sexta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2016


Jesus said to them,
“Truly I tell you,
the tax collectors
and the prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God
ahead of you.”

Matthew 21:31b (read 21:28-32) - NIV

Once again, Jesus offended the religious leaders. They confronted Jesus many times, and each time Jesus’ response was direct and to the point. As religious leaders, they considered themselves to be supreme authorities in matters of manners and morals. Also they took upon themselves to determine who were the "decent people" that were accepted by God. They had a closed system of thought and did not admit changes. Jesus was a bother to them. He did not follow their norms of tradition and he mingled with "unworthy" people. They challenged Jesus by asking him “By what authority are you doing these things?” and “Who gave you this authority?"

Jesus quoted John the Baptist who came to show the way. His message was about social justice (Lc.3.10 - 14) and a change of lifestyle (repentance) (Mt.3.2). His message was rejected by the leaders but accepted by the common folk. With this background, Jesus told the parable of the two sons and cited the tax collectors and the prostitutes.

The parable unfolds around a planting of grapes belonging to the father. The father called his two sons to work with him. Traditionally, we interpret the vineyard in terms of religion and church life. Working in the field would be equal to a profession of faith in religious belief and being active in church. But the context does not support such a narrow interpretation. The vineyard symbolizes something bigger - the Kingdom of God. It includes the whole world that God created to which we belong. We are called to take care of God’s great vineyard.

One of the sons of the narration said he would go help, but he didn’t. It is a criticism of the religious leaders confronting Jesus. Their practice was incompatible with their words. They were in position to take care of people, but they only took care of religious affairs. Jesus never accused them of heinous acts. Their evil was omission. They lacked compassion! Their "vineyard" was merely a system of rules and standards to be met. The system itself was more important than the welfare of the people. They defended the institution and left the people to fend for themselves.

The other son, at first refused, but eventually went. He symbolizes those who are open to change. When they know that they made bad decisions they are willing to change. They are able to feel the suffering of others, because they recognize their own limitations. They are able to hear the call and to change their lives. Jesus rightly cited the tax collectors and prostitutes as citizens of the kingdom ahead of the religious leaders! They had no illusions about being righteous and owners of the truth.

The absence of the church in secular movements for the liberation of the people from social evils such as poverty, all kinds of violence, prejudice, discrimination, economic inequality, and consumerist materialism attests to the failure of the church to work in the global “vineyards” of the Kingdom. We ignore the gospel that Jesus taught by His words and actions when we say that salvation is by faith alone and go into isolation by taking refuge in closed ideological systems. When we measure our lives in the light of the Jesus of the Gospels, we can see many reasons to be perturbed. Many times moralistic Christians commit more aggressions against the wellbeing of others than do those whom they severely criticize. Rightly understood, Jesus continues to be a The Great Confronter to those who hide behind religious moralism.


“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

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