Seeing but not changing

Matthew 21:32

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 when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

In this text, Jesus addressed the chief priests and elders who challenged His authority to do these things. Jesus came for all people – to save sinners. Do you regard yourself as a sinner? How sad that Jesus came to His own people and yet they did not receive him. This is heartbreaking. Your heart ought to be touched as well. These people should have known better. They knew the Scripture from A to Z but they were the ones who were questioning and seeking to fault our Redeemer and Saviour. This is the danger of the modern era.

We need to have the mind of Christ. We cannot rely on our intellect or experiences. We cannot even rely on what has happened in the past: God worked like that before … no, we need to be in tune with God. Something may have been right for you yesterday but today God wants to correct you and lead you higher by doing something contrary to what you know and feel.

Jesus spoke in a harsh manner to people who relied on their intellect and knowledge of the Scriptures. If someone speaks to you in a harsh way, ask yourself whether the Lord’s words to you would not be harsher than the words that person spoke to you. The prophets testify of this when they met with the righteous One in his holiness and loftiness, the One who is above all and who has all knowledge and insight. They cried out, “Woe is me, I am undone!”

Jesus told the people that they should do what the Pharisees told them to but not what they did. Can we, as missionaries, tell others to do what they see us doing? At the end, Jesus commanded His disciples to teach the people to keep all that He had taught them, not to know all that He had taught them. Jesus said that they would be recognised by their fruit. You would recognise them by their love, by their unity. Jesus prayed that the unity that existed between the Father and Son would be seen in His people.

For John came to you in the way of righteousness. Jesus spoke about John who had been sent with a heavenly calling. He came in the water of righteousness. John had the Holy Spirit in him. He spoke what God told him to. He baptized those that the Lord led him to. Jesus said and you did not believe him. The chief priests and elders could have said that they went down to John and they wanted to be baptized. They listened to his words. They could not fault John’s preaching, but he, John, resisted them and he did not want to baptise them. He spoke words to them that seemingly did not befit a Christian. Jesus spoke to them in the same tone in which John had spoken to them. John said, “Bring forth fruit of repentance before I can baptise you.” For John came to you in the way of righteousness.  If we want to prepare for Christ’s working in our lives, we need to walk in the way of righteousness. …but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. If you find yourself being one of these types, there is hope for you because you can believe Him.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. Matthew 21:31

Throughout Scripture, Jesus shows kindness and favour to tax collectors and prostitutes. He is merciful to the one in John 8. In Mark 2, He reclines with Levi who prepared a banquet for Him. In Luke 19, He inspires Zacchaeus to give half of his possessions to the poor. His kindness was interpreted as a weakness or as a transgression. When Jesus’ feet were anointed by the wicked woman, they sneered and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39 Jesus did know who she was, even more than they did.

During the time of Jesus, prostitutes and tax collectors were considered the most singular of sinners. The prostitutes capitalized on the basest and most primitive of human desires – lust, to make a living. Some thought that their very presence allured others along this dark path as well.
Does Jesus not know that? Would he not know? Tax collectors were not paid by the government.  Everyone understood that they earned their living by overcharging people. They were thieves who cared more about money than their fellow human beings. Are our cares inspired by the spirit of Jesus? Woe to us if our cares cause us not to be found on the way of righteousness.

Jesus said And even when you saw it (the tax collectors and prostitutes believing in Him), you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. Even when you saw it, you did not change your mind, you did not repent. Are we prepared to change our minds if we see it? Maybe you come here, children, neighbours, long standing church goers, you see God’s wonders and see God doing things before your eyes which others have not witnessed. You are guilty because you have seen what God has done, but you did not change your minds. Jesus allows you to see things so that your mind should be changed. Or do you maybe know better? ‘Next Sunday I can go to church again.’ ‘We’ve heard that before.’ ‘There he says it again!’ You see it but you do not change your mind. Jesus accuses you.

Friends, I hope you see a glimpse of what I saw in this portion of scripture. If Jesus is Lord in our lives – as we have sung and prayed, I surrender all, Lord, I devote myself wholeheartedly to You, you may have spent many hours in prayer promising the Lord things, but when He comes and saves the tax collectors and the prostitutes, is your heart moved? Is your heart touched?

Once you’ve met this Man of Galilee you will never be the same again. The priests, elders and Pharisees however, remained the same.

The Galilean

Have you met the man of Galilee
Who claims to be the living way?
And have you seen the look of love that He gives
Or felt the power that His words convey?

Once you’ve met the man of Galilee
He who calms the storms
And makes blinded eyes to see
You will never be the same again
He will change your life
And set your Spirit free.

Have you met the man from Galilee
Who claims to be the Son of God?
And have you followed Him to Calvary
And traced the path His steps have trod?

Once you’ve met the man of Galilee
He who calms the storms
And makes blinded eyes to see
You will never be the same again
He will change your life
And set your Spirit free

Oh, You will never be the same again
He will change your life
And set your Spirit free

John Starnes

We Christians and workers can bring many sacrifices but our sacrifices were maybe self-chosen, they were offered in disobedience to God. (You will never be the Same by M Basilea Schlink)

This quotation is very deep, can you understand this language? You can even count the sacrifices you are busy making. Are the sacrifices you have made and are busy making self-chosen? Jesus did not instruct you, it was your choice to sacrifice them.

There was a missionary who was sent home from the field, because she was sick. At the mission she had been admired for her dedication, love and willingness to sacrifice. Back home she suddenly became unbearable, rebelling against everything, because she had to do administrative work. Why? Her ministry had not been done out of love for God nor out of pure love for man. She had lived for herself; she performed this ministry to satisfy her own ego. (You will never be the Same by M Basilea Schlink)

 It is mercy if the living Christ can speak to us in every circumstance in our lives. This word causes me to tremble. I preach to myself because one day we will be rewarded with eternal life if we have been obedient to Him.

Saul was chosen by God Himself. He did not stay true to his calling. He sacrificed one day when the prophet delayed, doing something that was to be done by the prophet alone. God’s verdict was: I regret having made Saul king. He had to send his prophet to tell him this truth that obedience is better than sacrifice.
Paul, the sinner and slave of Jesus Christ said that he was the chief of sinners. Not because he continued in his struggle against sin, but because he persecuted the true believers, and in that he was persecuting Jesus.

Child, you have seen all this and you still have not repented. When will you repent? What more do you want to see or hear? When will your heart be touched to truly humble yourself? When will our children humble themselves and say, ‘I am a worm not a man.’ Not to just apologise when having been confronted when doing wrong, but then continue with the life you have lived, but that your spirit is broken for salvation. You should be on the way of righteousness not on the way of this world. When will the way you talk, your flippant remarks that you make change? When will your spirit be changed so that you can say your interests are different? Because of what I have seen, I have been changed.

Look and see! Look at those who have changed. If a child was known to be difficult and cheeky but now, before the child is reprimanded, it says sorry. Is there anything sweeter than that? You should not compare yourself with others, your aim should be to be like those who are on the way of righteousness. Your aim should be that no matter what the others do at school or at work, you have your goal and purpose, Jesus has changed you. And now you love Him above all else. You are no longer losing out on the best of life because you are cleansed of guilty feelings as you make things right that you have done wrong, this is the way to eternal joy and happiness.

I remember when we turned to Christ we had a zealousness and eagerness for the gospel and Jesus. We were young and did not know what the dance floor and the cinema was. We did not know what it was to embrace or kiss a girl. We saw something and our minds were changed through the working of the Spirit of God. But how much more do we need nowadays? Oh that we may not lose out on the working, plans and desires of the One who called us.

The tax collectors are saved and prostitutes are saved, we should call out, “Jesus save me. I want to change my mind. I want to repent and become a new man!” May God help us.


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