Growing up I found it easier to say yes to what my parents asked of me than to argue with them. However, this does not mean I immediately acted on what they asked of me! A request to cut the grass often led to a three-day period in which my parents would continually remind me of their request. My response would be to tell them that I was going to get to it; just not yet. It was usually at the point of having my privileges taken away that I would relent and begin to do the work that I had agreed to do. In the end, as I matured, I realized that my every “yes” was a lie, especially as I had to be forced into the activity. In my maturity, I began to realize a “yes” has a very distinctive activity connected to it as does a “no”.
This is the stuff that Jesus is talking about. He tells the people that the tax collectors and prostitutes will be entering into the kingdom of God before they will. They, the tax collectors and prostitutes, may have begun to say “no” to God, but as they watched John the Baptist they believed him. Whereas the chief priests and the elders were not affected by John’s witness, nor will they be affected by Jesus words and actions. In some ways they believe they are doing God’s will by engaging in a religious way of life, but when an authentic opportunity comes that is outside of their control, they cannot give in to it.
We can have the same struggles today as we define our own faith life. Instead being open to the opportunities that God places in front of us either by our encounters with other people, or our experiences of life we can narrowly define how God works and what we expect of him and each other. We can miss the opportunities that God continues to give by our stubbornness of expectation.