In Matthew 21, Jesus enters Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  Passover was a celebration that everyone in Israel was expected to celebrate so everyone is converging into the city.  It’s like seeing a team win a super bowl and the city throws them a parade, everyone shows up.

It’s this week when Jesus is betrayed and crucified.  Remember, it wasn’t long ago that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus is super popular as he enters the city. Everyone is cheering and celebrating Jesus.  He enters the city and goes to the Temple.

What Jesus saw made Him angry.  People were buying and selling in the Temple making it hard for people to come to pray and worship.  They were making money off of people trying to make their lives right with God.  Jesus gets angry, real angry.  According to the apostle John, Jesus makes a whip, flips the tables over, and money goes everywhere.  Jesus disrupts all the buying and selling of doves, sheep, bulls, everything.

This is what happens next in Matthew.

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.”  But the leaders were indignant. 16 They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus replied. NLT Matthew 21:14-16

You must understand how angry and jealous the religious leaders were.  They were the leaders.  They were in charge.  They wanted everyone to notice them and respect them.  Jesus comes and disrupts everything that they created.  To them, Jesus is a distraction.  To them, if they could just take Jesus out, things would go back to normal.  Things would go back to the way they wanted it to be.  But Jesus has become such a big figure, they can’t touch him.

What happens?  Jesus is celebrated walking into Jerusalem.  Jesus flips the tables in the Temple area.  Jesus then heals the sick.  It’s such a great moment, the children were running around praising Jesus.  Everyone is talking about Jesus.  This leaves the religious leaders fuming angry.

The next day, Jesus heads back to Jerusalem.  This is what happens.

18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.

20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” NLT Matthew 21:18-22

What in the world is happening?  Jesus is teaching the disciples that Israel and the religious leaders looked good like the fig tree that produced leaves.  But like the fig tree, when you got close you noticed it didn’t have any figs.  This represented Israel and the religious leaders had all the right traditions but there was no substance, no fruit.  Their religion was all show, nothing real, no repentance, no good fruit.  Jesus curses the tree and it dies.

Let’s keep reading.

23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” NLT Matthew 21:23

They are so angry and upset they confront Jesus with, ‘Who do you think you are?’  Jesus responds.

24 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 25 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”  They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. 26 But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” 27 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”  And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things. NLT Matthew 21:24-27

Jesus answers the religious leaders and challenged them back.  Jesus is basically saying, ‘John the Baptist came and told everyone that the Messiah was coming.  I came and fulfilled every prophecy proving that I am the Messiah.  The authority of God was on John the Baptist, and you missed it.  The authority of God is on Me to give sight to the blind, heal the sick, raise people from the dead, remove evil spirits, forgive sins proving that I am the Messiah and you missed it.  You religious leaders refused to believe in John.  You refused to repent.  You refused to live differently.  And now you refuse to see that I am the Messiah.  You don’t recognize God’s authority.  You are stubbornly unrepentant.’

And then Jesus tells the parable for today.  Let’s pray before we read it and ask God to give us ready hearts to hear and understand it.

28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins. NLT Matthew 21:23-32

Yes, Jesus just said what you think He said.  ‘Hey, you religious leaders, here is a heads up, the people who you think are beneath you, the people you think are the biggest sinners in our city, they will make it into heaven before you.  John the Baptist showed up and invited you to repent, you didn’t.  However, the corrupt tax collectors and the prostitutes, they did.  They believed.  They repented.  They lived differently.  And even though you watched all of this take place, even though you see the power of God in front of you healing people, you refuse to repent.  You refuse to recognize the authority of God.’

Jesus could not have been more clear.  He could not have been more offensive and combative.  And Jesus did it in public.

What was that parable about?  Jesus is telling the religious leaders, you’re like the second son who promised to work in the vineyard but didn’t.  It’s like telling your kid who is playing video games to take out the trash and they mumble, ‘Okay,’ and you don’t even know if they heard you.  They give you a quick and empty response in hopes you go away.

The second son quickly agreed with his father, but it was only lip service.  What he said was empty, it didn’t mean anything.  There was no desire to do anything or make any changes.  Although this son looked good, it turns out, he was the rebellious son.  He promised to obey which made him look good but he didn’t obey.  And like that son, you religious leaders, you have stubborn unrepentant hearts.

The other son said ‘No’ at first.  He wanted to live life his way.  But over time, he regretted his decision. He repented.  He changed his mind and went to work.  It looked like he was the bad son at first, but he became the good son.  Why?  Because he obeyed.  It’s like asking your kid to clean out the dishwasher in the morning and they tell you they don’t have time to.  Then you come home and see the dishwasher cleaned.  At that moment, you are quiet and humble because you are stunned that something you said actually happened.

Pay attention religious leaders, the people who believed John the Baptist, like the corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes, they are like the first son.  Yeah, they didn’t follow God at first.  And you think you are better than them.  But they recognized the authority of God.  They believed.  They repented.  They lived differently.  And they will be in heaven before you.  You are stubbornly unrepentant.

Let’s slow down for a second, pull away from the story to see the big picture.  What is happening between Jesus and the religious leaders?  A huge clash.  An absolute power confrontation.  God is standing in front of the religious leaders and because they are stubbornly unrepentant, they can’t recognize Jesus as God.  They will not recognize the authority of Jesus.  They will not repent.  They will not live differently.  The power clash is between repenting and giving up control vs. being stubborn and staying in control.

To make matters worse, the religious leaders stay stubbornly unrepentant because they think, ‘We are good people.’  And these are the same people who kill Jesus in just a few days.  If at the end of the day a reporter would have interviewed them, they would have said they couldn’t believe how disruptive Jesus was.  They would have made it look like they were the good ones in that confrontation.

Do you see the connection?  When you reject Jesus, when you don’t repent to the authority of Jesus, when you don’t listen and follow Jesus, you stay in control and you kill Jesus in your life.

And what is crazy is, all along, like the religious leaders, we may not even recognize what we are doing.  We may think, ‘I’m good people’ I would never be the person who would kill Jesus in my life.  I go to church.  I believe there is a God.  I agree that the Bible is God’s word.  I plan on taking God stuff seriously, someday because I’m good people.  I don’t see the need to make any immediate changes right now but I will, someday because I’m good people.  I’m a little too busy right now to fully engage in God’s vineyard but I will, someday because I’m good people.  Until then, I will make all the right promises, I will say all the right things, I will show up where I am supposed to show up because I’m good people.

Please hear me, when you reject Jesus, when you don’t repent to the authority of Jesus, when you don’t listen and follow Jesus, you stay in control and you kill Jesus in your life.

The big question that must be answered is, do I recognize the authority of Jesus and repent and live differently today?  What you say matters but what you do matters more.

Let’s walk through this story and see how the religious leaders treated Jesus.  Let’s see what stubborn unrepentance looks like.

Let’s pretend that Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem is an analogy that Jesus shows up in your life.  It may be at church, on a car ride, when you are listening to a song or watching a movie.  Somehow, Jesus shows up and you must deal with a God moment.  Maybe for you, it’s right now.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and is celebrated.  This offends the religious leaders.  It offends the stubbornly unrepentant.  When Jesus shows up in your life, is it a moment to celebrate Him or does it offend you – almost like you want to push Jesus away?

Jesus enters the temple and disrupts everything.  This made the religious leaders angry.  Jesus makes the stubbornly unrepentant angry.  When Jesus shows up in your life, does He need to disrupt everything?  Does this make you angry because you want to keep everything the way it was – just the way you wanted it?

Jesus heals the sick and the blind and the kids praise Jesus.  The religious leaders were indignant.  Jesus makes the stubbornly unrepentant feel indignant.  Does it bug you when other people experience Jesus, and they love Jesus back?  When you see others living in the freedom of Jesus does it bug you?

The religious leaders didn’t recognize the authority of Jesus and asked, “Who gave you the right to do these things?”  The stubbornly unrepentant ask the same question.  When Jesus interrupts your life, do you want to push back on God and ask, “Who are you to do this in my life – I want to stay in control?”

The religious leaders didn’t know what to think about Jesus.  They were stubbornly unrepentant.  They couldn’t recognize Jesus as God.  They were confused about Jesus.  Is this you?  Are you stubbornly unrepentant?  After everything God has done for you, do you see His love for you?  Is Jesus confusing to you?  Is there tension in your life because you want to give your life to Jesus fully, but you ultimately don’t?

The parable Jesus told, which son do you most identify with?

Please hear me, when you reject Jesus, when you don’t repent to the authority of Jesus, when you don’t listen and follow Jesus, you stay in control and you kill Jesus in your life.

Let’s end with this.  For us to take this scripture and make it a part of our lives, we need to deal with a couple of questions.

First.  Do you recognize the authority of Jesus in your life?

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. NLT 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What it means to be a Christian is, we give our lives to Jesus.  If you have a car and you own it, you have a title proving you own it.  As a Christian, you give Jesus the title to your life.  If you own a house, you have a deed.  As a Christian you give the deed of your life to Jesus.  He now is our savior that we need to rescue us.  He is our Lord who determine how we live.  According to scripture, He now owns us.

The struggle for many Christians is, we treat God like He asked us to take out the trash.  We give empty promises.  Why?  We don’t want to give our lives to Jesus.  We want to live the way we want to live.

Second.  Does it lead you to repent?

If you have given your life to Jesus, let’s stop and ask, what areas of your life do you need to repent?

Did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. MSG Romans 2:4

Don’t be fooled into thinking that God is so nice and loving that He doesn’t hold be accountable.  Yes, God is kind but He’s not soft.  Our life with God should lead us into radical life change.  That only begins when we repent.

Many people want to enjoy God’s grace but they don’t make the choice to allow that grace to lead them into radical life change.

Third.  Does your repentance lead to obedience?

10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. NLT 2 Corinthians 7:10

Scripture is clear.  Real repentance means it shows up in our behaviors.  Paul talks about another kind of repentance.  The worldly repentance is, I feel bad but I’m not going to change.  What did Jesus teach?  The son who turns out to be the good son is the one who obeyed.

The invitation I have for you today is to fully surrender your life to Jesus right now.