I preached this sermon on September 28, 2014, on the Gospel for this coming weekend.
And it is easy, too easy, to think of this parable as being about sinners who change their ways. The prostitutes and tax collectors believed John, and were baptized, and then they stopped doing their sins. But that’s not what Jesus says. Jesus says that it’s the prostitutes and the tax collectors who believed John, who heard and received and trusted his message about the coming Kingdom of God. And it was the religious authorities, the good and pious folk, who didn’t. The point isn’t that the prostitutes moved themselves from being on the wrong side of the line between what’s forbidden and what’s allowed; the point is they believed, even though they were religious outcasts. Meanwhile the people who were on the right side of the line between saint and sinner, between what’s allowed and what’s forbidden—those people did not hear, did not receive, did not trust John’s teaching.