Devotion on Matthew 21:23-32 | Proper 21–Year A

We focus today on the Gospel text and read a devotion from Proclaiming the Parables.

Scripture Readings

Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32
Psalm 25:1–10
Philippians 2:1–18
Matthew 21:23–32

Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder


In today’s Gospel text, we see Jesus confront the chief priests and elders who were questioning His authority. As Jesus outlines the parable of the two sons, He shows these self-righteous Sanhedrin members that true righteousness is found only through faith in God’s promises.

Devotional Reading

The Sanhedrin, some of whose members were engaged in a running argument with Jesus, epitomized this feeling of special privilege. They headed a people which had promised to obey; but, like the son in the parable, they really did not follow through on their promise. They refused to accept God on His terms, especially not on the basis of forgiveness and repentance. Their reaction to John’s preaching provided the evidence that they were in fact disobedient.

Harlots and tax collectors had responded otherwise. Many of them were delighted to accept the offer of forgiveness. They realized only too well that they were wretched sinners. They were received into God’s kingdom, for it had come for sinners only. Even then the religious leaders in Jerusalem did not change their minds. They would not accept the “way of righteousness” as God’s offer of communion on the basis of being forgiven.

The parable itself ends at v. 30. It is very brief. Vv. 31 and 32 provide the setting and the explanation. By replying to the question of Jesus, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” the members of the Sanhedrin were confronted directly by the challenge of the parable, the claim of Jesus as embodying God’s “way of righteousness” (cf. Rom. 1:16, 17). They rejected the invitation inherent in the parable; so tax gatherers and publicans, people deemed to be outside the commonwealth of Israel, entered the kingdom ahead and often to the exclusion of those who thought of themselves as already being in the kingdom by virtue of their being Jews.

The importance of this little parable for an understanding of the nature of God’s kingdom can hardly be overstated. God is determined to reestablish His rule among men by forgiving their sins. Obedience consists in the response of faith, of accepting this offer of a new covenant, not like the one made with Israel, when God led that people out of Egypt.

Devotional reading is from Proclaiming the Parables, pages 60–61 © 1963 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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