Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” [Matthew 21:31b-32 NLT]
“It’s all about getting a second chance,” said the back of the man’s t-shirt. When he moved, I saw the dog paws printed on both sides of the message and realized his shirt was advertising a dog rescue organization. Nevertheless, the shirt’s words made me think of the parable Jesus told the Pharisees about two sons. A father told his sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son rudely refused but the second son politely promised he’d do the work. As it turned out, the defiant son changed his mind and worked while the seemingly dutiful son didn’t. Jesus then asked the Pharisees which of the two sons obeyed his father. Of course, they had to say that the first son, in spite of his initial refusal, was the obedient one.
The purpose of the parable was to convict the religious leaders of their phoniness. While saying they wanted to do God’s will, they continually disobeyed it. Jesus explained that, because corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes had repented of their sins and changed their behavior, they would get into the Kingdom of Heaven long before the Pharisees.
While immediate obedience is preferable, delayed obedience always beats false obedience. Like the first son, some people prove to be far better than initially expected. Before we accepted Jesus, most of us didn’t show much potential. Truth be told, we were probably willful, selfish, mean, immoral and possibly even wicked. Like the first son, however, we repented, mended our ways, and now work for our Father in Heaven. Unfortunately, like the second son, others prove false to their initial promise. There is, however, good news for those people whose intentions and promises are meaningless because they never materialize. Like the first brother, they too can repent, change their ways, and start working for their Father.
The parables of the Two Sons and the Prodigal Son tell me that our God is a God of Second Chances! Instead of promoting dog rescue, if there had been a cross on that man’s t-shirt, the same message would have been appropriate for Christianity! Indeed, Jesus offers second chances in his soul rescue organization! Best of all, He doesn’t stop at second chances. Our God is the God of Endless Second Chances. That’s good news since it’s pretty much a guarantee that most of us will mess up our second chance and need several more!