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On this Monday, following Palm Sunday, just several days before the crucifixion of our Lord, Jesus taught them the parable of the two sons.

Jesus taught them with this parable, that some who reject will someday recant their refusal and do as they had been instructed. Some others who promised, may not follow through and do as they had promised. God has feelings, and He feels the rejections, He feels sadness for failed promises, and has joy in some who finally accept His plan.

Matthew 21:28-32 (KJV)

28 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.

29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31 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.

32 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.



Verse 28

A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard

This is an illustrated sermon, showing that the despised sinners will be saved, but, the self-righteous chief priests and elders will often choose to be lost.


Verse 29

I will not: but afterward he repented, and went

This illustrates that many time, those who choose to be sinners, later often choose to repent and do the will of God.


Verse 30

I go, sir: and went not

This shows the awareness of God, that those who start out looking holy, righteous, and good, sometimes turn out to be the hypocrites, the self-righteous, who promised God but did nothing for Him.


Verse 31

That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you

The publicans were the hated tax collectors, the helpers of the Romans, hated by the people, despised for their collaboration with the captors.


Verse 32

For John came unto you in the way of righteousness

John was a prophet who came to ready the scene for the Messiah, Jesus. He preached ‘righteousness’, and condemned sin. People hate this kind of prophet, but before great events of the age, we find prophets like John are sent. Righteousness is preached, so that mankind can make a choice, and choose either to serve the Lord, or to serve themselves and their carnal desires.


Some who reject the Lord, may later reconsider. Some who accept may backslide. The ones who ultimately obey, are the ones pleasing to God. Jesus knew this in His last days before the crucifixion, and we should realize it in the last days before the judgment.

The Lord thus taught the disciples that we may not always know who are the ones worthy of judgment in this last day. For many who at one time seemed to be the righteous, virtuous, and obedient saints may soon fail and fall away. Others who seemed to be sinners, hypocrites, abusers, etc. may repent and begin serving God. Stephen prayed, and Paul was saved. We should not give up easily in our prayers for those in the church who seem to be soon to be judged for sins.

John the Baptist was the illustrated prophet of this sermon of Jesus. John had a lesson by his example for us. He was a ‘prophet’s prophet’.

Instead of the white garments of a priest, John chose to wear "raiment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his loins." These rough garments were common for many prophets of God.

False prophets often wore such rough garments to persuade people to think they were prophets. John was for real, a prophet.

Zechariah 13:4

"neither shall they wear the rough garments to deceive."

His dress was similar to that started by Elijah. Elijah had preached of national judgment, and is prophesied to be one of the two witnesses that return someday just before the second coming of Jesus. John knew that he was to pre-figure this mighty prophet.

II Kings 1:8

"a man girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah, the Tishbite."

Leather girdles were worn only by the poor. The rich people used silk or linen, decorated with gold, silver, and precious stones. Therefore, the prophets were announcing with their garments, that they were identifying themselves with the poor, and renouncing the seeking of money of this earth, and shunning the recognition and approval that comes to those who display wealth and social status.

John ate "locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4) This was a clean food (Leviticus 11:22). Only the poor ate locusts with butter or honey after they were salted and dried. They were like potato chips of our day, but not food associated with the finer restaurants, or served by great chefs.

The mature locusts were often plagues to the land of Israel. They were unfortunately too common in the land. The poor could easily gather many of these, to make from them a meal. The wings and the legs were removed, and they could be boiled or roasted.

People in Arabia, and many east of the Jordan still eat such locusts. They are sold in the market places of Arabia. The taste is described as not palatable, but only pleasant to the very hungry.

The honey is perhaps bee honey, or maybe even tree honey. Bee honey could easily be found in holes of the rocks, or in the holes of trees. Tree honey was the sap that exuded from palms or fig trees.

Perhaps the two parts of his diet were put together, for some used the locusts and honey together to make cakes.

John the Baptist was like many true prophets, not serving for money, not seeking prestige and status amidst the people. Today, many who call themselves prophets drive a Porsche, a Mercedes, or a Cadillac. They want a television show with prominence, status, great pay checks. These are not prophets, for their emphasis is on their own status and not on the unpopular message from God, but on the status they seek to be put in the category of prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, and Moses. There prophets were not famous while alive and true prophets of today will not be popular in their human lifetime either.


John’s ministry began in the 15th year of Tiberius soon after he had turned 30, the age when a priest would begin his Temple ministry, or step away from it to a prophetic ministry instead. He began his ministry by going into the wilderness, deserted fields, about the countryside. He did not seek the fame of huge crowds in Jerusalem, but the loneliness of empty fields. People watching from the towns on the hillsides, and from the walk paths through the empty fields would wonder at seeing a prophet preaching a sermon to no one in the field.

They began to stray from the towns, and from the paths to the empty field, to see what he was saying. Like Ezekiel, who preached to trees and mountains as directed by God; John the Baptist preached first to empty wilderness, and soon a crowd would gather.

John the Baptist went about 'PREACHING'. Preaching is a big part of the gospel ministry of a prophet.

I Corinthians 14:3

"...he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and to exhortation, and to comfort..."

Many who read this find that ‘preaching’ is a calling they do, whether itbe in an empty wilderness, or in a filled cathedral.


We may preach on message boards, or web sites, and not know much of who is being sent there to read what is preached. We may preach to those who are around us, as they turn their heads only to appear to be listening. We preach because the message burns within us, and we must. In our dying day, given opportunity, we will preach. We are called, and that calling will make us preach till there is no more breath within us. John was the greatest of the Old Testament preachers.

Matthew 11:9-11

"What went you out to see, a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, more than a prophet... among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist."



Matthew 3:7

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptisms, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

Three groups are mentioned as being at the sermons of John the baptist. There were: REPENTERS, PHARISEES, AND SADDUCEES.

The Pharisees (Matthew 3:7) were a sect of self-righteous and zealous Jews who held to the letter of their interpretation of the law and traditions of their religion. There were the bitterest enemies of Jesus, for they sought prestige, wealth, and were in doctrinal disagreement with the simple interpretation of Jesus of the real message of God. While the Pharisees tried to make it very difficult, and almost impossible for the common man to be saved, Jesus came and showed how easy God had made salvation. They hated Jesus for such simplification, and attempted over and over to trick Jesus.

The Sadducees (Matthew 3:7) were a radical and nationalist sect. They denied the supernatural, the angels, demons, and the resurrection.

John the Baptist called the Pharisees and the Sadducees to be a "generation of vipers". The vipers were not ordinary snakes. They were poisonous asps or adders. The common ones were 4 inches long, no thicker than a wire. They lurk under stones or in the cracks of old walls. They are very deadly and aggressive.

Some of those who listened to John's sermons repented. John sought to have repenters. He longed for a congregation of repenters. The word "repent" comes from "metanoia" which refers to a real change of mind toward sin, and to sin's root cause.

Repentance is:
not just a seeking of different circumstances,
not a sigh of regret,
not just a remorse,
not simply a regret of the trouble that sin led one to.

Repentance is a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause...

The repenters were recognized by their confessions of sins. Confession of sin was a new thing for Israel. They had grown accustomed to having only one day a year on which to repent of sins, the Day of Atonement. Some, a few, would go to the burnt altar at the temple to offer sacrifice for individual confession of sins, but that altar was ignored by most, except on the Day of Atonement.

There was not a practice of spontaneous confession following the committing of sin, and of feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist came and opened their eyes to the sins of the people and demanded a baptism to show to the world that they had already repented their sins.

John the Baptist preached many doctrines:


(Matthew 3:2-8, Mark 1:4)


kingdom of heaven is at hand

(Matthew 3:2)



(Matthew 3:3-12` John 1:15-34)

water baptism

(Matthew 3:11, John 1:31)



(Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8)


(Matthew 3:3-10, 14:4)


wrath to come

(Matthew 3:7, Luke 3)


against pride

(Matthew 3:9)



(Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8)


heaven and hell

(Matthew 3:10-12, Luke 3)


baptism of the Holy Spirit

(Matthew 3:11, John 1:33)


judgment on chaff

(Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17)


judgment on sins

(Matthew 3:10, Luke 3)



(Luke 3:6, John 1:29)


love to others

(Matthew 3:11)


honesty in business

(Luke 3:13)


absolute justice

(Luke 3:14)


Jesus, God's Lamb

(John 1:29)


Jesus, the sin-bearer

(John 1:29)


unworthiness of man

(John 1:27)


Jesus, the bridegroom

(John 3:29)



the greatness of Jesus

(John 3:30)


Jesus comes from heaven

(John 3:31-36)


rejection of Jesus

(John 3:32)


Jesus the truth

(John 3:30-36)


Jesus, the anointed

(John 3:34)


Jesus, God's heir

(John 3:35)

The preaching of John the Baptist focused on urgency, for he preached that the fulfillment of his prophecy was "at hand". The world of his day, and of ours would prefer if the prophetic message was not preached as being urgent. Many do not care if Jesus would come "someday", but when someone says that he is coming "soon" they get upset. for urgency demands action now!

John emphasized in his preaching a personal responsibility and repentance.

The Jewish people had trained themselves to think that because they were descendants of Abraham, they were saved. Many in our times, think they live in a Christian nation, go to a church, and have a Bible in the home, so they must be Christian and headed for heaven. Many are not.

John preached:

Matthew 3:9

"Do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our Father..."

His baptizing of the repentant in water was just a beginning of change in their lives, for he preached a bringing forth of "fruits worthy of repentance..." (Luke 3:8). To John, repentance, water baptism, were to be followed by radical change in life.

This is the ‘righteousness’ that he preached, a baptism into righteousness. This truth is far greater a truth than most have realized. The repentance allowed them to be baptized, but what is the symbolism of the baptism? The baptism brought them to righteousness.

Righteousness is the Greek word ‘diakaiosyne’. It means to be brought into right standing, justified, made pure in the sight of... Jesus chose to be baptized by John, despite the fact that He had never sinned, so He did not need to repent. Jesus chose to do it anyhow, for the message that the baptism itself teaches.

The water baptism taught by John illustrated the ministry of the Messiah that he preached. Water baptism symbolically showed the burial of Jesus, and the emergence from the water, as a coming resurrection to new life. Jesus died and was buried, and rose again to guarantee us a new life in Him, a resurrection to come.

John instituted a water baptism as a symbol of repentance and dedication to the new kingdom of resurrected ones, that was about to come.

The new kingdom of God was to be entered into, by the convert, in our case a repentant convert, taking the death of Jesus for us, so that we emerge from the salvation experience a newly enlivened person in the Lord. Water baptism does not save, but it is an illustrated sermon of what salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection does for us.

John saw himself as the forerunner of such a kingdom of those in resurrection life with Jesus. John wanted to announce that One Who was coming. John illustrated in baptizing repentant ones, what salvation was going to do, in the kingdom that was ‘at hand’.

Jesus chose to let John baptize Him, so that we would look at the baptism in a clearer light. It is not just the repentance that is key here, surely repentance is needed by we, the sinners. The illustration of the baptism, i.e. immersion into death, emergence into new life, is what Jesus would do here on earth for us, and as we partake, at salvation, of His death and resurrection, we share eternal life.

THE WATER BAPTISM is a testimony of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and as we come to Him to take up our own crosses, and serve Jesus with a death to our former lives, we are emerging into eternal life in Him.

Jesus did not need to repent, but He still desired to be baptized. It happened at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The Spirit anointed Him with power, God blessed Him from heaven. Jesus, at the same time, committed Himself to do God's will. He was not baptized unto repentance, but showed forth what His burial in the earth, was to be likened to this burial in water. He was not held in death, but had to be resurrected, made alive anew in power, because He died sinless.

Now, we get baptized, showing forth our ‘death’ in Him, bringing His resurrection power to bring us up out of the water, to new life in Jesus. The dove alighting upon His head was symbolic of the fact that now we have the Holy Spirit of power anointing us in this new life in Jesus.

The symbolic baptism does not save, it illustrates what Jesus came to do. John had the privilege of announcing, through the many baptisms that he did, what Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’ came to do.

When we accept death to self, in Jesus, at our salvation, we are promised resurrection life by His sacrifice for us. We are promised the ‘Dove’ that will alight upon us in our lives.

So, when John the Baptist, objected to baptizing Jesus, it was not only because he knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus had not had the Spirit descend upon Him and remain, until after the baptism of John. Therefore, John had a different motivation to object. John the Baptist and Jesus were related. Their mothers were very close (Luke 1:36-45). Both John the Baptist and Jesus were now about 30 years old. They had spent much time together as youngsters. They were at least at the annual feasts in Jerusalem. John knew therefore that Jesus had no need to repent. John knew that Jesus had acted, talked, thought, etc. without sin. Jesus had love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. John knew that Jesus was already dedicated to God to His kingdom.

Once the voice of God spoke, and the dove remained upon Jesus immediately following the baptism in the Jordan, John had the fulfillment of his revelation concerning the Messiah. He now knew for sure that Jesus was truly the Messiah. God declared from heaven:

Matthew 3:17

"This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him, I am well pleased."

God put His blessing upon Jesus, and at the same time completed a revelation to John. When we serve the Lord, we become part of this dying with Christ, dying to our sinful nature, and being resurrected to new powerful living in Jesus.

So, Jesus taught them the parable of the two sons that some who reject will someday recant their refusal and do as they had been instructed. Some others who promised, may not follow through and do as they had promised.

Matthew 21:28-32

"But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, Son, go to 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? "

Some who reject God in out day, may later reconsider. Others who seem to accept may change their intent. The ones who ultimately obey, are the ones pleasing to God. Jesus knew this in this original lenten time, and we should realize it in the last days.

Many who at one time seemed to be the righteous, virtuous, and obedient saints may soon fail and fall away. Others who seemed to be sinners, hypocrites, abusers, etc. may repent and begin serving God. We should not give up easily in our prayers for those in the church who seem to be soon to be judged for sins.

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