Jesus said to [the chief priests and elders],
“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the
~Matthew 21:31b (NRSV).
What a thing to say in front of ‘powerful’ people—or at least people who thought they were very special. Jesus is harsh in his critique in this section (Matthew 21:28–22:14), but it’s a kingdom truth. Pretend belief does not cut it; yet, the despicable one (in the eyes of Pharisees) who authentically turns their life around in the name of God is saved.
The red carpet is saved for the late bloomer over those counting their years as followers of God, yet doing little life-transforming during their stay on earth.
Fairness is a golden thread woven into the fabric of the Kingdom.
Just because someone was physically born into a Christian family, and they were raised with a ‘silver spooned’ church life upbringing means little in Kingdom value. Their belief must be translated in obedience... swap the concept “obedience” with “repentance,” for that’s all obedience is: the ability to discern God’s will and turn toward it in thought and action. It is obvious that many lifelong believers still have not gotten this basic concept. Attendance at church and knowledge of the Bible and legalistic prayer at mealtimes and bedtimes isn’t cutting it. Only repentance cuts it.
Good News – Especially for the Guilt-Ridden and Ashamed
Many of us have made inordinate messes of our lives: sordid with drug addiction, a meld of crime; the regretted abortion; bad sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, wives and husbands—torn by anger, greed, lust or pride... and a myriad of other ‘common’ complaints. (This list runs on and on and on.)
‘Blessed are these that see their wicked way and turn back to me,’ says Jesus. These are the true children of the Kingdom. They have recognised the eternal truth and that for a time they lived it not is of no consequence, for they have turned—and they turned just in time. Fruitfulness is a ‘now’ concept.
The wonder of this truth is there are no limit to the disasters we can make of our lives; yet, one seriously genuine cry to the Lord in Jesus’ name and we’re saved! And it’s up to us then to keep it that way—to keep repenting.
Penitence’s sign is fruitfulness. The one who turns and about-faces their lives actually lives different. The true believer is known by what they produce—not in works righteousness, like “this is how much I do”—and not by any form of ‘inherited’ status.
The inheritance is common for all those who repent. Yours is the Kingdom!
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Craig S. Keener, Matthew – The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), pp. 318-19.