The three parables in 21:28-22:14 together respond to the Jewish leaders, critiquing them harshly (compare van Tilborg 1972:47-52). Ancient Mediterranean culture demanded that sons honor and obey their parents, especially when they still lived on the father's estate (see Keener 1991:98, 197). The parable's point is obvious enough in Matthew's context: the repentant (3:2) son does the father's will (7:21; 12:50); the unrepentant son is unfruitful (3:8), claiming to do but not doing (23:3). Thus the latter stands for Israel's religious leaders, in contrast to the humble who heed John and Jesus.The issue is not that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were good (compare 9:9; 18:17; cf. 19:17); it is that the religious and political elite were worse, being treasonous (22:5-10). Jesus provides a question after a parable (as in Is 5:3-4; Mt 21:40).
The interpretation of this parable follows naturally after 21:23-27: Jesus and John represent the same source of moral authority, and those who rejected John's way of righteousness showed the hypocrisy of their own claims to be God's servants. The repentance of more openly sinful people did not provoke them to jealousy for their own spiritual status (compare Rom 11:14).
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
For the best Bible Gateway experience, upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus. For less than the cost of a latte each month, you'll gain access to a vast digital Bible study library and reduced banner ads to minimize distractions from God's Word. Try it free for 30 days!