It’s Passion Week, one of the most important weeks of celebration and remembrance on the church calendar. As such, we will be taking a break from our study of Genesis to focus on this special time. There are many good devotionals that you can use to do a study of the events of this week, so rather than duplicate their hard work on the events of passion week, I’d like to do a short study on what Jesus taught during Passion Week. Specifically, we are going to look at 5 parables that Matthew records Jesus having taught during this week.
This parable is taught in Matthew 21:28-32. Go ahead and read it.
There’s a word that comes to mind when we read this passage: hypocrite.
If you go back a few verses, you’ll find that Jesus is talking to the chief priests and the elders of the people. They were trying to challenge His authority, so He first asks them a question. But they refuse to answer, so He tells them this parable. The parable itself is pretty straightforward, and Jesus gets the chief priests to agree that it was the first son who actually did the will of their Father. However, the priests fail to realize that they themselves are the second son! It is the people whom they think of as “sinners,” the prostitutes and the tax collectors, who are actually doing the will of their Father.
Unfortunately, there are many people today who are like the chief priests and the elders of the people. They think that, because they are doing all of the right religious things, they are the children of God. After all, they are going to church, they are tithing, they are singing the worship music, they are posting Bible verses on social media, and if anyone were to look at them from the outside, they would know that this is a real Christian. But Jesus doesn’t look at the outside—He looks at the inside; He looks at our heart.
The will of the Father is not that we do good works, but that we exercise faith and complete reliance on Him. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Some of these people who look like such strong Christians on the outside become far too invested in their own good works. We get so busy doing so many things for God, that we lose sight of what God really wants from us: a personal relationship with Him.
Sometimes, I’m like the second brother. I get so focused on perfecting my sermon, writing these devotions, contacting our church members, and generally doing the work of the ministry, that I forget to spend time with God. And I’m not alone. Did you know that an older study from the 90s found that 72% of pastors surveyed “only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons”? The compilers of this study concluded: “The problem, as we have found… is that people lose focus on what the mission and central theme of the Church is. Both pastor and churchgoer miss the main theme of what a church is about, which is to know and worship Christ as Lord.” (http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562)
These pastors probably started off with the best of intentions. Just like many of the priests and elders of Israel, they desired to honor the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Like the second brother, they said that they would obey the father, and probably intended to do so. But, somewhere along the way, they got more focused on working for the Lord than on knowing the Lord.
God sincerely desires a relationship with you. He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you. More than sacrifice and offerings, God desires for you to come to Him just as you are, and to have open and honest fellowship with Him. Spend time talking to God, and listening as you read His Word. Now that everything else is stripped away during this time of quarantine, we can stop trying to do so much for God, and humbly spend this Passion Week remembering all that He has done for us.
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