Foundations lesson for Jan. 30: The Parable of the Mirror : Friday, Jan. 14, 2005
January 14 2005 by Jeffrey Wisdom

Foundations lesson for Jan. 30: The Parable of the Mirror : Friday, Jan. 14, 2005
Friday, Jan. 14, 2005

Foundations lesson for Jan. 30: The Parable of the Mirror

By Jeffrey Wisdom
Focal Passage: Matthew 21:28-32

For several Sundays a colleague sat at his favorite bakery and watched people come and go. Some were dressed for church. Others were not. During those Sundays, he noticed something else. He noticed that while some went to church and others stayed away, the sun still rose in the sky and life went on.

What, then, is the nature of faith? What makes faith real for anyone?

In this lessons' text, the story is framed around two sons. Several storylines are evident in the passage and earlier verses.


Matt. 21:23-27

Verses 23-27 focus on authority. The chief priests and elders asked Jesus where he received authority for His teaching and actions. Jesus responded by asking them whether John's baptism was from heaven or of human origin.

Knowing that both answers had downsides, they refused. Jesus then said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Real Faith

Matt. 21:28-32

In verses 28-32, Jesus tells a parable about two sons and their father's vineyard. The first son tells the father that he won't work, but later changes his mind and goes. The second son tells the father he will work, but never shows up.

Jesus asks which son did the will of the father. When they tell him the first, Jesus responds with harsh words for them.

"Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you," Jesus said. "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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him."

In the Interpreter's Biblical Commentary, George Arthur Buttrick calls the passage, a "direct challenge to the Pharisees and their formalism and to the Sadducees in their pretended devotion to the temple."

The notion of the parable is to ask and then answer the questions "what is the nature of faith," and "what makes faith real for anyone." To answer those questions, Matthew has the parable of the two sons follow several memorable stories including: "The Triumphal Entry" (21:1-11), "The Cleansing of the Temple" (21:12-17), and "The Cursing of the Fig Tree" (21:18-22). Looked at collectively, each informs the other as to the nature of faith and its initial beginnings.

For example, is faith in how we worship? The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem would indicate that persons can be caught up in the hysterics of worship and still be unaffected by the act.

Is faith in how we behave in church? The cleansing of the temple is not Christ's attempt to "clean" one's means of worship, but the exploitive nature of some to take advantage of others involved in it.

Is faith in how well we appear? The cursing of the fig tree is a reminder that faith is an internal expression, and without a faith that is deeply rooted in us, its exterior fashion is meaningless.

Faith's Decision

Faith, the text suggests, is a single act - a decision that may take a while to make, but once done is eternal. For the parable of the two sons, faith's decision is highlighted by the two ways the sons responded to their father's request to go into the vineyard. One initially said no, but changed his mind - the Bible said that he repented. The second said yes, but never followed through with what he promised.

So how do you answer questions about the nature of faith, and what makes it real? From the text, faith is not how you worship; it is not how you behave in church, it is not how you groom. Faith is a single act of turning from what you were doing to where the Father wants you to go.

The nature of faith, then, begins with repentance.

1/14/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jeffrey Wisdom | with 0 comments

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