By Robert Halsey Pine
Jesus uses His stories to reveal life to us and how we should understand it:
“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not;’ but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir;’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” (Matthew 21:28-32 NRSV).
This parable of Jesus’ brings hope to all of us who have piled up some sins in the course of our lives. To those of us who have refused to work in our Father’s vineyard. By inheritance the vineyard is ours, yet we refuse to help out. The kingdom of God is ours if we turn to our Father and work with Him to bring His children to Him. This is the fruit of God’s vineyard.
Jesus is giving the chief priests and elders at the temple in Jerusalem a clue. It is better to refuse the Father, repent and follow Him, than to agree to follow and not show up. This is consummated in His atonement for our sins through His death on the cross. The bottom line is that God will wait on us while we have our way and accept us whenever we decide to turn to Him. We have a God who loves us unconditionally. Our hurts are His hurts. It is our choice to turn to Him or not. What are we waiting for?
Jesus ridicules the chief priests and elders for not believing in the righteousness of John the Baptist. He told them that the tax collectors and prostitutes who went to John to be baptized have more faith than they do. I know that when I go into a prison and see an inmate who has turned to God, it humbles me. Here is a fellow that has every reason to be angry with God. But his faith is strong; and I question mine. Could I have his faith if I were in his shoes?
A person who has been tested and failed, but repents and turns to the Lord, is more inspirational than the one who claims to know God and has not been tested on the front line of life. We must never be ashamed to return to the Lord when we have strayed. He expects us to repent and return.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.