It is a very powerful parable indeed but I am very curious about the first and the second son, their chronology. In many places in the bible, e.g. Romans 2:9-10 I perceive the Jews denoted as the first and the gentiles as the second which I see is close to the context when Jesus said in Matthew 19:30

Matthew 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Romans 2:9-10 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile

But in this parable, Matthew 21:28-31, The order is different, do you have any thoughts or ideas or even better has anyone been touched by the Holy Spirit on this parable?

Matthew 21:28-31 28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.


These are three entirely unrelated passages. The first two do not explain or qualify the third.

Matthew 19:30, which says that many who are first shall be last and the last shall be first, should be read in conjunction with the parable that follows, in which the householder paid first those who began their hire last, then paid those who began their hire first, paying all an equal amount (Matthew 20:9-10). In this account, Jesus then says that it is lawful for him to choose those he will (presumably for salvation).

In Romans 2:9-10, there is no dichotomy of first and last. Paul simply mentions the Jews first in both cases, perhaps because he himself was a Jew and he often expresses concern for the spiritual welfare of the Jews. Paul then says (2:11) that God is impartial, in other words favouring neither Jew nor Gentile.

The parable of the two sons, in Matthew 21:28-31, is about the importance of repentance. It says that just as the repentant son found favour, so will publicans and harlots enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus explains this parable in Matthew 21:32, saying that the publicans and harlots believed John the Baptist and, because they believed, repented. And just as the lying son deserved less than his repentant brother, so also those who did not believe John, and have not repented, are less deserving than the publicans and harlots. Here, Jesus is simply saying that even those of the lowest social standing will come first if they have faith and repent.

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  • I indeed realize that they are unrelated, I am curious of the chronology, as it is written in Romans 2:11, God is impartial however it wasnt God's impartiality I was questioning, but when in the Bible when it says the first and the second son (even in the story of the prodigal son) does it refer to the Jews as the first son (not the first privileged) and the gentiles as the second? – Lordbalmon Mar 9 '15 at 5:55
  • @Lordbalmon I assumed you realise they are unrelated, but in any case I wrote about their independence for the benefit of other readers and so that my answer is complete as I understand your question. The Prodigal Son appears in Luke 15, and does not involve Jews + gentiles, so I assume that this was not the reason for your comment. I do not believe the Prodigal Son parable is an allegory for Jews and gentiles; it is simply a beautiful story with a moral. – Dick Harfield Mar 9 '15 at 7:48

I think that the parable in Mathew 21 should be read in its context. In my opinion the clue is in the question at the start of the parable. It is the quest 'what do you think?' the context of that question determines whether there is any predefined order in the sons.

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  • "the context of that question determines whether there is any predefined order in the sons" -- this is unclear, at least to me. Is there an order in the sons then? Are you saying that Jesus left it up to the hearer/reader? – MR. TOODLE-OO'D Mar 9 '15 at 22:47
  • I am not saying he does so. What I am saying is that it depeneds on what the rest of Mathew 21 and probably 20 and 22 are stating. The preceding paragrahp in Mathew 21 is about the question of Jesus authority by the elders and chief priests. So it might be that the parable is more about the authority of Jesus than about the order of sons. – Jaap Jansma Mar 10 '15 at 8:04

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