"What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him. (Mt 21:28-32)
“What is your opinion?” is the way by which Jesus makes his listeners to think and decide for themselves. Jesus respects the freedom of the individual. He is not a person who has come with pre-concluded answers. He has the right conclusions and answers but he does not force them on to his listeners. His stories and parables are only to make them think for themselves.
The two sons in the parable are the samples of people and their reaction to obedience. There are people who say no but at the end oblige; and there are also people who say yes but do not oblige. I wonder why Jesus did not speak about people who say yes and yet oblige. Yes Jesus wanted to communicate a particular message and he has said this story to make his message acceptable.
Tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom. Their ways of life seem to suggest that are disobedient (externally in the observance of the law) yet they are open to God and ready to receive the kingdom. Openness to God and his kingdom are more important.
When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them in reply, "I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?" They discussed this among themselves and said, "If we say 'Of heavenly origin,' he will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet." So they said to Jesus in reply, "We do not know." He himself said to them, "Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Mt 21:23-27)
The chief priests and the elders are in the temple area. It is their area of authority. It is where they exercise their authority and hence from the place of their authority they question about his authority. For, to exercise authority he should either belong to priests group or to the elders. They see the authority as something belonging to a place or to a group of people. Authority, according to them, has to be given from a group or from a place (Who gave you this authority?)
Jesus takes the example John the Baptist and argues with them saying that he never belonged to any of their group of authority or he never exercised his authority from any particular place of authority. The authority of John the Baptist was of divine origin. But the elders and the chief priests were afraid to accept it openly. If they openly acknowledge it then they were wrong in persecuting him.
Authority belongs to God and not to any place or group of persons. It is God who shares this authority with the people and creation. If there is God in place then that place becomes a place of authority and so also for the person or group of persons. Authority is from God.