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The Jewish Religious Teachers, Leaders and Elders had heard the teaching of Jesus and had seen the results of His ministry in miracles that He had performed for the needy during the past three and a half years of His ministry. They had just witnessed Jesus being hailed as King by the people of Jerusalem and by the visitors who had arrived in the City for the religious holidays. They had also witnessed the second cleansing of The Temple by Jesus.

Jesus was teaching in The Temple and He was seen as a threat to their leadership. The Pharisees wanted to show to the people that they had the right to act with greater authority than Jesus. The Chief Priests and Teachers approached Jesus and questioned who gave Him His 'assumed' His authority, yet they had already been told by John the Baptist, Jesus was The Messiah, sent of God.

Jesus then responded to them with a question, under whose influence was John The Baptist preaching repentance and water baptism, God or mankind's? The Teachers would not answer, for if they said John The Baptist's preaching of repentance was from God, they would have had to acknowledge that Jesus was their Messiah, and that His authority was from God, but if they answered John was acting on his own authority, they feared, for all the people believed John was a prophet sent from God.

Jesus caught these religious Leaders in their own trap and clearly applied this parable to them.
NIV Matthew 28-32
Jesus asked, "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 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?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, 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 did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

Both sons in the story that Jesus told had heard the Father's request. The certain man refers to God The Father, the owner of the vineyard, the vineyard refers to work in The Kingdom of God, the bringing forth of fruit to glorify God. The vineyard is the Kingdom of God. The two sons who are vinedressers, are two classes of people in the Nation of Israel which also refer to the same two types throughout the world. Thus the parable makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile but between religous leaders and public sinners.

One refused to obey but afterwards repented, the other agreed and promised to do what was asked but failed to carry it out.

The first son who refused to obey, then repented, represents those who do not practice pure belief and do not fear God. There is no hypocrisy, but self-will, they know they are sinners and blatantly say so.

A false and unsafe place to remain, being guilty of rebellion against God. This son characterises the publicans (tax collectors), prostitutes and sinners, who under the preaching of John The Baptist, repented and were baptised, they believed in the coming Messiah of whom John spoke and they became sons of God in His soon coming Kingdom.

These people were sinners, but the spirit-filled message of sin and repentance entered into their hearts and willingly they became members into God's family, including service in God's vineyard. They responded to John The Baptist's ministry, doing the will of God.

The Second Son contradicted his word, his work, and his promise. Professing obedience in the presence of his father, he had no intention of obeying, thus he was a hypocrite. Another insecure position to be in, being cowardly and false. This son represented the Jewish Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Elders who were the legalistic religious teachers of Jesus' day.

They wore the robes of religion but were far from God's vineyard. They were outwardly righteous but did not have the desire to carry out what the Father had willed for them to do. They felt in need of nothing and failed to recognise that they were spiritually impoverished, because of their own self-importance.

Failing to accept the Messiah sent from God, and failing to see their need of repentance, they continued to live outside the Kingdom of God. They had rejected the instruction of God and they shut themselves out of The coming Kingdom. Even though they saw the response of the people, it was self-pride in their hearts, therefore they had unbelieving hearts and spiritual blindness.

After Jesus had expressed His clear story, He asked the Leaders and Teachers who was the son who did the father's will? They of course acknowledged that the first son did. Jesus pressed the point for the need of repentance, saying that sinners who repent enter the Kingdom of God. Their own righteousness was not enough.

Jesus left the way open for the self-righteous Pharisees to come to repentance. He had claimed greater authority than that of mankind, and that authority results in the gift of eternal life for the forgiveness of sin upon repentance. Those who failed to repent were the outcasts of The Kingdom.

The Religious Leaders did not believe John's witness, even after seeing the vilest, wretchedly wicked and depraved low characters, of whom they thought of little value, repenting before God and believing John The Baptist and all of his message.

Jesus asked them a question of the same context which placed them in an impossible 'no win' situation, they could not confirm John's ministry without condemning themselves. Jesus forced them by this parable to testify against themselves. Jesus explained to The Religious Leaders the meaning of His parable. John had pointed the way to the Kingdom of God which sinners were entering, meaning that John came and preached God's Will and His Word and that it was right, for John pointed to Jesus, bearer of superior righteousness.

God does not ask service from those who are not His, although they may contribute to His purpose and plans. Nothing is commanded of those outside His Kingdom.

People who belong in God's Kingdom are saved from His judgement and His wrath on sin that is to come upon this world, yet are expected to serve in His vineyard.

Every person has to choose what type of 'son' he will be, either a true spiritual relative of Jesus, pleasing the heart of The Father or a spiritual outcast doing their own self-will to please their own desires.

Repentance and faith in Christ results in receiving God's righteousness. Those who are not self-righteous find God's salvation. This was a common thread throughout Jesus' ministry.

Jesus' parables focused on the acceptance or rejection of Him.

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