by J. Randal Matheny, editor
“To what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’ 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, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Matthew 11:16-19 NET
John the Baptist did right. So did Jesus. Each, as different as they were from each other, fulfilled their ministries flawlessly, naysayers notwithstanding.
John’s austerity in dress and food underlined the severity of his message. Away from the centers of population, the Immersor preached a message of repentance, of abandoning the center of human achievement and the concentration of religious power for the quiet but radical change of the individual heart. He thundered forth a call to come out of the edifices of evil.
Jesus, on the other hand, as God-inserted-into-humanity, went to where the people were, a co-participant in their condition, if not their sin, where the joys and sorrows played out in families and towns and cities. Jesus knew he was sent to man, and to man he went, bringing the true hope-and-change message of eternal salvation. He proclaimed reconciliation with a God they had long discarded as too merciful and good.
Theirs was a Jonah society, and God had a messenger for them as well.
They showed their rejection of God by how they treated his messengers. Neither approach pleased them, because neither John nor Jesus fit their mold, so they lodged contradictory complaints. To those who had written their own music, no heavenly tune sounded just right to them.
God’s wisdom, garbed in wilderness austerity or neighborly love, could never please.
Churches and saints must know that good deeds as God defines them are never crowd-pleasers. To bend our efforts in order to appeal to the world is to play its rotten game. The attempt to win sinners’ allegiance by setting aside loyalty to the Lord’s authority is not a winning strategy.
Jesus and John approached their audiences differently, but their message of repentance for the coming Kingdom was the same. People played up their differences merely to discount the messengers and discard their message.
“But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Time will tell. The long term showed they were both right. Neither yielded to the pressures of critics. And both fulfilled their timely tasks.
We should do no less.