On the first day of the last week of his life, Jesus made his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. He was greeted by crowds of people shouting Hosanna to the son of David— “God, save!” —and waving palm branches, welcoming him like a king. That did not sit well with the Jewish elites, who questioned his authority in series of confrontations.
At one point in this clash, Jesus told them a story: 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. (Matthew 21:28-30) He applied that to his audience, without mincing words: the respectable religious leaders were the disobedient sons; the tax collectors and prostitutes were the obedient ones, and even those despised outcasts would enter the kingdom of God before them!
There are lessons for us here, too. Consider the question Jesus asks to drive his point home: Which of the two did the will of his Father? (v. 31) This is the only question that really matters; all Scripture is saturated with that conviction. What is at stake here is doing or failing to do the will of God— and, when we consider the perfectly obedient example of Jesus, it is following or failing to follow him. The Father is God, and the vineyard is his Kingdom. The two sons are classes of people commanded to labor in it: those open sinners who refuse but then repent and earnestly labor, and those hypocrites who make promises they don’t keep.
But let’s think more particularly about the command, go and work in the vineyard today. Note 3 things about that command:
1. There is work to be done. That should be obvious, and yet sometimes we seem blind to it. There is work to be done in meeting the physical needs of others; there is an even greater need in spiritual matters. As an easy example, did you know that (pre-COVID) the average attendance at churches of Christ across the country on Sunday morning was only 94? That’s alarming when you consider that there are several 1,000+ member congregations that bolster that number. 54% of congregations average just 34 people on Sunday. That means we are right at par here even without things back to normal— that’s good!— but there is still so much to do. And we should note for those who fail to do, 58 churches a year closed their doors forever in the last decade.
2. Go work in the vineyard. There is not merely work to be done, but it’s God’s work. Many people are eager to work, but not in the Father’s vineyard. We are pretty good about working in our own vineyard for our own benefit. But how many of us work consistently for God? How many of us are willing to teach Bible classes? How many of us bring friends or neighbors to church? How many of us even pray or read our Bibles much? Sometimes we think about work in the church and imagine we aren’t capable of much, but many of these are simple things. Jesus seemed to think he was working in the vineyard even on his knees: the only work we know of that made him sweat was prayer! We are not all skilled to do the same kind of work. But God does call us to work.
3. Go work today. The need is now. We aren’t needed in some indefinite future. God calls us to work today. Like the case of the two sons, this is the only day that exists. All that is necessary to waste our lives is to waste today.
We are excited that things are slowly but surely getting back to normal around here. We are meeting on Wednesdays again, starting this week at 6:30. Soon, we will announce resumption of our meetings on Sunday nights, with a new format and focus on building each other up and serving others. We have activities on the calendar here in May, from the Primetimers, to a blood drive and a COVID vaccine clinic, to our ongoing need for help in the Food Bank. We are planning VBS for this summer, and we have some other exciting ideas for the future.
There are so many opportunities for fellowship, for study, and for service inside and outside the church. Let’s all get to work!