26th Sunday Ordinary Time – “I will not go… I will go…” Part One
The two sons (literally, ‘children’) say what they mean, but not as translated. The first says, “I refuse / desire not.” The second says something even more amazing.
The Greek, thelo, “to want, desire, wish,” creates a network of meanings in Matthew. What might “going into the vineyard” have involved in terms of discipleship? For this is the context that lends meaning to the passage.
Serving in the vineyard concerns the journey to profound surrender of self-will.
Matthew 5:40–42 (NRSV) — 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 7:12 (NRSV) — 12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 9:12f (NRSV) — 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Matthew 16:24f (NRSV) — 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 19:17 (NRSV) — 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Matthew 19:21 (NRSV) — 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Matthew 20:26f (NRSV) — 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave;
Matthew 26:39 (NRSV) — 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
On this journey of discipleship, we get to learn about how and why we cling to our precious self-will and, perhaps, take steps to grieve the letting go.