Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The parable of the children in the marketplace

The parable of the children in the marketplace

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.””

Matthew 11:16-18 (Luke 7:31-32)


* "To what can I compare this generation?" This question (as pointed out by Matthew Henry in Henry commentary) seems to show Jesus finding it difficult to find an example that fits, which is another way of pointing out the extreme absurdity of the situation.
* In both Matthew and Luke this little parable is found wedged between Jesus talking about John the Baptist and him expressing frustration at the Pharisees fault-finding paradigm and impossible-to-pleasyness.
* This is really tough to understand.
* Jesus' use of the word "generation" seems to be referring to the people within that time period thirty years, particularly the Pharisees (see context in Luke chapter seven verse thirty).
* The parable has a harsh tone... Pharisees would have been insulted to have been compared to children. Jesus is frustrated and actually downright ticked.
* The thing that the children in the parable are chanting is relating to two very diffrent things- dancing and mourning. Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were behaving childishly and would not be pleased not matter what approach John or Jesus took.
* Jesus gives a little bit of an explanation of the parable in verses 18-19. He tells us that "...we sang a dirge and you did not mourn..." refers to Johns harsher style of turn of burn repentence preaching and that "...we played the flute for you and you did not dance..." refers to Jesus' hopeful, celebratory message (eating and drinking and healing... not to mention salvation).
* Critical people always have something to criticize. Some people wouldn’t be pleased with either John or Jesus, and Jesus found this to be frustrating.

This parable is a bit of a tough one for me so I am keen to read other peoples comments and hear what you have to add to it. It is one of those verses where I have often read the passage of Scripture and skipped over it because it was too hard.

At the end of the preceding passage about John the Baptist, Jesus seems to vent a frustration at the way that the Pharisees responded to Himself and John the Baptist. He particularly makes mention in the Luke telling of this parable by observing "All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John."
that is verses 29-30.

The hard-heartedness of religious people frustrated the crap out of Jesus and He often spoke about it. In this parable He kind of says that no matter what form that Heaven delivers the message (whether hard or soft) some people will not submit to God. It seems that today religious people still are hard to please. Christ is using a parable to illustrate the way that some people would rather ignore God's messengers than change the way they live.

We have to be careful to allow ourselves to be open to what God wants to say ("positive" or "negative"). He speaks through His Word, His people and His Spirit to our hearts. We need to avoid being like those the parable calls childish by being open to recieve Gods message of justice and repentance, and His message of love, grace and mercy.

God help me to hear your voice clearly, and to not assume we know all about You. Let us lay our assumptions aside and invade our personal paradigms and preconcieved ideas. Help us to be fertile soil that celebrates when the occasion calls for it and mourns when the occasion calls for it. Soften our hard hearts and help us to hate our own sinfulness. Help us to be in amongst the humble You give grace to, and not the proud that You resist.


miss_coz said...

Hey Nick, I have always wondered about this one too. I think you make a good point here when you say that it is about accepting the good and the bad, and not being a tough nut who doesnt want part in what God is doing in us... but i feel that there is more to this.. I wonder why this scripture wasnt written with an obvious meaning behind it.. Maybe there is one and Im missing it.. I think it is meant to challenge us and have us think deeper about how Jesus was feeling towards the 'generation'. Im looking forward to reading more comments on this one because I am interested in the thoughts of others and the way this can be interpreted.

nickflight said...

I was talking to my wife and some buddy's the other day about this parable. Katie pointed out that the order of wording seems to indicate that "we" refers to the generation not Christ/J-the-B. The "other" are God. So when the generation "played the flute" (in other words partied hard), and the God answered with John the Baptist telling people to repent not "eating nor drinking" they said he "had a demon". When the generation "sang a dirge" (in other words lived legalistic lives focused on the law without the God who wrote the law), God responded with Jesus hope-filled message, "eating and drinking", and the people said he was a drunk.

The application is pretty much the same but I had the order around the wrong way which affects it a bit. I think Coz is right when she says it is about accepting the "good and the bad"... what we like and what we don't like as well.

God works in many many diffeent ways and His message with sterness and with love. We need both.

Corrie said...

just letting you know.. i am still pondering this one! i feel a bit silly trying to understand it..

Incredibletech said...

In order to understand any parable of Yahshua (Jesus) it is important to stay in the context of the event. The event starts with John "the baptizer". John sends two of his disciples to Yahshua with a question, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another"? So Yahshua explains who he is by the works he has already done. Now this is interesting because John has testified that Yahshua was the christ (which was the Jewish great expectation) so John clearly knew who he was but fell to the interpretations of the day regarding the Messiah. Now after Yahshua explains to Johns disciples who he was by way of his statement in verse 5 he begins to speak to the multitudes (which may include the religious leaders of that day). Before we go into the parable I want to make a critical statement. Yahshua said in verse 6, And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me", why would he make that statement? Well, because the Jewish expectation was that the Messaih was going to free them of gentile rulership via the roman government but Yahshua went about healing the blind, and sick, the lame, lepers, the deaf, raising the dead, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom (which says, the Kingdom of God has come, repent and believe this gospel (good news, which is the Kingdom has come), If Yahshua was claiming to be the messiah and he wasn't doing what was expected I would be offended too. So, Yahshua explains who John the baptist was in his opening statement to the crowds by asking them a question. "What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? In other words, John was in the wilderness but did you go to see the wind blowing a reed. He (Yahshua) continues with further questions. "But what went ye out for to see> A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, behold, I send my messanger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee. So Yahshua is saying that John was the last prophet before the Messiah would come and even greater than a prophet he was a herald declaring the coming of the Messiah. This is why Yahshua is ticked of because John knew who he was and John said that the father in heaven told him personally that the Messiah would be noticed by the Holy Spirit descending upon him. That's two witnesses to John about who the Messiah was and John has the never to send his disciples questioning if Yahshua is the Messiah. Johns father losted his ability to speak because he didn't believe that John's mother could be pregnant in old age. I'm sure John's father told him the story about his birth and John knew the danger of disbelief. Continuing, Yahshua goes into the parable and his parable is in context of John's intial question (Are you the one, or do we look for another) and Yahshua's explaination of who John was. Yahshua said that John the baptist was Elijah who was to come before the Messiah and the Kingdom (Messiah means: anointed King, and the Kingdom can't be seperated from the Kingdom; More on that in anotheer article). This statement should have been clear to the multitudes of Yahshua's day.

Incredibletech said...

Yahshua clearly stated that he was the Messiah (if they could recieve that fact that John was Elijah and the condition doesn't change the fact of Yahshua being the Messiah). So he explains what this particular generation is like (in that day). But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like children (this generation) sitting in the markets and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped to you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. This parable is a parable of expectation. The children (this generation) expected that when they were performing in their play by piping that their fellows would dance and they didn't dance or when they mourned performing a funeral their fellows did not lament. They was an expectation, here and the expectation wasn't met. Imagine if you were performing in a play and you didn't get the expected responce, how would you react? So Yahshua, was explaining to the multitudes that the Messiah wasn't going to do what they expected him to do, instead the Messiah was doing what Yahweh sent him to do (Isaiah 61:1-3). So verse 19, Yahshua says the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. In other words, they were saying how can he be the Messiah because he is caring on this way and we expect the Messiah to rule instead of eating, drinking, and socailizing with the enemy. Yahshua's response to this is they that are sick needs a doctor. For I came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Incredibletech said...

So Yahshua was addressing the confusion and expectation of the Jewish people concerning the Messiah.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe he is talking about denominationalism? This parable came to me while I was reading through 3 different "brothers" of different denominations talking about different beliefs...all of "us" tend to wine and whinge and in doing so we take our eye off the the real problem - we don't know how to love each other...

Now before you go all sucky inside and say yeahh...ahhh its about love - we need to get to grips with what is love - love is a love of the truth in 1 john we are told that we are to love our brothers and if we don't love our brothers then we don't know Christ. The thing - its about sin...leviticus 19:17 tells us that we are not to hate our brothers and sisters but we are to reprove them when we find them in sin!? So then if we see brothers and sisters openly sinning - stop turning a blind eye!? You wouldn't drive passed a body in the would stop and call the emergency service...sin will kill the soul fare more serious...we need to direct brothers and sisters back to the cross of Christ where they can find forgiveness...ignorance is no cure.

Kay Murry said...

He is also speaking of the increasing discontent in society. So many more people, communities, groups are discontented, unsatisfied, attention-seeking, irredeemable - childish in self-centeredness; self-entitled. The spirit of resistance is growing exponentially. No one can fix the state of such hardened hearts, apart from Jesus Christ of Nazareth.