Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (Luke 7:31-34 NIV)
This statement has the oddest context in Luke. Jesus finishes with the Centurion, healing his servant from a distance, then raises a widow’s son from the dead right in the midst of the funeral procession. John’s disciples see it, tell John the Baptist, and he sends them back to ask Jesus if He’s the One? Jesus replies with a “resume” of stuff these disciples have seen (even as they arrive to ask). He goes on to describe John (greatest man, but least in the Kingdom of God…perplexing also), and then ropes in the Pharisees and Lawyers into his diatribe. This is what He has to say about them.
I think the key here is to look at what He says, but then to imagine the picture He paints. His point isn’t remote, it’s actually lying around on the surface, but think about how He makes it. They are like children so young and not expected to know anything. They sit in the marketplace, therefore “orphan beggar children”. Since they see themselves as “Children of Abraham”, this is a huge insult. To call them “orphans” divorces them from their treasured heritage. But He continues on with “calling out to each other”, which means they are separate, orphan children begging alone in the market, calling out to each other. And what do they call out? Complaints about those they are begging from.
Garnishing Indictment With Insult
The picture Jesus paints with His words are insulting in the extreme to the Pharisees and lawyers. It invalidates any pretense and prideful foundation on which they base their behavior. That insulting setup is what supports their complaint and Jesus’ indictment of them. They claim they play or sing, happy or sad, and Jesus doesn’t behave accordingly; dance or weep. They want Jesus to respond to their direction and guidance. Think that through. Jesus, Maker of heaven and earth, One forming stars with a word, Who formed humans from dust and breath, should “dance to their tune”. Clearly they have no idea what’s going on here.
Who Are The Begging Orphan Children?
Looked at from that perspective, it’s easy to point fingers at their foolishness and shake our heads. But we are indicted by the same insult. Take that context of orphan children begging in a market alone. What do we have we were not given? Aren’t we orphan beggar children completely dependent upon our Master? What foundation do we have other than Jesus? When we accept our poverty and status before Him, we’re supposed to behave accordingly. But this is America! We are driven by our wants, desires, and mostly whims. So really, even though we are begging orphan children, we behave as if we’re the wealthy to be catered to.
“No way!” we say. Go ahead and say it. So have you ever complained about your preacher’s preaching? Not that it wasn’t “biblical” but wasn’t interesting? Have you ever complained about the music? Has it been too loud, too quiet, too fast, too slow? Have your fellow “worshipers” been too loud, obnoxious, or otherwise distracting? In other words, have you complained because you didn’t like something, didn’t like it so much it distracted you from God, your Maker, your Savior? Then you have played a tune to which Jesus didn’t dance. I could go on, buildings, decorations, flowers, chairs, pews, pulpits, you name it. You know them, they sprang to mind as soon as I started the list. Your item popped into your mind. I have some bad news that provides and opportunity for some good:
REPENT! The Kingdom of God is near, but you are not the KING; and so you are missing it!
Fighting Against The Tide
It’s insidious really. Our culture preaches that we should, that we have a right to be catered to. It’s the current distortion of capitalism, the popular “opiate of the masses” feeding the economy of greed in which we now live and breathe, and often find our being and worth. So Scripture calling the reader to WAKE UP now applies to us. The driving truth that “It’s NOT about us” needs to be consumed in draughts. All that distracts us from our Master, Jesus, the Anointed One of God, the Only Beloved Son of the Most High, must die. It must be purged from us. But it’s not easy. It requires help, divine help. In a sense we commit spiritual suicide in order to live eternally. It’s a weird reversal of what we want, what we hear, what comes naturally, and what we see others pursuing at break-neck speed.
In psychology, it’s called “re-framing”; overlaying new meaning to what we see and experience. It replaces the mental filter through which we interpret our experiences. We need the “frame” defined by Jesus. We need His filter! So, return to the Sermon on the Mount. Go back to the Sermon on the Plan. Walk through Romans as though through a garden, the Garden of Eden. Smell the aroma of our Risen Savior’s footprints, and follow where He has gone, where He leads us now. Let yourself be transformed as He renews your mind with His frames and filters. Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus! Let the Holy Spirit of God work on you to conform you more and more into the image of Jesus.
The “Practical” Reframe
We tell our kids to “count to ten before getting angry”. Okay, so do the same, but as you count, submit to Jesus. Choose against your desires that compete for the attention only Jesus deserves. Did your boss make a decision that you didn’t like? Choose the path of submission to Jesus. Is traffic not to your liking? How can you honor Jesus with your extra time in the commute? Are your kids driving you nuts? What lesson is Jesus teaching you so you can pass on to them by demonstration? What are you doing with your “free time”? What do you watch on TV? What movies have inspired you this past year? Have all these things brought honor to our Master? What are you more familiar with, the Star Wars universe or Scripture?
This is the struggle that defines our life with Jesus. The joyous truth is that we can win this struggle! Well, we can be on the winning side anyway. We can experience victory, but we have to relent. We only experience victory as we submit to Jesus. Jesus expressed the strange reversal best when He said, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will gain eternal life.” It makes no sense. I’m terrible at it. I want stuff my way in my timing in all circumstances. And I get grumpy when I don’t get it. And whenever I pout about it instead of relenting, I’m the begging orphan child in the market playing a tune for my Master to dance to.
What’s your view through the knothole?