The Third Son
(Jesus said) "What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "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."
My husband often says that he was a very bad boy when he was a child in Vietnam. He was the youngest son of a pastor, and when his father would start preaching, he would sneak out the church door to go play. He knew his father wouldn't be able to chase him down until church was over!
We laugh about this story because all these years later, my husband is now a pastor like his father, and he can't sneak away anymore. It looks like God finally found a way to keep him in church!
Jesus tells a story about two sons who also resisted their father when he wanted them to do something. But they did it in different ways. The first son said all the wrong things—he was rude and defiant to his father's face. But then he did the right thing—he obeyed his father and went to work. The second son reversed this. He said all the right things—"Sure, Dad, I'll be happy to go"—but then he did the wrong thing—he stayed at home and didn't go.
Then Jesus offered His hearers the choice: Which son was actually obedient? Which, in the end, did what his father wanted?
Just imagine the look on the faces of Jesus' hearers. I bet they didn't want either son! Both were bad. But since they had to make a choice, they settled on the one that did the right thing in the end. Better a smart-mouth son who finally obeys than a smooth talker who never follows through!
And that's the kind of choice God faces with us, isn't it? Some of us snarl and complain, but do His will in the end. Others of us say all the right things, but do our will in the end. What a choice! I think God needs another son to choose from.
And that is what God has, doesn't He? God the Father has Jesus—the Son who both says the right things and does the right things. When God sent Him into the world to be born as our Savior, Jesus didn't give Him any backtalk. He was completely on board with the Father's plan to save us. And He followed through—preaching, teaching, healing, caring, and finally suffering and dying on a cross outside Jerusalem. Jesus did His Father's will wholeheartedly.
And what was the result? Jesus saved all of us! Through His death He brought us forgiveness for all our backtalk and snarliness and disobedience. Through His resurrection He gave us eternal life and adoption as children of God—children filled with the Holy Spirit, so now we actually want to do our Father's will. God's "third Son" is transforming all of us. Thanks be to God!
Father, thank You for Jesus, who has made us Your children. Amen.
Dr. Kari Vo
1. When you were a child and were asked to do a job you didn't want to do, how did you respond?Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).
2. When God asks you to do something and you don't want to, what usually happens next?
3. Is it easier or harder for you to obey God now than when you were a child?
My husband often says that he was a very bad boy when he was a child in Vietnam.