In Matthew 21:28-31, which son obeyed the father?
In Matthew 21 we read:
Jesus gives us the answer to your question. The first son did the will of his father.
That son initially disobeyed the word of his father by refusing to go into the field, but later he repented and obeyed. In the end, he did the will of his father and the father’s word was obeyed. His earlier refusal was sin, but the father was willing to accept the son’s repentance and allow him to serve anyway. So the son was credited with doing the will of the father in the end.
The second son did not do the will of his father, though he agreed to. His agreement was a lie, and his failure to go was evidence that he never truly intended to do the father’s will. So not only did the second son fail to obey the word of his father, but he also lied about his intentions, which showed him to be a hypocrite.
Jesus makes the application: He says this second son was a picture of the hypocritical Pharisees (whom Jesus was speaking to in v.31), who claimed to do the will of the Father in Heaven yet who didn’t obey the word of God. These men would not be in the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, while lessor Jews like prostitutes would be in the Kingdom because though they disobeyed the Lord through their sinful lifestyles, in the end they repented and accepted Jesus as Messiah, which resulted in their forgiveness.
So the first son pictures sinners who, by repenting and obeying the Gospel, will enter the Kingdom. While the second son pictures hypocritical, self-righteous religious leaders who talk about serving God but actually live in disobedience to the word of God.
Let us be like the first son!