Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-18; Matthew 21:23-32
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Playing a game of Uno is almost like a rite of passage for kids. Learning how to navigate the skips, draw-twos, wilds, and especially the reverses are all the fun of the game. The reverse is perhaps the most underrated of the special cards in the game. To switch directions can change the entire outcome. Right as someone is about to go out, you can reverse directions so that everyone else suddenly has an extra turn.
Just like a game of Uno, we often pull out the “reverse card” in real life. We change directions, flip the tables, reverse course whether it be in conversation, in decision-making, or life in general. Let us not think that “reversing” is a small thing.
Consider our Gospel lesson this week where Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders of the day. They come to ask him a question only for Jesus to reverse it and turn their question back on themselves. “I also will ask you one question…” Matthew 21:24. While the Pharisees seek to trap Jesus, it’s Jesus who really traps them and shows them their own faults. As they discuss the baptism of John, the Pharisees notice that neither answer is helpful for them.
Jesus then tells a parable. A father goes and makes a request of his two sons. The first says no to the father, only later to change his mind, reverse course, and go and do what the father asked (Matthew 21:29). The second son says ‘Yes’ to his father, but also changes his mind and doesn’t go through with it (Matthew 21:30). So, as the Pharisees admit, it’s not the first answer that matters but the second. The “reverse” makes all the difference.
It need not matter what we did at first, Jesus says. The son who does evil at first, but repents, changes course, switches directions is acceptable to the Father. We need not have been good all the time in order to do good now. Just as Ezekiel writes, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live,” Ezekiel 18:32. While we as humans may change our minds regularly, God does not. He never turns back from his promises. He never reverses course with his grace. He never stops desiring all people to turn away from their sin and inherit eternal life! For so there was one more Son. The Son who said “Yes” to his Father’s request and does it. This one is Jesus. Jesus says “Yes” to his Father’s will. Jesus says “Yes” to working our salvation. Jesus says “Yes” to being our Savior. Then… he does them. He goes from the Father to work just as he said. He goes to the cross and dies for our sins so that we may turn from sin and death and live!
Almighty God, You exalted Your Son to the place of all honor and authority. Enlighten our minds by Your Holy Spirit that, confessing Jesus as Lord, we may be led into all truth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!