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"I Go Sir" -- and Went Not PDF Print E-mail


Mat 21:28-32  “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

       “Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.”


     For many of us, our view of obeying God has been shaped by our upbringing. The way we related to our parents and to authority, often shapes the way we relate to God, and things of God.

     There are two camps when it comes to the subject of obedience. Those who stick by it no matter what – “you have to obey, no matter what!”, and those who look for ways to get out of it!


     In our opening parable, both of these camps are represented. The first son, when asked to work in the father’s vineyard, flat out refused to go. He had no interest in even thinking to listen to God.


    And yet, in the parable, which son did the will of the Father – the one who at first refused.


   Tell me, in the parable of the prodigal son, which son obeyed the Father? The one who went out….or the son who stayed home?


   Our understanding of obedient to God shapes our answer. 


   For many years, we have viewed obedience as related to us – what we have to do, our following what God has asked US to do.  We have connected obedience with us – are we working in the vineyard satisfactorily – if we feel we are, then we are obedient.  But God is showing me, that the obedience of the Bible is related to God, and not focused on our busy-ness in the vineyard.


     In our opening parable, which son did the will of the father?  The one who at first refused.


     Who did Jesus represent this first son as --- the publicans and harlots, the ones who refused to give any interest in God, openly refusing anything religious in their life.


     And how did they obey the father, according to the parable?  They believed.


     Which son did not do the will of the father?  The one who readily agreed to obey.


     The second son is represented in the parable as the religious folk, the regular church goers who were active in acknowledging God.  They readily accepted a life filled with things of God. And how according to the parable did they not obey the father – they would not believe.

“John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not.”


   So which son in the parable of the prodigal son, obeyed the father?  The one who went out, or the son who stayed at home?


     Do you notice that the obedience of the Bible – is related to faith. There is no mention of work, or lifestyle or religious requirements. The obedience portrayed here is related to believing the truth.


John 14:15 “ If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

   In other words, if you don’t love me, don’t keep my commandments.  Obedience is related to Jesus.


     The word “keep” here is translated from “teros”, which in the Greek means “to watch, to guard from loss or injury.” The same thought is in our word “cherish”.


      And commandments here, is translated from the Greek, “entole”, which literally means, “what I have told you.”


      Notice that inspiration says keeping, or obeying, is cherishing what I have told you.


Luke 7: 44-48; 50. “Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven…. And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

        She obeyed. She believed. She cherished her Saviour’s words. She loved him much, because she was forgiven much. Not because she strained at trying to believe, in order to receive the gift…no, no. She was accepted as she was, and she knew it! By an act of grace by God Himself, she was accepted. Her belief was her obedience.


        So why then all the talk and stress about getting and keeping your life in order according to God’s standards? Isn’t the importance of aligning your life with God’s requirements what we should be teaching and emphasizing, especially to our young people, the next generation? Isn’t this the obedience we should be encouraging?


        This was the feeling among the people that were gathered around Jesus as he spoke the parable that we opened with today. They felt their salvation, their standing with God, rested on maintaining a life in accordance with God’s requirements.


John 6:28,29 “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”


       Those standing listening believed they entered heaven themselves -- by their correct decisions, their actions, their religious efforts. They felt they were the dutiful son who had stayed home all these years, and faithfully served the father.  They rated their standing with God based on how well they had performed in their religious life. They connected obedience with themselves.


   They were inspired by Jesus and his teaching, and wanted to know what they had to do to have what Jesus had. In answer, Jesus pointed them to God, and revealed how they would be obedient..."that you believe on Him whom He has sent."


       In just the previous breathe, Jesus had uttered the same thought: --


John 6:27. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”


       Not by introducing requirements and restrictions is our life made fragrant and beautiful. The yeast is mixed in with the dough, and works from within to affect the whole lump. Only by love is love awakened. And only through love are we brought close to God.


      The people about Jesus were echoing the sentiment expressed by their forefathers, centuries earlier. After witnessing the proclamation of the law by God Himself from Mt Sinai, the people said,


Exod 19:8  “And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.  And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.”


      The people automatically connected obedience with themselves. In their confidence, when asked by the Lord to obey his words, the people confidently answered, “I go sir.” But did they go? Did they do the Father’s will? What did they do not 3 weeks later…..they declared a gold calf -- the work of their own hands, as their god to lead them through the wilderness to Canaan.


      They pledged obedience….in full sincerity. But obedience is not what preserved them.


      What did Jesus commend over and over again during his ministry, as various ones interacted with Him….Go in peace, your promise to go has made you whole….Is that what He said?


       No, it was faith, believing, that pleased the heart of Jesus. Jesus is wanting a response from your heart, an acceptance of Him as your Saviour. Jesus is not looking for a sweaty, labour-worn hand extended to Him with, “Here Lord is the rightly aligned life you asked me to give.” If this is what you offer, He can only say as He did so long ago in the parable… “depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you. You never let Me.”


      For so long, our obedience has been no more than self-righteousness—our attempts at being right. This is not the will of God, nor is it in the way of righteousness. God is looking for responses to His grace, candidates for His goodness to transform as He wants them. This is why the prodigal son went into heaven before the obedient, stay at home son. Those who are forgiven much, love much. Their faith, their love is their obedience. They follow the Lamb wither soever He goes. They are the meek, the poor in spirit; and theirs is the kingdom of heaven.