Hadiwist [had-I-wist] is an archaic English word meaning the awareness of if only had I had known I would have acted otherwise. It's more than second-guessing. It's second-knowing. It's knowing you missed an opportunity and painfully regretting it. Hadiwist is how the famous Greek scholar, Richard Trench translates "changed his mind" and "repent" in our text. These two different translations translate the same Greek word, and the parable turns around that word.
Jesus tells this parable to the chief priests and elders of the people, the leaders of the church. These are the ones that everyone knows are going to heaven, and Jesus means to offend them because Jesus is on the offensive here. This is Tuesday of Holy Week. In 3 days Jesus will be dead. This is last call for disciples.
The chief priest and elders had come up to Jesus in the temple, interrupted His teaching, and demanded to know by what authority He acted. Remember they ask this after 3 years of Jesus teaching, healing, raising the dead, and casting out demons. Jesus says He will answer them if they answer whether the ministry of John the Baptist was from men or from God. They know, but they say they don't know.
Their refusal to confess the truth they know sets Jesus on the offensive and offend He does. He tells them their will be hookers in heaven, publicans in paradise before them! Furthermore Jesus dares to say, "Kingdom of God," to them. Pious Jews said "kingdom of heaven" so as to avoid saying the sacred name of God. Matthew in the rest of his Gospel always writes "kingdom of heaven" because he wrote to Jews, but here he records, "kingdom of God," because Jesus means to offend.
You're offended too, aren't you? Not by kingdom of God instead of heaven, but by their being prostitutes in paradise and swindlers being saved. If Jesus had said, "There will be repentant prostitutes or tax collectors in heaven," that would be okay. He doesn't, not because their impenitent but because the leaders of the church are.
Ouch! I just implied that perhaps you're not repentant either. Sorry, I have to do that. It's "my job" as laymen like to say. You will listen to me rail against the chief priests and Jewish elders all day. "Go get em, Pastor! Give those no count sinners hell." You'll gladly let me give Jewish church leaders hell even as they gladly gave prostitutes and tax collectors hell, but when I turn the Law toward you, I'm meddling. But I have to.
You're stuck in the same dilemma the church leaders were. Is my ministry from God or from men? If it's from men, then keep coming when you feel like; listen to what teaching of mine suits you. If my ministry is from men, then disregard as my opinion any part or portion that bothers you. After all everyone is entitled to their opinion. If my ministry is from men, there is nothing divine going on here and you miss nothing when you choose to stay away.
The parable is for people who are quite content with believing the lie that the holy ministry whether in Jesus, through John, or by pastors is from men. Jesus offends such, but that is not His goal. His goal is to reclaim such. Note well, Jesus says to the church leaders that the prostitutes and tax collectors go into the kingdom of God ahead of them not instead of them.
However, Jesus' goal isn't to bring the church leaders to repentance. That's a different word in Greek. O that's down the road, but that's too far down the road for them. Jesus' goal is hadiwist, so He points them to the hadiwist that the prostitutes and the tax collectors had. They are the first son. When John the Baptist came preaching, the tax collectors and harlots weren't instantly on their knees repenting, forsaking their sins. No, they rejected him outright. They didn't just say, "No," but "No way!" And while in other parables people make lame excuses for rejecting God's ministry, for regarding it as nothing but human, the harlots and tax collectors didn't feel the need even to do that. They just said: "No way, I don't want it."
Then a miracle happened. From totally rejecting, the ministry of John, suddenly they thought better of it. Any part of repentance, even the first regret, even the hadiwist, only happens by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. He made a pin hole in their hardened souls. Layers of willful sexual sinning, living together with man after man if only for minutes at a time suddenly bothered them. Layers of greed, accumulating wealth no matter the cost to others suddenly got to them. Suddenly, they couldn't completely write off John as just a kook, just a religious zealot, just a man.
The church leaders, on the other hand, thought they were doing just fine by God. Although they rejected John's ministry, they never thought better, they never had a "hadiwist" moment. They didn't even have one when they saw what eventually happened to the prostitutes and publicans, and this is proof positive that these didn't go on living in their sins. They didn't flock to hear John teach and boldly go back to their sexual sins. They didn't hear John preach and arrogantly go out and swindle someone. Jesus couldn't have pointed the church leaders to them if they had. If the prostitutes and publicans had claimed the right to go on in their sins because they were forgiven or if they had gone on rejecting the ministry of John, they would've been doing exactly as the church leaders were still doing.
How about you? I'm not looking for full blown, down on your knees, sobbing your sins repentance. I'm only looking for hadiwist. Is there the smallest part of you that thinks better of your view of my ministry: that it is a sin to come when you feel like to the place where Jesus still speaks and is still visible on earth today; that now knows it's a sin to hear my preaching and teaching as personal opinions and not "Thus says the Lord?" Is there the slightest germ of reconsideration, of hadiwist, concerning your belief that you can defend your sins, make excuses for your sins and still go to heaven?
If you quit listening now, you're in a real mess because you're thinking the hadiwist of the trollops and tax collectors had only to do with the Law. No, the hadiwist also had to do with the Gospel, with the way of righteousness. Jesus says tax collectors and prostitutes had hadiwist in regard to the way of righteousness and the church leaders did not.
The way of righteousness though is not works of righteousness. The church leaders had these. They really did go to temple and synagogue all the time. They really did follow the works proscribed by the Law. The prostitutes and publicans didn't. All they had were sins, sins, and more sins. All their life was sin even as we sing of our own in a hymn. John didn't come to show people how to do good works. Jesus didn't establish and doesn't give His holy ministry to show you how to live but to show you how to die.
The contrast Jesus makes between the church leaders and the open sinners is that the church leaders didn't believe and the open sinners did. So the way of righteousness is something to be believed not done. It's something that is received. The church leaders didn't have room to receive more. They were full and so would be sent away empty. No one can put more into a full cup not even God. The church leaders were full of their "faith" that there was nothing divine in John's ministry. He didn't have anything they really needed. He couldn't teach them anything so they were free to ignore him.
This is where the prostitutes and publicans started out too, but the Spirit gave them a moment of hadiwist. "Hadiwist, I had known, how full of sin my life was and how empty of God's righteousness, I would have thought different of the ministry of John." But it wasn't too late for them. John was still with them and they went on to fully embrace his ministry and renounce their sins. And even when King Herod silenced the ministry of John, it still wasn't too late for hadiwist because Jesus' public ministry had come. And what did the church leaders do? They rejected His ministry the same way they did John's. Indeed, they had to. For how you regard the one sent by Jesus is how you regard Jesus. If the office of the ministry isn't divine to you, neither is the One who created it.
It wasn't too late for the church leaders, and it's not too late for any of you. John's ministry, which is Jesus' ministry, is still going on in your midst. There in that font, in my mouth, on that altar is the very Lamb of God who carried away the sins of world. Are you like the harlots and publicans, do you have sins, lots of sins, then like them, see Jesus carrying them away from you never, ever to bring them back.
I preach and teach what Jesus' before me and John before Him did: Be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. The prostitutes and tax collectors heard and believed that and so were baptized. They left in the water all their guilty stains and came out of the water wearing the holy, pure righteousness of Jesus like a bright, white terrycloth bathrobe.
Neither John the Baptist, Jesus, nor I have ever met a sin we couldn't wash away, couldn't forgive, or a sinner who couldn't be saved. No matter how many times you've said, "No way" to the office of the ministry; no matter how many times you've refused to believe it brings the divine way of righteousness preferring your own instead; it's not too late. "Hadiwist that God the Son came to sinners with forgiveness in Water, Words, and Bread and Wine in the hands and mouth of a man, I would've wallowed in that water; I would've heard every word from his mouth; I would've eaten and drank often because I sin often."
Hadiwist is an expression of regret at a lost opportunity, but when the opportunity is still there it foretells joy. It's Ebenezer Scrooge sorrowing in the vision of Christmas future but waking to find he hasn't missed Christmas. You can wake to the still greater joy that you haven't missed Christ. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (20080921); Matthew 21: 28-32