You Need A Change Of Mind

October 1, 2023

Pastor John Hering

Matthew 21:23-32

Matthew 21:23-32

23 When Jesus went into the temple courts, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him while he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things?” and “Who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer it, I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

They discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the crowd, since they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

He said to them, “Then I will not tell you by what authority I do these things.”

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not,’ but later he changed his mind and went. 30 He came to the second and said the same thing. The second son answered, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Amen I tell you: The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, but you did not believe him. However, the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him. Even when you saw this, you did not change your mind and believe him.

I probably say this mostly when I’m frustrated, “What do you want from me?”  This is also a good question to ask ourselves when we think about our life as a Christian, “What does God want from me?”  Or maybe you don’t ask this question because you don’t want to hear the answer.  What do you want from me as a father, husband, or as a pastor?   Am I ready for the answer?  Today Jesus tackles this very important question for us in Matthew 21 while talking to a large group of people in the Temple courts.  He Tells Them A Story about spiritual insincerity so that they, and we, might learn:

You Need A Change of Mind

That Sincerely Says What God Wants To Hear

Jesus told this parable during Holy Week.  He had ridden into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, cleaned out the merchants who had turned the Temple into a money making business rather than a place for worship. You remember what happened as Jesus overturned the tables. Coins were scattered with noisy clangs and doves flew out of their cages.  This isn’t what God wanted to hear!  It is written,” Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).  This would have been a super busy time in the Temple in the days leading up to the Passover festival. It was like a business being shut down on Black Friday or the week before Christmas. So, you can imagine why the religious leaders were so furious! And they let Jesus know. The next day, Tuesday, is where today’s reading picks up. 23 When Jesus went into the temple courts, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him while he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things?” and “Who gave you this authority? Their question tells us two things. One, they believed that they were the authority. They had the power to make religious and temple rules and policies, not Jesus. And his actions were affecting their wallets. You see their hearts that were saying, “Greed and arrogance!” Two, they didn’t believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. They did not accept him as the Son of God, the Savior who had been long promised. Those religious leaders may have thought they were saying the right things as they stood in the temple courts, but their hearts were far from the Lord.

I wish that this was just a problem of chief priests and elders of the law on that day. But I’m sad to admit that that same attitude is often found in my own heart, and I’m guessing in your heart too. We question authority and it shows the attitude of the heart. “Who are you, fellow Christian, to point out my sin? Mind your own business. This is my life.” “Who are you, church, to tell me how I should be living my life? I’m my own person and I see it differently.” “Who are you God to try to direct my life in this world? You seem pretty out of touch with reality and I want to do it differently.” These are not the words God wants to hear and when we want to be self-righteous about our actions then we are no different than the self-righteous religious leaders.

How did Jesus respond to them? He asked his own question, 24 Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer it, I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men? Jesus took them back to when John the Baptist preached about the coming Savior and he was questioned by the religious leaders then as to who gave him the authority to preach and baptize. John’s response, “God.”  Jesus was making his point that John’s authority and his authority was the same. Those religious leaders huddled together and discussed how they would respond, They discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the crowd, since they all regard John as a prophet.  The sad thing is that they could have changed their minds about Jesus, but that didn’t cross their minds. 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.  And we know what their words really mean, “We don’t believe!”  They were too caught up in themselves to believe. What did God want from them?  He wanted them to see that They Needed a Change of Mind That Sincerely Says What God Wants to Hear.  So Jesus says to them what they didn’t want to hear: He said to them, “Then I will not tell you by what authority I do these things.” Then Jesus continues by telling the parable of the two sons to drive home the real issue with the religious leaders. Jesus continues to reach out to them to Change Their Minds to they would not only Sincerely Say What God Wants to Hear but have a heart

That Sincerely Does What God Wants Done

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not,’ but later he changed his mind and went. 30 He came to the second and said the same thing. The second son answered, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” 

This is the point. This is the question for us all to consider!  “What Does God Want from Me?”  Let’s start by comparing ourselves to the two sons. Which of the two sons are you?  I think that there is a bit of both sons in us, and I’m not talking about their good traits.   Too often our sinful flesh stubbornly and selfishly refuses God’s will to believe, to trust, to obey, to honor him. Then there are the other moments where we have too much confidence and hope in ourselves, our goodness, our own efforts, our own words. You might say the right things, “I love Jesus. He’s my Savior” and people may look at you as an upstanding Christian, but when the eyes are off of you your heart is far from the Lord and instead of obeying God, you do your own thing.

Which son did the right thing?  The Temple leaders even got this question right: They said to him, “The first. Yes, the first son may have started off rough, but had a Change of Mind and went and worked in the vineyard.  Then Jesus made it clear to them that they didn’t measure up to the first son.  

“Jesus said to them, “Amen I tell you: The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, but you did not believe him. However, the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him. Even when you saw this, you did not change your mind and believe him.” 

Jesus makes it clear that the religious leaders were the second son, who said the right thing, but who didn’t truly love God with obedience. The tax collectors and prostitutes, who the religious elite looked down upon, were the ones who may have started off on the wrong foot, but had a change of heart and attitude when they came to know Jesus. They saw their sin, repented, and the forgiveness of Jesus moved them to change their minds and lives. They were entering the kingdom of God.

This is the whole point of the parable!  This is the way of righteousness that John proclaimed and that Jesus preached. Repent and believe. Turn away from the sinful disobedience that separates you from God and change your mind to say and do what God expects of you.  God calls on you and me today to leave behind the faithless words and faithless actions and to trust in him with obedient hearts and lives. No longer live as one who says I love you Lord but I’m gonna do things my own way. Instead live as one who says, “Lord I humbly come before you as a sinner who needs your mercy.  Forgive me.  Help live a Christian life for you!”

Praise God he doesn’t leave us to ourselves to accomplish this.  This mercy, grace and forgiveness is on display in the attitude and life of another son. Perhaps we could say a third son.  A son who had perfect words and actions. A son who willingly and lovingly did the work of his Father and submitted to his Father’s will. A son who was described for us in Philippians 2, 

Though he was by nature God, he did not consider equality with God as a prize to be displayed, but he emptied himself by taking the nature of a servant. When he was born in human likeness, and his appearance was like that of any other man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”

For the times when we said and did the wrong thing, we have the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to look to. When you look to him with faith, you see the one who has paid the price and washed away all of your sins. God no longer looks at you as a child of faithless words and actions, but sees the perfect obedience of his Son Jesus credited to you and covering you. That glorious truth Changes Words and Actions. He wants you to turn away from sin and to trust in him and the salvation that is yours because of Jesus. He wants sincere faith that Changes our Minds to speak sincere word and follow Jesus with sincere actions. So, let’s answer the question, “What does God want?” He wants you. He wants your Changed Heart of sincere words and actions that all point to Jesus!  Amen.

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