A Clay Jar

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Which Son Did His Father's Will?

Matthew 21:28-31

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“What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go work in the vineyard today.’  “He answered, ‘I don’t want to,’ but later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered, but he didn’t go. Which of the two did his father’s will? ”

Matthew 21:28-31a CSB

This is not one of the more familiar parables. But is one that is very applicable both to Jesus’ original audience as well as to a more modern one. In the parable, the father sends two sons out to work. The first initially resists but then goes. The second gives lip service to his father but does not follow through. So, Jesus asks, which one did what their father wanted him to do? Most people would likely respond in the same way the chief priests and elders did. The first son is the one who did his father’s will.

It would be very easy to read this parable and miss the point, so Jesus makes it clear. The priests and elders, who are debating with Jesus in the later part of this chapter, are like the second son. The one who gives lip service, but never really follows through. These ‘leaders of the people’ are making a show of serving God, but they really aren’t. Instead, they have rejected Jesus, the one who came from God. The ones who actually are being obedient are the ‘sinners’. They initially rebelled, but have turned to God and are responding to Jesus in faith.

How many of us today are guilty of only giving lip service to Christ, bearing his name, and going through the motions? But not actually living in obedience to him? That is not enough. He wants, and deserves, our full obedience.

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Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

6 thoughts on “Which Son Did His Father’s Will? – Matthew 21:28-31”

  1. The answer is, both sons did the Father’s will or they wouldn’t be sons.
    Only one son did the secondary will of the Father, which is to serve Him.

    True service to God comes from the son’s freely serving their Father. Jesus said He did not need to go to the cross. He could have been delivered by 12 legions of angels. But He chose to obey His Father’s will because He loved His Father and sinner’s like me.

    • This parable, and the two preceding ones, were directed at the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who were complaining about the company he was keeping. And they are represented in this parable by the older brother. John calls them sons of the devil (John 8:44). But the primary point of these three parables is the rejoicing in heaven when a person is saved. The younger son was lost but had been found.

      • I think you missed the larger truth that both had done the Father’s will as to believing on Jesus and being born again. God only calls sons into service. and parables always have a singular teaching, independent of the others.

        YBIC, Dennis Clough

        • And I think you are making more out of this parable than was intended. The focus is on the rejoicing that takes when a lost son is found. The older son represents the religious leaders who were opposing Jesus, not a saved believer.

          • Hi Ed,
            Lumping the parables together is not a right way of understanding the Scriptures. You are focusing on the return of the prodigal which has nothing to do with the two sons parable.
            How could he be a son if he is representing “unsaved religious leaders? And ironically, you are agreeing with these unsaved leaders. Why did Jesus say the harlots and publicans would go into the kingdom before these “leaders?
            Simply because in order to do so, they would have to born-again by faith in Christ. They who have no “works” to trust in better understand salvation is by grace alone. Those who rely on their own works for salvation will never enter the Kingdom.
            Please think about it.
            Thanks, Dennis

          • I could not disagree with you more. Studying passages in isolation is a surefire way to misinterpret what it is saying. If you read Luke 15 in its entirety, it is clear that the prodigal is the main point of the parable.

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