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What Malachi predicted is finally happening. This generation finally stands in the presence of the herald and the Messiah. How does this generation receive that message? Jesus explains with an analogy: Jesus and John are like children sitting in the marketplace playing the flute and calling to their friends to dance, but their friends refuse.
The Messiah has come and he is confronting everyone with a choice to believe and repent. Everyone has to repent or stumble over Jesus. After Jesus reassured the crowd that John is the important prophet they think he is, and like everyone else, John needs to make the choice to follow Jesus, Jesus continues to address the issue of how the Jews respond to him.
16“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” – Matthew 11:16-18
- Scripture tells us about John’s eating and drinking habits: Matthew 3:4; Luke 1:13-15.
- Compare with Luke 7:27-30.
- The complaints about John’s habits and this charge of him having demon most likely came from the scribes and Pharisees.
- They say John was possessed because he deprived himself of good food and drink. They say Jesus was a sinner because he did not deprive himself of good food and drink.
- When the flute players play at a wedding, the appropriate response is to celebrate and dance. When the flute players play at a funeral, the appropriate response is to mourn.
- The Pharisees, like the playmates, refuse to respond appropriately. They want John & Jesus to conform to their expectations, so they complain about abstaining or indulging whatever works.
- In the end, the choices of John and Jesus will be seen to be wisdom.
- Most religious leaders rejected both John and Jesus because neither fit their model of what a religious person ought to be. The Pharisees concentrated in an inconsistent way on their outward behavior and missed the significance of their lives and messages.
20Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” – Matthew 11:20-24
- Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are in the northern region of Galilee.
- Jesus denounces the Jews living in that region, because even though the saw more of his miracles and heard more of his teaching than anyone else, they did not repent.
- Structure: “Woe to you Jewish city, for if the notoriously sinful pagan cities had seen my miracles they would have repented. It will be worse for you on judgment day than for those pagan cities.”
- Tyre and Sidon are two Phoenician cities on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Gentile territory. They are denounced by the prophets (e.g. Ezekiel 26-28).
- Scripture frequently mentions the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19): Dt 29:23; Dt 32:32; Isa 1:9-10; Isa 3:9; Isa 13:19; Jer 23:14; Lam 4:6; Eze 16:46-56; Zep 2:9; Mat 10:15; Matt 11:24; Luk 10:12; Luk 17:29; Rom 9:29; 2Pet 2:6; Jud 1:7.
- These Galilean cities rejected the clearest statement God has ever made.
- Today, we are in a similar danger of rejecting the Jesus we meet in the gospels, because he doesn’t meet our expectations.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
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Series: Gospel of Matthew 8-13 Behold the King, Part 2
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Podcast season 20, episode 20