Proper 21 "A"
(25 Sept—1 Oct)
Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32
Philippians 2:1–4 (5–13) 14–18
Matthew 21:23–27 (28–32)
The Cross of Christ Opens to Us the Way of Repentance to Life with God
The way of the Lord is righteous and just: “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). However, because the Lord has “no pleasure in the death of anyone.” (Ezekiel 18:32), He calls sinners to repentance and faith in His gracious forgiveness of sins. The man who is thus turned away from his wickedness, who henceforth lives by the grace of God, “shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:28). This way of repentance has been opened for us by the cross of Christ. In the righteousness of faith and love, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8), and He was vindicated in His resurrection from the dead. Indeed, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). He has given us this name in our Baptism into Christ, in whom we now “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). He uses the authority that He has received from His Father (Matthew 21:23–27) to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, by which even “the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 21:31–32).
Rev. Dr. Daniel J Brege
“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
The priests had been authorized by God to lead and direct the matters of the Jewish temple. The elders of the Jews were regarded as the authorized leaders of the Jewish community. These two groups, which clearly had authority to perform their various religious tasks, now approach the man Jesus who the day before had authoritatively entered the temple and overturned the tables of money changers as well as the seats of the pigeon-sellers. As they now approach Him the day after He “cleansed” the Temple He acts as though the temple belongs to Him, and in the Temple He now teaches with unequaled authority.
These authorized leaders now approach Jesus with the question, By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority? They ignore the fact that from His baptism onward Jesus had been conveying the source of His authority. Many thus realized Him to be the Christ, the Son of God, and that from these two “positions” Jesus possessed authority never seen before. As the Christ, the Son of God, He had authority in and over the Temple. But what had the Christ, the Son of God been given special authority to accomplish? Was His authority only given so He would “clean up” the Temple both with His actions and with His teaching?
When He first cleansed the Temple at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus actually conveyed what He had been given authority to accomplish: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 2:19). In this veiled statement He was describing His death and resurrection. Later, when Jesus spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd, He specifically used the word “authority” to describe His central work: I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father (John 10:17,18). In this statement Jesus explains how He had been given the charge and the authority by His Father to lay His life down and then to take it up again.
Forty days after completing His authorized work to die and rise again, Jesus explains His omni-authority in His final “commission” spoken to His Apostles: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Mt 28:19). Truly after His resurrection, having entered His State of Exaltation, the man Jesus has been given the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow. As a man He now fully uses the omni-authority He always possessed as the Son of God.
And what does this man with infinite authority do? He uses this authority to institute Christian Baptism. We should all the more appreciate and treasure what Baptism is, for Christ now identifies Baptism as primary in relation to what He has been authorized to accomplish and create. Looking at what led up to Christ’s institution of Holy Baptism we should not be surprised at the importance of Christian Baptism, for John was authorized to baptize, performing this pre-sacrament as preparatory for Holy Baptism. And Christ’s very death and resurrection—the primary action Christ was authorized to perform—accomplishes salvation and this salvation is foundational to and miraculously conveyed in this wondrous washing. The Apostles’ writings explain much more about this Christ-empowered Sacrament. Indeed, as Jesus explains in this “Great Commission”, disciples are made through Holy Baptism.
Those who doubt the power and deep meaning in the Baptism performed by pastors may ask, By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority? Answer: The omni-authority of the crucified and risen Christ has authorized these things to be so.
The Cross of Christ Opens to Us the Way of Repentance to Life with God
Collect for Proper 21 - Almighty God, You exalted Your Son to the place of all honor and authority. Enlighten our minds by Your Holy Spirit that, confessing Jesus as Lord, we may be led into all truth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
:23 Καὶ [a]ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ διδάσκοντι οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ λέγοντες· Ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιεῖς; καὶ τίς σοι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην;
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
-By what authority do you do "these things?" - Jesus had just entered Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple after P Sunday...This is Tuesday of Holy Week "Of what kind of authority?" they had previously accused him of demon possession...where does it come from and is it any good?
:24 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Ἐρωτήσω ὑμᾶς κἀγὼ λόγον ἕνα, ὃν ἐὰν εἴπητέ μοι κἀγὼ ὑμῖν ἐρῶ ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ·
Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.
-Which if you will tell me and also to you by what authority these things I do. Remember, Jesus never answers a question in unbelief.
:25 τὸ βάπτισμα [b]τὸ Ἰωάννου πόθεν ἦν; ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; οἱ δὲ διελογίζοντο [c]ἐν ἑαυτοῖς λέγοντες· Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν· Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, ἐρεῖ ἡμῖν· Διὰ τί οὖν οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ;
The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
The baptism of John, from whence was it heaven or man? Why you not follow?
:26 ἐὰν δὲ εἴπωμεν· Ἐξ ἀνθρώπων, φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον, πάντες γὰρ [d]ὡς προφήτην ἔχουσιν τὸν Ἰωάννην.
But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
:27 καὶ ἀποκριθέντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπαν· Οὐκ οἴδαμεν. ἔφη αὐτοῖς καὶ αὐτός· Οὐδὲ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ.
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
-“if we say from man we fear the crowd for they hold John as a prophet...neither will I say to you.” They have the authority yet fear the left hand kingdom. They fear the crowd. To agree with John is to agree with Jesus, which, answers their own question.
The Parable of the Two Sons
:28 Τί δὲ ὑμῖν δοκεῖ; ἄνθρωπος εἶχεν τέκνα δύο. [e]προσελθὼν τῷ πρώτῳ εἶπεν· Τέκνον, ὕπαγε σήμερον ἐργάζου ἐν τῷ [f]ἀμπελῶνι.
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.’
- Child, today work in the vineyard but he replied I don't want to! But he repented, was sorry, changed his emotions, felt contrite.
:29 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· [g]Οὐ θέλω· ὕστερον δὲ μεταμεληθεὶς ἀπῆλθεν.
And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.
- Coming to the other he said " I go" but did not...
:30 προσελθὼν δὲ τῷ [i]δευτέρῳ εἶπεν ὡσαύτως· ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· [j]Ἐγώ, κύριε· καὶ οὐκ ἀπῆλθεν.
And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.
- Which of the two did the will of the Father. Jesus said tax collectors and porn stars will enter before you. Turn and believe in Him.
:31 τίς ἐκ τῶν δύο ἐποίησεν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός; [k]λέγουσιν· Ὁ [l]πρῶτος. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οἱ τελῶναι καὶ αἱ πόρναι προάγουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
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 prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.
:32 ἦλθεν γὰρ [m]Ἰωάννης πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ὁδῷ δικαιοσύνης, καὶ οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ· οἱ δὲ τελῶναι καὶ αἱ πόρναι ἐπίστευσαν αὐτῷ· ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰδόντες [n]οὐδὲ μετεμελήθητε ὕστερον τοῦ πιστεῦσαι αὐτῷ.
For 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 when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
“God of love, You know our frailties and failings. Give us Your grace to overcome them; keep us from these things that harm us; and guide us in the way of salvation.”
The Bible testifies to the fact that all are sinners, whether in the church or in the world. In that event, why become a Christian? Why become committed to Jesus Christ? If all are sinners, even Christians, who can be saved? It is important for Christians to realize they are sinners lest they become holier-than-thou in their attitude toward non- Christians.
It is not a matter of being a sinner; it matters what kind of sinner you are. One type is missing and another is retrieved and reinstated. The two sons represent two kinds of sinners.
1. The lost sinner — the one who said, “I go, sir” — v. 30.
A. He had respect and piety — “Sir.” One of the sons was very polite and respectful of his father. He addressed him as “Sir.” This son said he would go to work as the father expected. He gave the right answer and showed the proper respect, but he was not as good as his word. This son represents “religious people” who know the right things to say in worship and prayer and in life.
They consent to God’s laws and make promises to obey, but do nothing. They gave confession without execution. The have “rigor without submission Orthodoxy without obedience”.
Jesus says these people do not get into the kingdom. They failed to repent. This does not mean that we are saved by acts of obedience, but it points out that a superficial and artificial relationship with God does not count. How so? They fail in two respects.
B. They give only lip service — He said emphatically: “I go.” There are the obedient ones who refuse to obey. They see no need for Christ.
C. They fail to act. He cannot do what he promised. He can not produce —“but did not go.” Failed to do what he said – “but did not go” Lip service is inadequate, but how can we do the Father’s will and not simply say, “I will”?
Transition: The way of righteousness is that Jesus calls us sinful sons to enter the kingdom through repentance. This involves sorrow over our sins and faith that God has forgiven our sins and declared us righteous because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit He gives us a God given resolve to be righteous in our every day life.
2. The saved sinner — v. 29. He repented and He obeyed.
A. He repented —Here is a case of repentance in action. There was an “about face” in his life. One son refused to go to work in his father’s vineyard. Then he changed his mind and went to work. This about-face, this change of mind from disobedience, from no to yes, from going in the wrong direction to turning in the right direction is the meaning of repentance. When the religious leaders heard the Baptist’s call to repentance, they did not heed it, while the sinners of the day did. It was shocking to the professional religious leaders that Jesus claimed the sinners and not the religious ones were in the kingdom. He is a sinner –yet saved by grace.
B. He repented –He turned from his sinful ways. He came to the understanding that he was in need of a change in his life. He turned from his evil ways. The way of righteousness is that Jesus calls us sinful sons to enter the kingdom through repentance.
This involves sorrow over our sins; and faith that God has in fact forgiven our sins and declared us righteous. This has happened because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
C. He Obeyed — “He went.” He is the disobedient who now obeys.
1. They turn from evil to good
2. They respond to Christ.
Notice that there is action to the young man’s resolve. By the power of the Holy Spirit there is a God pleasing resolve to be righteous. It is Jesus Christ who has changed us. It is His Holy Spirit which works in us to will and to do the Father’s good and gracious will.
"Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The latter." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.” -Matthew 21:31
He who has entered the kingdom through repentance loves not just in word but in deed and in truth; his faith is not dead, without works, but alive and bearing fruit.
See “BOBO’s in Paradise” by David Brooks
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked SBLGNT are from the The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software