Matthew 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
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.
Read it again, slower this time and really understand what the Lord is preaching here. There are people sitting in the pews of churches, or watching preachers on TV, or listening to them on the radio that need to get this in their heads…as well as non-believers rejecting the gospel.
Do you know how many people are turned away from the church because of the self-righteousness of the members? And, I’m not talking about those church goers that hearken to the Spirit, live a life of faith, recognize their own sin, but fight it with the help of the Holy Spirit, that teach faith and live it (yes, they are out there, and I’m privileged to know some). I’m talking about the people that make up their own lists of sin and then try to make everyone live up to that.
Don’t dance, don’t play a musical instrument, don’t listen to Rock’n’Roll…don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t wear pants if you are a woman, even if they are made for a woman, don’t don’t don’t…don’t don’t. Find me any one of those in the Bible, and that is but a small example.
Who is Christ talking to here? The Chief Priests, and the Elders. And what does He say to them? In “American,” the cheating, mean, deceptive tax collectors (publicans) and the whores/hookers (harlots) are getting into Heaven before you Priests and Elders. Why?
First, the Priests and Elders had tacked on all this man-made tradition to the actual law of God. They had also made the very law of God about following the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law. Then, they lorded it over people, and acted “holier than thou.” What was their most fatal flaw? They failed to listen to God, who was teaching through John and through Christ.
Who listened and believed? The Tax guys and the whores. Why? I have my guesses; they were under no delusion that they were “good people.” They lived their lives amongst those that I’m sure reminded them of their sin daily…so, they knew instantly that they were sinners in need of saving…they knew that they could not get to God on their own through any amount of work. They had to have faith, and trust, and they needed cleansing…and they knew it!
What’s the Greek word there for they “believed” him? Pisteuo, they had faith in what John was teaching. We all need to make sure that we are listening to Christ here, after all, look at the words He’s using and who He’s communicating with…can you imagine the reaction of the Priests?
And as far as any of my fellow Christians who look down their noses at people with a past…you should start by examining your own internal thoughts, and flaws…judge yourselves, that the logs out of your own eyes. People struggle, people slip, people are a bunch of sinners, as am I. It’s no excuse to yield to unrighteousness, to wallow in sin, nor to call evil “good.” However, Christ has covered us and God has provided us a Help, a Comfort, and a Guide in the Holy Spirit…yield to Him; He will change you.
And for anyone who hasn’t yet commited their beings to Christ; take another look. He’s it; He’s The Saviour that is able to cleanse us all from any level of sin; ANY level of sin. Look to Christ; He never slips, never stumbles, never sins…He gave His life for us, and He is indeed Lord.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.