The Parable of the Two Sons

Posted by Thaddaeus

Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion?  A man had two sons.  He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’  He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went.  The man came to the other son and gave the same order.  He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.  Which of the two did his father’s will?”  They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”


Background:  The Parable of the Two Sons occurs shortly after Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the Passover the year of His Passion.  That same day Jesus expels the merchants from the Temple.  The religious leaders are indignant.  The parable explains a preceding question from the chief priests and the elders who come up to Jesus demanding to know by whose authority He does things.  Jesus asks them where the baptism of John is from, from heaven or from men?  They argue with one another because it is no simple answer for them since they do not believe John was a prophet though the multitude did.  Thus, Jesus refuses to tell them directly where His authority comes.  The two sons represent the religious leaders and the religious outcasts.  The religious outcasts are sinners who follow John’s call to repentance.  The religious leaders refuse John’s message even when tax collectors and prostitutes believe.


The Parable of the Two Sons:  This parable echoes last week’s reading of The Worker’s in the Vineyard.  The vineyard in both parables symbolizes the kingdom of God, which is the Church.  It is the Father’s divine will that we work in the Church.  Conformity with the divine will is righteousness.  The number two in Hebrew numerology is symbolic of the tablets of the Ten Commandment; also, the Law and the Prophets.  In the New Testament two symbolizes the unity of Christ and the Church; also, the bread and the wine.  As sons, we are called to believe and be baptized.  The sign of belief is the consent of the will to be baptized and put other’s interests ahead of our own for the sake of the kingdom.  The story reveals that the disobedient son who at first refuses and then obeys is the one who embraces the Gospel.  In the New Testament, those who believe are always contrasted with those who refuses to obey.