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What parable does Matthew alone relate in Mat 21:28-30?  To whom does He address it, and why?  See Mat 21:23-27 and note that Jesus posed this parable to the delegation of Jewish leaders in response to their hardness of heart that refused to acknowledge the heavenly authority of both John’s baptism and His own ministry.  In this parable, who does the child represent who said he would not go, but then regretted it and went, and who does the child represent who said he would go, but then didn’t?  See Mat 21:31-32.

Notice that in regard to the child who said he would not go the KJV says he “repented” whereas the more modern translations say that he “regretted it” (NAS, NKJ) or “changed his mind” (NIV, NRS); are these the same thing?  Note: the Greek word used, metamelomai, means literally to have a care afterwards, i.e., to feel remorse, and is used only five times in the NT, including Mat 27:3 of Judas who is said to have felt remorse for having betrayed Jesus.  However, the words most commonly used for repentance are metanoeo (repent) or metanoia (repentance); they mean literally a change of heart or mind and are used over 50 times in the NT; cf. Mat 3:2, 4:17, Act 2:38, 26:20, etc…  Is it possible to truly repent of something and not feel remorse?  Cf. Mat 21:32.  Is it possible to feel remorse about something but not truly repent?  See 2Co 7:8-10.  Hence, while metamelomai can be used in the context of true repentance, its emphasis is on the feeling of remorse, whereas metanoeo and metanoia are the all-encompassing words for true repentance that emphasize a complete change of attitude, thought and behavior in regard to sin and righteousness.[1] In terms of Jesus’ application of this parable, in what way do both words apply to the harlots and tax collectors, but neither applies to the religious leaders?  See again Mat 21:32 and consider that the harlots and tax collectors believed John and not only felt remorse but truly repented, whereas the religious leaders not only did not believe John and repent but didn’t even feel remorse when they saw the results of John’s ministry among the sinners.

What was the command of the father in this parable to his two children?  What is the spiritual counterpart of his command to go work in his vineyard?  From Jesus’ application of this parable, should we suppose that to go work in the Father’s vineyard means to travel over land and sea to make a single convert as the religious leaders supposed (Mat 23:15), or to simply believe the gospel with a heartfelt repentance?  Cf. Joh 6:28-29, Act 16:30-31, 1Jo 3:23.  What then does this parable teach us about the equivalence of the gospel call to repentance and God’s call to go work in His vineyard?  Should we suppose that because vineyard work is equivalent to giving heed to the gospel call that mere belief is the only work to be done in God’s vineyard?  Or rather, should we understand that true repentance means giving heed to the Father’s command to go work in His vineyard, and to go work in His vineyard means that we in obedience submit ourselves to His will and subject ourselves to His rule, which is also what it means to enter into His kingdom?

What is the significance that the father’s command to go work in his vineyard is for “today”?  In a physical vineyard, does any day work as well as another to accomplish what needs to be done, or is it important that things be done in at least a somewhat timely manner because putting them off for too long makes them impossible to accomplish?  Should we understand from this that any day will do to respond to the gospel call and one can put it off till whenever because there is plenty of time in the future to take care of it?  Or should we understand that like a vineyard, the nature of our lives is such that if we put off what needs to be done now, not only is it likely to be more difficult, but it may also be impossible to accomplish later?  See 2Co 6:1-2, cf. Num 14:39-45, 1Sa 15:24-29.  What does this help us to understand about how important it is to form good habits in youth, especially in regard to seeking first the kingdom of God, and rising early to pray and gather the heavenly manna?[2]


1. Godly sorrow leads to repentance (metanoian), but mere sorrow is not repentance. (Robertson’s Word Pictures).

2. What conquest has he got over himself; what right hand has he cut off; what trials is he prepared for; what sacrifice is he ready to offer unto God, who cannot be so cruel to himself as to rise to prayer at such time as the drudging part of the world are content to rise to their labor?  Some people will not scruple to tell you, that they indulge themselves in sleep, because they have nothing to do; and that if they had either business or pleasure to rise to, they would not lose so much of their time in sleep. But such people must be told that they mistake the matter; that they have a great deal of business to do; they have a hardened heart to change; they have the whole spirit of religion to get. For surely he that thinks devotion to be of less importance than business or pleasure; or that he has nothing to do because nothing but his prayers want him, may be justly said to have the whole spirit of religion to seek.  You must not therefore consider how small a crime it is to rise late, but you must consider how great a misery it is to want the spirit of religion, to have a heart not rightly affected with prayer; and to live in such softness and idleness, as makes you incapable of the most fundamental duties of a truly Christian and spiritual life.  William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.

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