Community Group Study Notes
Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
What is one thing that God was showing you in this message?
Read the story that Jesus told in Matthew 21:28-32. What is the difference between promised obedience and actual obedience? Which is in line with the will of the Father?
Read Matthew 7:21-23. Why is the difference between merely calling Jesus Lord and actually obeying him as Lord? How can we guard against self-deception that would keep us from genuine obedience?
What is one thing God spoke to you about that He wants you to act on?
Jesus told stories. Some people call them parables, some people call them vivid illustrations, some may call them picture words, but at the heart they're stories and with these stories, some of them are short and don't have a lot of detail. Some of the stories that Jesus tells are longer with maybe much more vivid imagery in them, but whatever the style of Jesus story, what we do know is that all of his stories have a point. Now, I guess we could ask the question why did Jesus speak so much in stories? In fact, when we look at the synoptic gospels, when I say the synoptic gospels I mean Matthew, Mark and Luke because they talk about many of the same events. John kind of is in a category of its own, not contradictory in any way, but talking about different things than what these three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are talking about.
But in the synoptics, the recorded words of Jesus make up one third of all of the words that he spoke in terms of the stories that he told. So he told stories a third of the time in the recorded times that we have in the synoptic gospels, that's a lot. Why did Jesus talk in story? Why did he talk in parable? Well, there's a few reasons and probably more than I have time to acknowledge, but one of those, the reason that he told stories was because he was both trying to conceal and reveal meaning to people, depending on whether they were advocates of the kingdom of God or whether they were antagonists to the kingdom of God, he was either concealing it or revealing the truth that he was talking about. Now in a moment, we're going to be in Matthew chapter 21 to look at a story that's in there, but prior to getting there in Matthew's gospel, Jesus actually talks about why he told stories to both conceal and reveal.
Here's what it says in Matthew 13. The disciples came to Jesus and they asked, why do you speak to the people in parables or stories? And Jesus said, because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has, will be given more and they will have an abundance, but whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables, then he quotes Isaiah, those seeing they do not see though hearing, they do not hear or understand. You see, Jesus is doing two things with teaching parables or telling stories, is that he's both revealing meaning to those who are people who believe in him and believe in the kingdom and he's concealing meaning to those who are antagonists to the reality of the kingdom of God.
But Jesus also told stories because he wanted to speak in... I was going to say plain English, Jesus didn't speak English, though he could have plain Aramaic or plain Hebrew, right? Jesus wanted to speak plainly as opposed to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and the scribes and elders who spoke with such flowery language that sometimes people didn't know what they were saying, but Jesus instead uses very common terms for the day. He talks about vineyards and plants and trees and seed and farmers, Jesus tells stories like this or family. He tells stories all along this line because he wants to be able to relate to the people that he's talking to. It was an agrarian culture, they kind of grew things, farmers and that kind of thing and so Jesus would tell stories that made sense.
But Jesus also told stories because he wanted people to think deeply about what he was talking about instead of just giving them some propositional statement or propositional truth, Jesus actually tells them a story because he wants them to dive deeply into the meaning of exactly what he's trying to get at because sometimes the more we think about these stories, the more we're able to see the truth that he's sharing and maybe even see our role in them. But there's a last reason and it's not the only of all the reasons Jesus told stories, but there's one last one that I would relate to you that I think is the most overlooked reason that Jesus told stories and it's this, he told them because he had authority. You see, Jesus didn't actually have to appeal to other sources like the teachers of the law where they would be appealing to other sources, Jesus could simply tell stories that indicated truth because he was the incarnation or the embodiment of truth itself.
Jesus taught with his own authority and authority that was given to him by the father, he taught that way which was different than the way the Pharisees and the scribes and the teachers of the law actually taught. This is important because the whole idea of Jesus authority is what was really rankling the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. This is what made them really, really angry and when we come to Matthew 21, what we find is we find that they're actually quizzing Jesus on his authority. And this is part of what makes them irritated is because he teaches in a different way than everybody else does and they are questioning ultimately his authority. Now the context of Matthew 21 is that Jesus is coming into Jerusalem for the very last time in his earthly ministry and as he comes in, you remember the scene, right?
The Palm Sunday scene, waving Palm branches, crying Hosanna blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. And so Jesus comes in on a donkey and everybody's excited and basically all of Jerusalem is in kind of an uproar about Jesus entering in like a king, as he was coming kind of echoes of how Solomon actually came into Jerusalem and Jesus makes his way in. Now, upon getting into the city of Jerusalem what he does right away is he goes to the temple and he uses his hands to demonstrate some things. Flipping tables is what he starts to do because he doesn't like what's happening in the context of the temple because what they were doing is they were charging exorbitant fees, basically price gouging to take advantage of poor people who maybe had to make a long journey and couldn't afford to bring an animal with them and now they're price gouging them, and Jesus starts flipping tables, sending the money changers and those that are selling those things out of there and he says my house is supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations.
And then upon doing that, everybody seemed to be thanking God for what he had done, he did some healings both in the temple courts and outside of the temple courts and even the children started proclaiming blessed is the son of David. The children, they're singing about Jesus at this point and do you know how it made the scribes and the Pharisees and the elders and the teachers of the law feel? Not happy. In fact, here's what it says in Matthew 21, verse 15. It says when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things Jesus did and the children shouting in the temple courts, Hosanna to the son of David, they were indignant they were really, really angry. And so that's kind of day one that Jesus comes in and he goes and spends the night in Bethany, remember he had friends in Bethany like Mary and Martha and Lazarus, that's where they were from.
And Bethany's just right over the Mount of Olives, I've been there many times, it's just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. And then Jesus, the next morning was coming back to Jerusalem and he passed a fig tree and the fig tree was beautiful and leafy, but Jesus looked and upon close inspection it didn't have any fruit. It had a ton of leaves, it looked great, but it didn't have any fruit and Jesus cursed it. And you're going, what? I will come back to that maybe in just a little bit so that you'll see the connection to the story that he tells, but that's what he does and then upon doing that, he finds himself in the temple courts and there as he begins to teach, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law want to question him around his authority. Here's how the text states it in verse 23 of chapter 21.
It says Jesus entered the temple courts and while he was teaching, the chief priest and the elders of the people came to him, by what authority are you doing these things they asked, and who gave you this authority? You see, this is what they're mad about, right? By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you this authority? Well, to be honest with you they're not really interested in the truth, they're interested in making Jesus look bad. They did this off and on, when you begin to read the gospels, you see it all over the place. They sent people sometimes to Jesus to ask him trick questions, to see if they could trick him into saying something bad so the people would turn against him. You see at this point, they're not really that interested in knowing the truth of what Jesus is saying, they're interested in making him look bad, much like what happens in politics sometimes if somebody who is an unethical politician decides that their concern is not over the policy of their opponent or any of those kinds of things, they just simply want to say things to make them look bad.
And it happens, it doesn't matter what particular party affiliation that you identify with more than the other, they're really both imperfect, we all know that but it just happens. In fact, when I was looking through a book, it reminded me of something that an author named Hunter S. Thompson, he wrote a book called Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail in 1972. And in that book, he was actually chronicling kind of the rise to the presidency of Richard Nixon, but he actually told a story from, I don't know, a decade and a half more or more back when Lyndon Johnson was running I think a Senate campaign in Texas. Now Lyndon Johnson eventually became president, but this would have been years before 1972, but nonetheless, he told the story of Lyndon Johnson who was running for a Senate seat in Texas.
And Lyndon Johnson told his aide, he said, I want you to tell the press that my opponent has been having an immoral relationship with a pig. Now, Lyndon Johnson did not say it as tactfully as I just said that to you, but that's what he said. His aide said, no one's ever going to believe this and his response was I know, I just want to hear him deny it. He didn't care about the truth, he just cared about making his opponent look bad and it didn't matter if it took lies to get them there. That's what was going on with Jesus here with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, they weren't interested in the truth, they were interested in making Jesus look bad and so they ask him a pair of questions. They say to him, by what authority are you doing these things and who gave you this authority?
And it's interesting to what Jesus does, Jesus answers their questions with a question. Notice what he says, verse number 24 Jesus replied well, I'll ask you one question, if you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism, where did it come from? Was it from heaven or of human origin? Now that's an interesting thing that Jesus did, right? He took their questions and he answered them with a question ultimately of his own. Now, based on their response, they are going to figure out real quickly that they should have never messed with the wisest of the wise. Sometimes maybe we forget this in our own minds, we think of Jesus and we think of how gracious he is and the people that he healed and the kingdom he came to proclaim, and we think about his death on the cross and his resurrection and all those things we should think about, and one thing we forget, he's the smartest person that ever had human skin walking the face of the earth.
No one has ever been smarter than Jesus. This was God in the flesh and they want to take him on an intellectual battle, good luck. So Jesus poses a question, he says John's baptism, what was its origin? Where did it come from? Was it from heaven or not? It's an interesting question. Based on their response, you can figure out that they're done for, here's what happened, they discussed it among themselves and they said, if we say that John's baptism is from heaven then Jesus is going to ask then why don't you believe Him? But if we say it's of human origin, we're afraid of the people for they all hold that John was a prophet. So they ended up answering Jesus, we don't know. And then Jesus said neither will I tell you by what authority I'm doing these things.
So, they decided that they wanted to get into a battle of wits with Jesus, which was a bad idea, right? Never get in a battle of wits with the... that's Princess Bride reference, remember that guy? Anyway, there's some of you that don't remember, you'll go back and watch it and you'll think ah, Jerry is so funny or you won't. So Jesus basically decides after they can't answer that question, Jesus begins to tell them a story, but he begins to tell them a story by asking them another question. Notice how he begins before he tells them the story. He says, what do you think? And then he's going to tell them a story, but he starts with what do you think? Now, that's actually a really good question, there are some good questions and there are some bad questions.
Sometimes we ask questions that are leading and we don't ask questions to engage or to learn, we actually ask questions that are poor questions from the outset. So I read an article by Alison Brooks and Leslie John, it was called The Surprising Power of Questions and it was in the Harvard Business Review. And they wrote this article because they believe that there is a power to questions that when asked rightly that it leads both the question asker and the question receiver to both learn more actually in the process. They talked about how you ought to default to follow up questions in a conversation because that enhances learning and enhances everybody's understanding of what's being talked about. They also talked about some other things like open ended questions and when to ask them and why you should ask them and they talked about some other things related to that like the sequencing of questions, what questions to ask in what order because they really believe that this was going to help foster better learning.
But some questions are better than others, what was interesting is that when I was actually looking at this text and I was thinking about questions that are asked all through this particular text and how some of them were really good questions and then there's other questions that aren't so good, and Jesus asked a really good one at the beginning of telling the story when he said, what do you think? And then he told them a story, right as I am doing that, it was serendipitous quite literally. My phone has a text on it that came from my buddy pastor Jordan Stinziano in Syracuse, he's at Missio Church in Syracuse. He's preached here before many years ago, a wonderful friend, wonderful man of God. He was at the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York with his son and he texted me because he's a big Yankees guy, unfortunately, and I'm a big Atlanta Braves guy.
And I make fun of the Yankees to him all the time, but he's always throwing back at me, 27 world championships, blah, blah, blah and it's like how many do the Braves have? And I'm like three, one in Atlanta, one in Milwaukee, one in Boston, but three. We got 27, I'm like... and so it's always that, right? I even made fun of Yankee stadium because right field is only 314 feet, 314, that's ridiculous. That is short... my sons who play in college, they don't want to ever play on a field that short in right field, 314. Jordan, I'm making fun of it. He sends me a T-shirt that just says 314 feet on it and I wear it, I wear it because I tell the story. I'm like, this is ridiculous. Yankee stadium is stupid, right field is stupid, right?
So anyway, this is the text he sends me, speaking of bad questions, here's the text he sends me. It's a picture of the Yankees in the hall of fame, it's like all their world championship trophy and it says underneath it, hey, I'm with Owen at the hall of fame. It's a nice way to commemorate 27 world championships don't you think? No, I don't think, that's a terrible question, don't you think? Because that's a leading question that doesn't actually get to any real conversation because he's asking the question assuming the answer is, of course it does because he assumed wrong with me because my response to that question was this, the power and empire of Babylon will only last for a short time. And I quoted Revelation, the smoke from her goes up forever and ever, do not mess with me.
Some questions are good, some questions are bad and Jesus has a really good question before he tells the story, he says what do you think? And then he begins to unpack a story and here's what the story says. He says, what do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said son, go and work today in the vineyard, I will not, he answered, but later he changed his mind and he went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing, he answered I will sir, but he did not go, which of the two did what his father wanted? So Jesus tells this really short story here to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who are all over him trying to figure out by what authority he does everything and by the way, in reading that story, just a quick textual note, if some of you are reading in a new revised standard version, then the order of those is reversed.
That's because there was some debate relative to the order of that text, but most I would consider, most of the textual representation is what I've represented there in the NIV and the ESV. Here's the good news, it doesn't actually change the meaning but you will see that in the NRSV as being in reverse, okay? So if you are reading that and going wait a minute, am I messed up? What's happening? No, everything's fine, but you'll see it generally in this particular way that's represented here both in the NIV and the ESV. Now that said, it doesn't change the underlying idea, so here's the story, it's a story of a dad and two sons and the story of this dad and two sons is really simple. The dad says to the first son, he says son... now, by the way, when he says son, he doesn't say it like this, son! I want you to go and work in the vineyard, it's not that at all.
In fact, he uses an endearing term when he refers to him as a son and he says, son, I want you to go and work in the vineyard. And so he says it lovingly and not brashly, but the son responds with shocking disrespect because in the ancient world if you were to respond to your father, who was the patriarch, who was kind of the leader of what was going on in their particular family and on their land and all of that stuff, it was shocking disrespect to speak to a dad like that by saying I will not. This was shocking in the ancient world, by the way some of you are going well, it's shocking in Buffalo too. If my son or my daughter, if I say to them hey, I want you to make sure your room gets cleaned up, I will not, you're like, well, that ain't happening in this house, right? I understand, I got you.
But it was shocking to the hearers when they were hearing that. But even though the son says I will not, later he changes his mind and he goes to work in the vineyard. And so the father actually said to the other son, son I want you to go work in the vineyard as well and that son said absolutely dad, I will sir, but he doesn't go. And so Jesus poses a question to them. In fact, when this second son says I will sir, that word sir is the word Kyrios which in the Greek language is also translated lord or master. And so he's speaking with great reverence to his father, oh sir, yes master of this land, lord of this land, absolutely I will, and doesn't. So you've got this kind of pair and Jesus ends what he says actually with a question.
Now, some of you are listening to this story and you're thinking about the one who says I'm not going to do it and maybe then ends up doing it, or the one that says I'm going to do it but then ends up not working in the field and you're going, is this story about teenagers? Because some of you have had that actually happen, right? Where you've said hey, I'm going to work, but your room better be clean when I get home and they're like my room, I'm not cleaning my room, I've got to do everything around here. I'm sorry, you got to do everything? I brought you into this world, you start getting that going on in your head, right? Or some of you may be thinking of people that you work with or have worked with before, those people that the boss says something and they're like oh, that is a brilliant idea, absolutely, I'll handle that for you.
That's... absolutely, wow and then they do nothing, zero. They are all talk and they sound great and the boss thinks they're awesome, but they don't do anything. So we've all been around those types of people but Jesus is actually trying to get at something here and so what he does is he ends this with a question, after he tells this story he says, which one of the two did what his father wanted? Because he actually told them, what do you think? And then he ended with which one of the two did what his father wanted? Because what Jesus is about to do is he's about to turn the screws on these religious leaders and Pharisees and teachers of the law. He's turning the screws to tighten it down because what they're going to do when they answer is they're going to self incriminate.
That's what's about to happen, Jesus has now put them in a box, again, don't mess with the wisest of the wise if you want to get into an intellectual battle because you are going to be boxed in a hurry. So listen to how that response went. Jesus said, which of the two did what his father wanted? The first they answered, the first. You remember the first, right? The one who said I will not do it, but change their mind and went and worked. And so they even recognize that, the first they answered and Jesus said to them, truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you for John came to you to show you the way of righteousness and you didn't believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes did.
And even after you saw this, you didn't repent and believe him. See, Jesus has now done something here, He's actually turned the screws on them and he's making sure that they understand what he's talking about. He basically says this, the first son, that's the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Here's what they did, they started out life saying no to God, saying no to his will, saying no to his ways. They didn't want to do any of that and they led life the way that they wanted to lead life. They chose the path that they wanted to choose, but they heard the message of the kingdom of God through both John the Baptist as Jesus forerunner and ultimately through Jesus, and do you know what they did? They changed their mind and they responded, and they have now entered into the kingdom of God. They started on no, but they decided yes and now they are fulfilling the will of the father.
Jesus says that's the first son, and you Pharisees and teachers of the law you agreed with me that in the two sons, which one did what the father wanted was the first. But you, you are the second group, you Pharisees, you teachers of the law, you scribes and elders, you're the ones who say yes, we're the people of God. Yes, we're doing everything that God wants yet you're not doing the will of the father. You see Jesus, Jesus did to the Pharisees and teachers of the law what Nathan did to David. I don't know if you remember that, but you remember David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He saw her bathing one time, David should have been out to war leading his nation, but instead stayed back and then stood out on his balcony and saw a woman bathing, thought she was beautiful, decided he wanted to have her for his own even though she was someone else's wife, in fact, one of his generals named Uriah.
And so he takes her and he impregnates her, he commits adultery with her and to cover up his issue, he ends up having Uriah sent to the front of the battle so that he would ultimately be killed, so that he could somehow cover all this up as if God didn't see it. But God sent a prophet to David named Nathan and Nathan said my king, I'd like to tell you a story and David said sure. And Nathan said there was a rich man who owned a ton of cattle and lambs and all kinds of stuff and then there was a poor man who owned only a lamb that he had when he was just a ewe, a baby. And he took that lamb and he grew from just a baby and that lamb was like a family member, it was like a daughter to him, so much so that the lamb actually drank out of the same cup and ate out of the same bowl as he did, and when he went to bed, he had that lamb in his arms when he went to bed.
He said, one day the rich man had a guest and hospitality was a big deal in the ancient world, he had a guest, a traveler come through and when that traveler came through, the rich man instead of taking one of his own herd, went to the poor man and took his lamb and slaughtered it to prepare it for his guest. David heard that story and he went, what? That man should be put to death and he should pay back four times what he had done and Nathan looked at him and said, you are the man. Jesus did that to them. He turned the screws on them as he had a conversation so that they would begin to understand not because Jesus was trying to be harsh, but because Jesus was trying to get them to see. To see the position that they were in, that they were yes to God, but not doing the will of the father.
And the ones that actually pleased the father were the ones that started on no, but changed their mind and said yes and went to work in the vineyard. And see, then Jesus says that these tax collectors and prostitutes will actually move into the kingdom of God ahead of you Pharisees and scribes. Now, when that term ahead of you is used, that we just read a moment ago when he says you'll get into the kingdom ahead of them, the Greek translation there can mean the word before, you'll get there before them. But here's what you need to understand both in the etymology of the Greek word and also in the context, it doesn't mean that it assumes that the Pharisees and teachers of the law will enter the kingdom. In fact, one of the reasons that I know that is because Jesus teaches a second parable right after this parable of the two sons, called the parable of the talents or the story of the talents.
And though I'm not going to go through that, you see that at the end, he's still making sure that the Pharisees and teachers of the law understand he's talking about them and notice what he says to them at the end of that story in verse 43, he says therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. You see, Jesus is trying to help them understand that this is a stunning understanding for them. That Jesus with authority is actually saying to the ones who teach about righteousness and who teach about the way of God and who teach about the kingdom of God, that they won't be in the kingdom and that the ones who were all messed up and who had rejected God from the outset, but who had said yes to the message of the kingdom will be in the kingdom. And he's helping them to understand this and it caught them off guard.
And so what Jesus is doing is he's exposing the religious leaders, but he's also giving hope to those who are hopelessly lost. Do you know what he's reminding the religious leaders of? Something that we should be reminded of as well when he tells this story, do you know what he's reminding them of? Listen to this, promised obedience is not obedience. It's not enough to say yes sir, lord, yes, and then not obey him. Promised obedience is not obedience. In the same way, listen to this, in the same way relative to the fig tree, outward vitality does not equal fruitfulness. Are you following this pattern now? Jesus curses a fig tree, why? Because it looks great, leafing up, no fruit and Jesus says outward vitality does not equal fruitfulness and promised obedience is not actually obedience.
Do you know what is obedience? Obedience, that's what it is, I felt like Kramer right there, obedience. I don't know what just happened. Obedience is obedience, right? Not promised obedience, this is imperative for us to be able to understand because doing what the father wants is bigger than words and it's bigger than just our agreeing that the father wants something. It's actually in the doing, that's why Jesus is proposing a great kingdom question. Here it is, listen. What do you think about doing the will of the father? This is a great kingdom question based on what Jesus is teaching us here and I want you to ponder this for a moment. What do you think about doing the will of the father? You see, this is extraordinarily relevant for us today because some that have been maybe in church life for a long period of time, the extent of some people's obedience came around an emotional decision or the walking of an aisle one time or the filling out of a card at some point or the completion of a class that they got involved in, and what started out with a yes was actually a conditional yes.
It was a yes, yes, yes, in an emotional moment but the life has actually been lived, hasn't been lived in the vineyard. Nobody's actually doing the work of the father, the will of the father. See, they look the part and talk the part but it's the same thing as being a fig tree that's all leafed, but having no fruit. It's the same thing as saying oh yes Lord, oh yes, absolutely, oh yes Lord but not doing the work you said you were going to do. It's the people that on Sunday morning are jumping sky high with hands in the air, praising the Lord and cannot walk straight Monday through Saturday. Had a pastor who used to say to me it's not how high you jump, it's how straight you walk when you land and I thought mm-hmm, as only a Southern pastor could say it, mm-hmm.
You see, what is really on Jesus mind is that Jesus wants us to be someone who does the will of the father, not just someone who talks about the will of the father. This is imperative for us to be able to get because Jesus is concerned with us doing his will. Now listen, this shouldn't be news to us, by the time we get here in Matthew chapter 21, Jesus has already talked about this a couple of different times and by the way, if you read the whole of Matthew's gospel, by the time you get to the end he's talked about it again. If I could back you up to the sermon on the mountain, listen to Jesus words in Matthew chapter seven, not everyone who says to me, here's the same language by the way. Not everyone who says to me, sir, sir, or Lord, Lord or master, master will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who... say it with me.
Only the one who does the will of my father, who is in heaven. Jesus was even asked about his family one time. Hey, your family's asking about you and notice what Jesus said in Matthew chapter... was it 12 I think, yeah. He says for whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Jesus is saying, this goes beyond even biological connection, this is bigger than that because those people that are doing the will of the father, those are my brothers and my sisters, those are my family members. And then when you get all the way to the end of the great commission, notice what it says in Matthew 28, Jesus says go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Do you know what the great commission is not? Teach them everything, that's not what the great commission is. Jesus doesn't say, go and make disciples, baptize them, teach them everything, no, no, no. He said teach them to obey everything because the concern of Jesus is that we are doers of the will of the father, so how do we do that? How do we do that? And how come the Pharisees and the teachers of the law couldn't. I mean of all the people, right? Of all the people, they couldn't do it. Why couldn't they do it? Here's why, listen, because you can't obey the words of life when you are full of death. You can't respond to the words of life when there's death inside. Do you know Jesus actually in just a couple of chapters after Matthew 21 told the Pharisees that exact thing, listen to what he said.
He said woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way on the outside, you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. The reason they couldn't respond to the words of life is because they were full of death, because they didn't have life in them. And do you know the only way that we have life in us is through the son of God? In fact, in John's gospel listen to what Jesus words are. Jesus said for I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will... to do the will of him who sent me and this is the will of him who sent me that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day for my father's will is that everyone who looks to the son and believes in him will have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day.
When we look to the son in faith, you know what happens to us? We receive the life of God in us and the only way that we can be a people who actually... listen to this, who actually obeys and responds to the words of life that God has given us is if his life lives within us. This isn't just about us trying to will ourselves in that direction, it comes based on the regeneration of the spirit of God in receiving Jesus and looking to the son of God. And so what that means is this, in this little story that Jesus told about the two sons, Jesus is not just the storyteller, he's the solution. Jesus is the third son. One of them he said, said no, I won't do this but changed their mind and went to work. The other one said, yes, yes, yes, father I'll do this but then didn't do it and that's like the Pharisees, but Jesus is the third son who said yes and did it.
He said, yes and did it, what did he say yes to? The father's will. What did he do? The father's will. And now what can happen for all of us who recognize that we are not righteous in our own righteousness and in our own selves like the pharisees thought they were, but instead we recognize like tax collectors and prostitutes that we have sinned and come short of the glory of God but that there is a son of the father that has said yes and done the work of the father, and by faith in him we can be transformed and ushered into the kingdom of God. Jesus is not just the storyteller, he's the solution because he is the other son that we need to be reminded of. So what the story does is it warns us. It warns us that words alone are not enough to qualify for what it means to please the father. But there's also hope here, isn't there? Because the people that started on no, ended up saying yes to the father.
That's extraordinarily hopeful. Do you know that even Jesus brother started on no, his brother James started on no. In fact, when you read through the gospels, you read statements like this that are in John 7, for even Jesus own brothers did not believe in him, yikes, because brothers didn't believe in him. But you know what's interesting is that... by the way, when you look at the cross and you see Jesus mom at the foot of the cross, do you see one of Jesus brothers that are standing there with her? Nope. You see one of his disciples, John, standing with her. They didn't believe, they chose not to believe, then Jesus died but something happened shortly after his death, let me think about it, one, two. Third day after, he got up from the grave and Paul gives us this great little tidbit in first Corinthians 15, talking about Jesus risen from the dead and he says after he did that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep then he appeared to James and then to all of the apostles.
His brother who started on no, Saw his brother murdered and then saw his brother after that resurrected and his no turned into a yes, because he came face to face with the resurrected Messiah who he just regarded as his brother and who he didn't believe in and something so startling happened in James's life that in that 40 day time period between Jesus resurrection and his ultimate ascension, James's life was transformed. He now had life in him instead of death and the reason I know that is because when you read the book of Acts chapter one, when Jesus ascends to the father, right after that, you see a prayer meeting going on and look who was there. It says they all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.
They started on no, and they came to believe, but do you know what Jesus brother who started on no and decided that he would believe by God's initiation in his life, do you know what happened? Do you know what he did? He led the church of Jerusalem and he wrote one of the epistles that we have in here, and do you know what he had to say about obedience? Here's what he said, do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says. He understood what the master desired to fulfill the will of the father, obedience. So what do you think, what do you think about doing the will of the father? I've got good news for you, you can't do your way into earning salvation with the father, you can't possibly do that. By the way, if that were possible, the tax collectors and the prostitutes would be out of luck if you had to earn your way there.
No, the beauty is that while the bible says very clearly and Paul writes very clearly that it is by grace, that we are saved through faith and it's not of ourselves, it's a gift of God. It's not of works so that no one should boast, but the next verse says for we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works. You see, our working in the vineyard in fulfilling the will of the father is evidence that we've been transformed and been given life. The question that we have to ask is what do you think? Have you been somebody who's been a yes person? Yes Lord, absolutely Lord, yes God, but has not really been regenerated so that the life of God in you brings you to a place of living in longterm obedience to him. Or maybe you're in that place where you've said you know what? I have done a lot of bad stuff.
I have broken all kinds of promises and maybe laws and I've been a mess, I've made bad choices, I know that I've sinned and messed up. Okay, so has the rest of the world and that's why this news called the gospel is such good news because it's news for people like me and you who've blown it, who couldn't... we recognize we couldn't save ourselves and then we recognize Jesus has done this on our behalf and when we trust him and what he's done by dying on a cross to satisfy the justice of God, having our sin placed upon him so that our sin was judged on the righteous one Jesus, and through his death and his subsequent resurrection demonstrating that he satisfied the very desire of God and that only a perfect human being could die for all of the imperfect human beings and that he did so willingly and out of a love, not by coercion so that you and I might wake up and repent and change our mind and say we can't save ourselves, only you can save us.
Because when we do that, we receive eternal life because we've looked to the sun and we believed on him and now we receive a life in us that enables us to be able to respond to the words of life that he has given us to obey. Because before then we couldn't, because death only lived in us, spiritual death only lived in us. So no matter what the outside of us look like, good church attenders, nice and leafy, but no fruit or we are yes Lord, yes Lord, we promise obedience but never obey. So I don't know what it is for you, but I ask you, what do you think? What do you think? If you need to do some business with God then I encourage you to do that, or maybe you need to entrust your life to Jesus. And whether you're here in this room or whether you're watching us online or whether you're listening to us by way of radio or whether you're watching on television, if you need to entrust your life to Jesus, I encourage you.
We've got people that are standing by who'd love to talk to you about that very thing. It's as simple as just if you want to log on to thechapel.com, you can go to thechapel.com/knowing Jesus, or you can call if you want to speak to somebody, (716) 631-2636, we'd love to be able to do that. Father, I pray in the name of Jesus that you would call us to be a people and that you would empower us to be a people who delight in your commands just as it says in Psalm 119, because they are life to us, and may the life in us respond to the life given to us so that we may be people who fulfill the will of the father. We pray in Jesus name, amen.