Finishing Strong

“What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go to work in the vineyard today.’ “His son replied, ‘I don’t want to!’ But later he changed his mind and went. “The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. He replied, ‘I will, sir,’ but he didn’t go. “Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Tax collectors and prostitutes are going into God’s kingdom ahead of you. John came to you and showed you the way that God wants you to live, but you didn’t believe him. The tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. But even after you had seen that, you didn’t change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21:28-32

If you’ll allow me a little flexibility in exposition here, I’d like to look at this somewhat unusual story – it is only found in Matthew – that Jesus created and interpret it with a twist.

Of course, most directly, it is a story of comparison. The “unwashed” – tax collectors and prostitutes, for example – who began as lost souls without any knowledge of the law or pretense of obedience – and the Pharisees, who represented knowledge of the law without a lifestyle that reflected its spirit.

One group changed and followed. The other did not. One believed, the other didn’t.

In the end, it is what they did that mattered, changing and believing.

Or, it is what they did, in the end, that mattered.

I think this focus on finishing strong is a comfortably Biblical concept.  It is what ushered the thief on the cross into paradise after a sordid life. It is what made the difference in how the life of Saul-Paul is evaluated today. It is the difference between Peter cursing out his denial and walking out his pastoral ministry.

Where are we in the end?

The call of Christ is the call to finish strong. And it’s what was on my mind as I heard Nick Magnotti’s story.

The man who was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix at the age of 24 finished strong.


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