July 15

Text: Matthew 21:31, 32

 Jesus *said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.”  (NASB)

This is a part of Jesus’ conversation with the chief priests and Jewish elders at the temple.  The conversation began with the focus on Jesus (“By what authority do you do these things?”).  With Jesus’ question concerning John, Jesus shifted the focus to them.  Now the focus of Jesus’ parable is exclusively on their behavior.

Among the lowest and most despicable positions in Jewish society were the tax collectors (publicans) and the prostitutes (harlots).  Jews who collected taxes for (to the benefit of) the Roman government were considered traitors to Israel by some Jews.  Both groups—Jews who collected Roman taxes and prostitutes—were considered religious outcasts who were so insensitive to God that they were beyond repentance.  They were “throw-away people” who did not care about devotion to God

Jesus said John came presenting a message of righteousness and these leaders rejected John and his message.  Yet, the tax collectors and prostitutes listened and repented.  Still, these religious leaders were unmoved.

The result: the repenting tax collectors and prostitutes would enter God’s kingdom before these religious leaders.  Unthinkable!  In no way would these leaders ever think that in any context God could prefer tax collectors and prostitutes to them!

The problem: the two rejected groups believed and redirected their behavior.  The religious leaders did not believe John, and did not even feel remorse for their ungodly behavior.

Belief in Jesus’ identity produces a redirection of life!  Do you believe in Jesus’ identity?  Have you identified your ungodly behavior and redirected it?

Suggestion for reflection: Distinguish between trusting “who I am” and believing who Jesus is.  (Read Acts 10:36-43.)

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