Matthew 21:23-32 NRSV
When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”
And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of 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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
What does it take to enter the kingdom of God? Not mere words, verbal assent, but the whole-hearted trust that necessitates repentance. We who are trapped in mere words seek to justify our reluctance; “We do not know whether it was from heaven or from earth.” But he bids us change our minds and believe him. And he is so gracious, so merciful, that he continues to entreat, invite, accept even we who have delayed.
“Afterward, He Repented, and Went.”
Lord, when my heart was whole I kept it back
And grudged to give it Thee.
Now then that it is broken, must I lack
Thy kind word “Give it Me”?
Silence would be just, and Thou art just.
Yet since I lie here shattered in the dust,
With still an eye to lift to Thee,
A broken heart to give,
I think that Thou wilt bid me live,
And answer “Give it Me.”
—Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)