For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not: but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him: and you, when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you might believe him.
Read Chapter 21
Thus much prefaced, the Lord brings forward a parable, to convict them of their irreligion, and show them that the kingdom of God should be transferred to the Gentiles.
He speaks to the Gentile people first, through their knowledge of the law of nature; “Go and work in my vineyard;” i.e. “What you would not have done to you, that do not you to others.” He answers haughtily, “I will not.”.
But when, at the coming of the Saviour, the Gentile people, having done penitence, laboured in God’s vineyard, and atoned by their labour for the obstinacy of their refusal, this is what is said, “But afterward he repented, and went.” The second son is the Jewish people who made answer to Moses, “All that the Lord hath said unto us we will do.” .
It should be known that in the correct copies it is read not “The last,” butThe first,” that they might be condemned by their own sentence. But should we prefer to read, as some have it, “The last,” the explanation is obvious, to say that the Jews understood ...
Therefore He adds also the accusation. What then is this? John came, He says, unto you, not unto them, and not this only, but; also in the way of righteousness. For neither with this can you find fault, that he was some careless one, and of no profit; but both his life was irreprehensible, and his care for you great, and you gave no heed to him.
And with this there is another charge also, that publicans gave heed; and with this, again another, that not even after them did ye. For you should have done so even before them, but not to do it even after them was to be deprived of all excuse; and unspeakable was both the praise of the one, and the charge against the other. To you he came, and you accepted him not; he came not to them, and they receive him, and not even them did ye take for instructors.
See by how many things is shown the commendation of those, and the charge against these. To you he came, not to them. You believed not, this offended not them. They believed, this profit...
For the Gentiles from the beginning leaving God and his righteousness, and going over to idols and sins, seem to make answer in their thoughts, We will not do the righteousness of God.
But afterwards turning their backs, they lied unto God, according to that in the Psalms, “The sons of the strangers have lied unto me.” This is what is said, “But he went not.” The Lord accordingly asks “which of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.” See how they have first sentence upon themselves, saying, that the elder son, that is, the Gentile people, did the will of his father. For it is better not to promise righteousness before God, and to do it, than to promise, and to fail.
I suppose that the “publicans” here are to represent all sinful men, and “the harlots” all sinful women; because avarice is found the most prevailing vice among men, and fornication among women. For a woman’s life is passed in idleness and seclusion, which are great temptations to that sin, whi...
And with this there is also still another charge. The publicans were attentive and repented, but even after the publicans and harlots had believed, you did not believe. You should have repented long before they did. But you did not do it. So you are deprived of all excuses. How unspeakable was both the praise of the one and the charge against the other: He came to you, and you did not receive him. He did not come to them, and they received him! And you did not even learn from their example. Note in how many ways he shows that some are to be commended and others charged, but in surprising ways, reversing expectations. To you he came first, not to them. You did not believe. They were not offended. They believed. This did not profit you at all. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily
The word “they go into the kingdom before you” is not meant to emphasize that some were following but as having a hope, if they were willing. For nothing so much as jealousy rouses our passions. Therefore he is forever saying things like “the first shall be last and the last first.” Thus he mentioned here both harlots and publicans that they might provoke them to jealousy. Taken together these two represent chief sins engendered by violent lust: the one of sexual desire, the other of the desire of money. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily
Therefore he adds also another accusation: “John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him.” John came “to you,” he says, not to them. You cannot find fault with him, as if he were some careless person of no value. His life was irreprehensible. His care for you was great, and yet you did not pay attention to him. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily
Yet the kingdom of God may be understood of the Gentiles, or of the present Church, in which the Gentiles go before the Jews, because they were more ready to believe.
John came preaching the way of righteousness, because he pointed to Christ, whois the fulfilling of the Law.
. He introduces two types of men. One type are those who promised from the beginning: such were the Jews who said, "All which God spoke, we will do and we will obey" (Ex. 24:3). The other type are those who disobeyed: such are the publicans and the harlots, but also the people of the Gentiles, who from the beginning were not obedient to the will of God, but later they repented and obeyed. Behold, then, the wisdom of Christ. He did not at once from the start say to them, "The publicans and the harlots are better than you," but first He got the upper hand over them and they confessed that of the two sons, he who did the will of the father was the obedient one. And when they had so confessed He led them on and said, "John came in the way of righteousness," that is, with a blameless life, and you are not able to say that his life was reprehensible, yet the harlots obeyed him while you did not. Therefore they precede you, that is, enter before you into the kingdom. So you also should strugg...