Spend some time thinking about them, even just a bit, and you can’t help but getting frustrated. Their insincerity, their duplicity, their hypocrisy . . . it’s enough to drive you nuts!
The chief priests and elders came to Jesus with a fair enough question, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority” (Matt. 21:23). Even if there was a bit of skeptical challenge in their collective voice, it was a good question. A discerning question. Potentially, a life-changing question. After all, His teaching was scandalous. The signs and wonders, miraculous. So where was it all sourced? We gotta know!
But it wasn’t an honest question. They were trying to trap Jesus. To trip Him up. To bring accusations of either being a blasphemer or a charlatan. They weren’t interested in the truth. They were only interested in protecting their own agenda.
Frustrating! Because these were the religious elite. They were to be the truth-holders. If anyone should have modeled righteousness it should have been them. If anyone was going to line the halls of heaven, you’d think it would be those who said they knew and represented the God of heaven.
And so Jesus tells them a story. “What do you think,” He began. He then tells them of two sons. One refused his father’s call but then had a change of mind and obeyed. The other said he’d do as his father wished, but didn’t. “Which of the two did the will of the father?” Jesus asked them. No brainer, they said, “The first.” And then Jesus drives home the point of the story.
“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go 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 collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”
(Matthew 21:31b-32 ESV)
And here’s what’s grabbing me this morning. That tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God. That’s the company we’ll keep.
Those who, at first, refuse the call of righteousness but then repent, rather than those who see themselves as righteous with no need to change a thing. Those considered the bottom of the societal food chain, rather than those who are self-published on the top ten lists. Those aware of their failure and shame, rather than those consumed by their pride and arrogance. That’s the company we’ll keep.
We’ll be among those considered “the least of these.” The broken and contrite in spirit because God has given them eyes to see their true and lowly condition. To see their desperate need for redemption. Though once content to live in darkness and walk in sin, to at first refuse the Father, they then, by His grace, hear His voice and respond to His call and believe in the Savior. They are the company we’ll keep.
And the amazement is not that I’ll be rubbing shoulders one day with such at these, but that, even at my best, I’m nothing more than such as these. Like them, a sinner saved by grace. With them, a brother brought to His senses by God’s Spirit so that I too might respond to God’s call. People I wouldn’t naturally want to associate with here on earth, my people washed in the blood of the Lamb with a place reserved alongside them in heaven.
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Corinthians 6:9b-11 ESV)
That’s the company we’ll keep. The washed. The sanctified. The justified.
Spend some time thinking about them, even just a bit, and you can’t help but feeling blessed.
By His grace. For His glory.