A friend told me a joke several years ago, the punch line of which included the question, “Is that your final answer?”  I didn’t laugh.  My failure to respond prompted him to say, “You haven’t seen the show, have you?”  I had not.  The show that I hadn’t seen was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?  My friend was incredulous.  Everyone had seen that show!  How could I live in such a state of cultural depravity, and how dare I ruin his perfectly funny joke?

I eventually did see the show a time or two, but never became a regularl viewer.   However, Regis Philbin’s question “Is that your final answer?” became deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness.  The question is reminiscent of a parable of Jesus in which a father asked something of his two sons.  Each of the sons answered their father differently; and, in each case, it was not their final answer. 

The parable is recorded in Matthew 21:28-32.  The chief priests and elders in Jerusalem had just attempted to entrap Jesus with a trick question.  As usual, Jesus quickly turned the rhetorical tables on them and silenced them with a question of his own.  He then told them this parable which contrasted their rejection of the good news of God’s kingdom with the joyful reception that it was gaining among tax collectors and prostitutes whose hearts were being touched and led to repentance.

In Jesus’ story, a man approached the first of his two sons and directed him to go and work in the family’s vineyard.  The son flatly refused.  “No,” the insolent little cuss replied to his father; rude, brash, disrespectful, and disobedient.  However, the young man later rethought his answer, regretted the shameful way in which he had spoken to his father, and went to work.   “No” was not his final answer.

The father approached his second son with the same instruction to work in the vineyard.  “Yes, sir!,” he replied.  “Right away; I’m on it; no need to ask me twice; I’m always happy to do my part and carry my share of the load; it’s never a burden or a bother; I count it a real joy to do what you ask of me.  Love ya, Dad!”  Nice words; but only words.  He didn’t go to the vineyard.  “Yes” was not his final answer.

Jesus asked his critics which one of the two sons did the will of his father: the one who said he that wouldn’t and then did, or the one who said that he would and then didn’t.  They answered His question correctly. 

By outward appearances, the scribes and Pharisees were talking a good game by their ability to quote long sections of the Law and the Prophets and by sporting broad phylacteries and long tassels.  But, by their traditions, double-standards, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy, they were ultimately saying “no” to God.  On the other hand, the tax collectors and prostitutes who had been saying “no” through their dishonesty and sexual immorality were sincerely and penitently saying “yes” to Jesus, just as they had positively responded to the message of John the Baptist.

No matter how deeply we have fallen in sin or how far we have wandered away from God, “no” does not have to be our final answer.  God graciously allows us time to rethink our response to His grace and mercy. 

If you have said “yes” to Jesus Christ, let that be your final answer!