A new section of the book opens in 11:1; a section that continues through chapter 14 in which Jesus’ ministry is viewed in light of the rejection of certain groups of Jews. We begin with the change of scene in verse 1 in which Matthew tells us that after giving the disciples their instruction, Jesus went out to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. His activities here are much the same as they had been before, when some of John the Baptist’s disciples bring Him a question from John, who is in prison: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus gives them an interesting reply to convey to John: Go and tell him what you have seen… and then He adds something else: “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (10:6). John was the one who was called to prepare the way for Jesus; he must not stumble now that he is in prison. Could it be that John, like so many others, had expected a Messiah who would come to settle old scores and rise up a new, earthly and political Israel?
After giving His answer, Jesus continued addressing the crowd, now speaking of John. In verses 7-10, He confirms both His own identity and John’s by recounting just exactly who John was, and the fact that he was sent to prepare Jesus’ way onto the scene, quoting from the prophet Malachi. In 11 ff. Jesus continues:
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (11:11-15)
With these words, 2 things are clear: First, yes, John was the real messenger of God, and second, something is amiss, for their Messiah and God’s Kingdom are under attack by the forces of darkness. He continues:
“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
“‘We played the pipe 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 deeds.” (11:16-19)
Jesus goes on in these verses to compare the people of that generation to children who are playing their games and complaining about everything. One group complains that nobody is dancing, the other group that nobody is mourning; neither is happy. They complained about John’s austerity, they complain about Jesus’ festivity…
Why are they really complaining?
So they can deflect attention and avoid making a choice to either follow or reject the message they are hearing, but what they are overlooking is that their avoidance is indeed their decision, and their fate is already sealed.
Sound familiar to anyone?
“There is nothing new under the sun.”