Monday, July 28, 2014

SERMON: Do you qualify for the kingdom?

By DAVID BILDERBACK, Special to The Ottawa Herald | 5/30/2014

In Matthew 21, Jesus tells a parable about two sons who are ordered by their father to work in the vineyard. The first son refuses, but later changes his mind and goes anyway. The other son agrees to go, but does not.

Jesus is addressing the religious leaders, asking, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”

In Matthew 21, Jesus tells a parable about two sons who are ordered by their father to work in the vineyard. The first son refuses, but later changes his mind and goes anyway. The other son agrees to go, but does not.

Jesus is addressing the religious leaders, asking, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus then tells them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom before you. For [John the Baptist] came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw [the kingdom] you did not afterwards change your minds and believe him” (Matthew 21:31-32).

Jesus’ statement naturally angered the religious leaders. They did not recognize their need for God’s grace. They were willing to stand on their reputations and their commitment to the Jewish Law. In their eyes, the notorious sinners — tax collectors and prostitutes — only made them feel better about themselves and their own righteousness.

Their religion was based on tradition, personal preference and convenience. While this benefited them, it limited others’ ability to worship at all. The tax collectors and prostitutes could never meet the criteria of the religious leaders, thus they were left out.

When Jesus arrived on the scene and offered forgiveness to them if they recognized their sinfulness and repented, it offered a hope to anyone who had turned their back on God. This concept of forgiveness of sins based on the righteousness of Jesus instead of personal righteousness made salvation obtainable. The kingdom Christ offers is one where the qualification for entrance is a righteousness that can only be obtained as a gift from Christ. Those who refuse to recognize their need for the righteousness of Christ will never find their way into the kingdom.

At the end of the sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

That should give us pause for thought.

comments powered by Disqus