23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 28 “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.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “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. 32 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.
The religious leaders had looked at John the Baptist’s ministry with scepticism. John kept all the religious laws but he was unconventional and definitely not part of the religious ‘inner crowd’. John had disrupted business as usual for the Jews. So the religious inner crowd (the Pharisees) rejected him. But he was accepted by the irreligious, they were compelled to find new life in John’s message of repentance.
Jesus had come as the fulfilment of John’s message. John called people to turn away from sin, and Jesus is the one to turn to.
Nothing has changed today. Jesus calls me to to turn away from sin and to follow him. Now that I have become a child of God and belong in his church, I must not make a routine of religion, I must not commit myself to a Christian version of ‘business as usual’. If I do, I might find myself rejecting the one who saved me. Jesus has saved me for a dynamic journey of following him, not mere religious routine. I am not to be like the son that says the right things but doesn’t actually do them.
Lord, I repent of going through the motions. I’m your disciple. By your power at work in me I will be obedient.
Written by Andrew Mellor