In the Gospel this Sunday we hear people coming to challenge Jesus' authority. This means that they want to know, who tells Jesus to say these things, and he says them? Who tells Jesus to do these things, and he does them? Is he making this stuff up, or has someone given him the job to say and do these things?
When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and challenged his authority.
When we hear the word "authority," we might remember another Gospel story, when a Roman soldier comes to Jesus to ask him to heal his servant. The Roman soldier says,
I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes... (Matthew 8:9)
The Roman soldier gets his authority from the Emperor of Rome; he says and does what the Emperor wants. This means he does the will of the Emperor. The Roman soldier recognizes that Jesus is also a man under authority. Whose authority is Jesus under? Whose will does Jesus do? Jesus says to the Roman soldier,
‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.
Jesus is under the authority of God. He says and does the will of his Father.
In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus knows the chief priests and elders are thinking about his authority to say and do things, but they might not be thinking about doing someone's will, so Jesus gives them a parable to help them think about this.
“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 am going, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
Jesus begins and ends the parable with questions. We know that he asks them to the chief priests and elders, and he asks them of us. What do we think?
Here we have another parable about a man who owns a vineyard. This man has two sons and he wants them to work in the vineyard. One of the sons says he will not work, but he does. The other son says he will work, but he does not. Which of the two does the will of the father?
We know that the father wants work to be done. The first son actually does the work. So, we can say that he does the will of the father.
We can imagine that the father wants his sons to say, yes, they will work. The second son says yes. He says what the father wants. In this way, we could also say that he does the will of the father.
Which is better, though? Saying he will work, or actually doing the work? Does saying yes get the work done?
Are either of the sons like Jesus?
If Jesus were the vineyard owner's son, what would he do?
Remember, when he is with the Roman soldier, he says the servant will be healed, and the servant is healed.
What Jesus says, Jesus does.
Jesus says the will of God and he does the will of God.
There is no difference.
If Jesus were a son in the parable he would say, ‘I am going, sir’ and he would go.
Doing the work is better, but saying and doing the will of God is best.
Can we do that? Can we say yes to God and do the work of building the Kingdom?
Would it help to pray?
And Jesus tells us how: