In our first teaching session today, Christian Associates president Rob Fairbanks quickly led us through the brief teaching moment of Jesus in Luke 7. Here it is:
31 “To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance;
we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Isn’t that a fascinating paragraph, oft overlooked by Bible scholars and teachers? The context is John the Baptist, who when hearing of the great miracles of Jesus sent his disciples to inquire whether or not Jesus was the messiah. It was a strange request, considering that John himself had identified Jesus as the Messiah on the banks of the Jordan river but only a few months earlier. I have yet to hear a good explanation of John’s actions but they happened and that’s all that matters. Jesus, though, turns to the crowd and holds John is incredibly high honor. He says in verse 28 that there is no one greater than John (outside of Christ Himself, of course), yet the smallest in the kingdom of heaven is greater than even John. John was the modern Elijah. He fulfilled Scripture and prepared the way for the Lord. His baptism mission was the biggest show in town until Jesus started His public ministry. Many sinners came to the water to repent of their wicked ways. The Pharisees and lawyers (scholars/scribes), however, did not repent. John was an prophetic aberration to them — a public nuisance that was best ignored (so long as he stayed out in the desert).
Jesus, knowing their hearts of disdain, makes a major point in the next few verses. Those who reject God’s kingdom purpose are never going to be happy. They will miss the very basic truths of the incarnation of Christ in order to pick apart His ministry methods. What are the men of this generation like? Jesus asks. They sing and dance and play to elicit an emotional response but fail to receive one. But when they look at the emotional responses John and Jesus were receiving they scoff and accuse. John’s an ascetic who lives a stricter-than-strict lifestyle. If anyone obeys the Law, surely it is John! But instead of recognizing his piety and purpose, they say he has a demon. He’s crazy! Looney. Nuts. Psycho. “Homeland Security!”
And Jesus, who drinks wine and laughs and attends parties with the sordid sort… he’s a drunkard and a fatso and keeps unclean company! Yet, people were being emotionally impacted by John and Jesus. Not by the Pharisees. Can you say “jealousy?” I also say “wishy-washy.” Who’s message will be proved right, the Pharisees or Christ? The fruit of the message will answer that question. Wisdom is proven right by her children.
Here in this short story, we see several things about Christ. First of all, we see the power of God’s grace in the incarnation of Christ. God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood pub. He didn’t just go to the health clinics and religious institutions. He went to the places of ill repute so the grace of God might be seen where it would be most obvious. He took quite a few hits from the legalists but that didn’t sway Him from His mission. He befriends tax collectors and sinners! So should we. This is a core value of Christian Associates. Jesus moved into the places where salvation was needed and befriended the lost so that they might see the truth of God incarnate in Him. The Son of Man came to serve, and to seek and save the lost. CA also encourages its churches to serve their communities while seeking to save.
A second point I’d like to make is that being wishy-washy gets you nowhere in life. The music’s too loud, the music’s too soft; the preacher’s too bland, the preacher’s a story-teller, etc. When we start to pick apart everything, we start to grow embittered, angry, and resentful. Hurts happen more easily and believers get sidetracked from being effective in the kingdom of heaven. There are too many wishy-washy Christians, just as there were too many wishy-washy Pharisees. When you don’t like anything, you stop seeing the value in everything.
As James later wrote, can salt water come out of a fresh water spring? No! A fresh water spring only produces one kind of water — fresh. If you don’t like fresh water or sea water you’re probably going to die of dehydration.
I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.
Anyway, Rob only covered the incarnational part of this passage today. I was fascinated by the rest and it reminded me of the griping we have going on in our churches today. We’re missing the boat on a lot of great acts of the Lord because we’re too busy pointing out what’s wrong and stewing over it. We often miss so much, including the deep impact of a sermon, worship song or video on a fellow believer, because we’re too wishy-washy. Jesus came seeking ministry. We should, too.