Parable in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, 21. It was spoken on Tuesday of Holy Week, and addressed to a deputation from the Sanhedrin.
It is the story of a father who asked his two sons to go to work in his vineyard. The first son defiantly said he would not; but afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went. The second respectfully signified his immediate willingness to go, but he went not. Christ then assuming the offensive inquired of the audience which of the two did his father’s will. They responded in favor of the first son: whereupon Jesus said that publicans and harlots shall go into the Kingdom of God before the chief-priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, thus giving the meaning of the parable and convicting the members of the august Sanhedrin out of their own mouths.
The interpretation of the parable is this: The certain man is God; the first son, the notorious sinners, at first rebellious but who repented at the preaching of John the Baptist; the second son, the Pharisees and their type, who professed to obey God but rejected the teaching of the Precursor. The parable is easy of application. It fits any age. The two classes of men of which the sons are the types are always found. Lip-service avails nothing. Sincerty and true repentance manifested in obedience to the will of God, regardless of former sin and rebellion, are the only means of entering the Kingdom of God.