NKJ Matthew 21:23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
NKJ Matthew 9:1-7 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
But, as we shall now see, Jesus turns the tables on them:
NKJ Matthew 21:24-26 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe [πιστεύω] him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
NKJ Matthew 21:27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
NKJ Matthew 21:28-31a “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it [μεταμέλομαι] and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.”
1) It can mean “to have regrets about [something], in the sense that one wishes it could be undone, be very sorry, regret ….”
2) It can mean “to change one’s mind about [something], without focus on regret, change one’s mind, have second thoughts” (BAGD3 #4851, BibleWorks).
NKJ Matthew 21:31b-32 Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe [πιστεύω] him; but tax collectors and harlots believed [πιστεύω] him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent [μεταμέλομαι] and believe [πιστεύω] him.
Oh! beware of saying as some of you do, “I go, sir,” while you go not. I sometimes see sick people who quite alarm and distress me. I say to them, “My dear friend, you are dying; have you a hope?” There is no answer. “Do you know your lost state?” “Yes, sir.” “Christ died for sinners.” “Yes, sir.” “Faith gives us of his grace.” “Yes, sir.” They say, “Yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir.” I sometimes wish before God they would contradict me, for if they would but have honesty enough to say, “I do not believe a word of it,” I should know how to deal with them. Stubborn oaks are leveled by the gale, but those who bend like the willow before every wind, what wind shall break them? O dear brethren, beware of being gospel hardened; or, what is the same thing, softened but for a season. Beware of being a promising hearer of the word, and nothing more!
I do not mean to close my discourse by speaking to you in this apparently harsh way, which, harsh as it seems, is full of love to your soul. I have a good word for you too. I trust that you, in this Agricultural Hall, will have a change wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, for although these many years you have made false professions before God; there is yet room in his gospel feast for you. Did you notice the text? “The publicans and sinners enter into the kingdom of heaven before you.” Then it is clear you may come after them, because it could not be said they entered before you, if you did not come after them. If the Lord shall break your heart, you will be willing to take the Lord Jesus for your all in all in just the same way as a drunkard must, though you have not been a drunkard. You will be willing to rest in the merit of Jesus just as a harlot must, though you have never been such. There is room for you, young people, yet, though you have broken your vows, and quenched your convictions. Ay, and you gray-headed people may be brought yet, though you have lived so long in the outward means, but have never given up your hearts to Jesus. Oh, come! This twenty-fourth day of March, may the Lord bring you in this very place, may the Lord lead you to say silently, “By the grace of God I will not be an open pretender any longer; I will give myself up to those dear hands that bled for me, and that dear heart that was pierced for me, and I will this day submit to Jesus’ way.”
NKJ Matthew 23:1-5a Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 Saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men.”
The primary feature of this text is clear. God requires productive and obedient living from his people. Claims and concerns for appearance are not enough. Churches often push for membership and professions of faith but allow (or even foster) a separation between believing and doing. How did people ever get the idea that obedience to the will of God is optional? Many parables, and especially this one, push for integrity of life before God. Talk and external appearance are cheap; what counts is actually doing the will of the father from the heart. Any separation of believing and doing is a distortion of the gospel message and is directly confronted by this parable. A person cannot believe apart from obedience. (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 275)
NKJ Matthew 3:5-10 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”