September 24, 2020 | Stories
Greetings in Jesus,
This devotion is based on the upcoming sermon for the weekend. We are confident that when God's Word is heard or read it is a powerful tool. May God bless your reflection and study as you grow in the faith.
A Scripture Reading from Matthew 21:23-32
When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
“I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”
They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
“Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
In our Scripture for today we hear about people who are struggling with the identity of Jesus. For thousands and thousands of years God's people acknowledged and affirmed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But when Jesus comes on the scene through the virgin Mary, people didn't know what to do. Here is someone who is doing divine activity. He is raising people from the dead, healing the sick, forgiving sins, and letting people ascribe worship to him. And at the time, people struggled with this identity and activity of Jesus.
This comes out in the Scripture reading for today. When Jesus forces the religious leaders to ponder first where the authority of John the Baptist comes from. Jesus knew that no matter how they answered the question, they would be in trouble. If they said the authority of John comes from heaven, then everyone will wonder why they were not following him. It they say he had human authority, then the people will revolt because they believe he is a holy man.
And this is true also of Jesus. Not only did they struggle with the identity of John the Baptist they struggled even more with Jesus. The Son of God is both divine and human. All authority in heaven and on Earth has been given to him. He speaks with more authority than John the Baptist ever will. Jesus is divine and invites all people to recognize his authority and live under Him in everlasting innocence, righteousness, and blessedness.
And this is problematic for those in the story. They don't want to recognize the authority of Jesus. They want to recognize their own version of history and reality. They want to create for themselves a vision of the world and God that isn't true. And even though they are cruel to Jesus, he knows it is difficult, and still continues to invite them.
And so Jesus tells a story. One with two siblings. Both are rebellious, but one eventually relents and obeys the one in charge. And the point of this story is to show that no matter who you are, there is no condemnation for those who find themselves in the love of the one in charge. He will cover all their sins and wrongdoings. He will shield them from all harm.
Our reading for today closes with the profound statement of Jesus that those who were outcasts in society during this time will find themselves in the Kingdom of God before the religious leaders. Why? Because those who are in Christ Jesus and are under His rule, belong to God's Kingdom.
And this is good news for you. The life you live is marked by the one in charge. Jesus has asserted his power over you through the waters of Holy Baptism. He has fed you with His very body and blood. He has showed you the grace of God by inviting you to hear and read His Holy Scripture. And by His death and resurrection from the grave He has moved you from the Kingdom of destruction to the Kingdom of God where you will live with Him forever.
So this week, stay in this love. Remember this grace. The one in charge has claimed you by His mysterious power and life. You are a Christian and live in this kingdom with so many others that society and other religious groups might reject. But it is in this Kingdom that you are marked by the love, mercy, and grace forevermore.
Pastor Jacob Schultz