic ‘I’ with the implication to be sure. His readiness takes away our breath. But the action that follows reflects most of our character.

5. Jesus does not add a third child, one that said ‘yes’ and then worked as it should. He leaves it to us to supply the third child. None of the two sons actually manifested the ideal attitude though the first son was appreciated for his action. We are called to be saying ‘yes’ emphatically and do the work of the Lord immediately.

In our day today lives we see people who are rude in their outward behavior but actually have a kind heart and the vice-versa. I remember, one of my friends who is hot tempered but has a very kind heart. He once compared himself to a Jackfruit which is hard outside but very sweet inside. There are also people who speak sweet words externally but can be extremely harmful. Therefore we should not form our perceptions and opinions about people basing on the externals. It is true that the externals are sometimes the pointers of the real individual but need not be always. Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace to live a life which is not hypocritical.


The International Critical Commentary

Interpretation of Matthew’s gospel - Lenski


  1. I am preparing a talk to Sunday school children on this parable and searching Holy Spirit's guidance for same. The Father's equal call to both sons did not strike me until I read your commentary. Thank you. God bless you.

  2. This might be a very late reply, unfortunately, I got to see the comment just now.......thank you so much,keep in touch