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#3 Children in the marketplace Matthew 11:11-21

This Parable is told in the context of rejection of John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:11-21
11  “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12  And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13  For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14  And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

16  But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,
17  and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament’ 

18  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”  20  Then He began to rebuke the cities in which 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 which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Luke 7:31-32
31  And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like?

32  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.’

In Chapter 11 of Matthew, John the Baptist sends two disciples to inquire of Jesus.  In verse 7 we see Jesus defending, or lending credit to John the Baptist. In verses 16-19 Jesus rebukes and condemns the Jews for unwillingness to accept both His and John’s message. In verses 25,26 He praises the divine plan of the Father to reveal the gospel to those of simple and open hearts. In verse 27 He declares that the knowledge of the Father only comes through the Son. In verses 29,30 He promises rest for their souls.

Verse 15. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus condemns the Jews for not being willing to listen – an action which was a common vice –  Zec 7:11, Acts 28:27. One only has to do a quick Bible search of “ears hear” to find many similar verses – Ps 115:6, 135:17, Isa 6:10, 32:3, 42,20, Jer 5:21, 19:3, Eze 12:2, Matt 13:15, Mark 4:9,23, 7:16, 8:18, Luke 8:8, 14:35, Rom 11:8.

Verse 16 begins a very short parable within a context of condemnation of the Jews.

Verse 16  But to what shall I liken this generation? Generation – G1074 γενεά genea – from (a presumed derivative of) <G1085> (genos); a generation; by implication an age (the period or the persons) :- age, generation, nation, time.

Verse 16 “It is like children sitting in the marketplaces” Jesus is likening the Jews to children The Jews are either not caring, or not discerning, which is how children often act.

Verse 16 “and calling to their companions  The parallel or, typology, of this phrase should be understood as – Jesus speaking to his countrymen. He is basically saying – I am one of you, and I am speaking as the law and the prophets, and you are not listening!

In this context Jesus is specifically targeting the then living Jews. He is speaking to them in terms with which they were familiar. They were very familiar with children playing in the market place while their parents were shopping. However, the Greek word translated market place can also mean any public place where the Jews would gather.

Verse 17 “and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance;  This apparently was game that the children played, in which they were expected to dance if a flute was played. To not dance to the flute would be considered a rejection of the one doing the playing.

Verse 17 “We mourned to you, And you did not lament‘” — Mourned G2354 θρηνέω thrēneō from <G2355> (threnos); to bewail :- lament, mourn. Lament G2875 κόπτω koptōa primary verb; to “chop”; specially to beat the breast in grief :- cut down, lament, mourn, (be-) wail. Compare the base of <G5114> (tomoteros).

Tradition would dictate that the Jews would share both in rejoicing and in mourning. But the Jews of Jesus’ day were not accepting of his teaching and were not willing to share in the good news of the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

Verse 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  19  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” 

This method of attack – the attack upon the messenger, has been used from the time in the Garden of Eden Gen 3:5. Typically when someone has no good refutation of a teaching, or doesn’t want to deal with the teaching, they will resort to this kind of attack. They dismiss or label the teacher rather than admit wrong doing, or admit their inability to refute what is being taught.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attack on an argument made by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, rather than attacking the argument directly. When used inappropriately, it is a logical fallacy in which a claim or argument is dismissed on the basis of some irrelevant fact or supposition about the author or the person being criticized.  Ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, for example, when it relates to the credibility of statements of fact or when used in certain kinds of moral and practical reasoning.

Here Jesus is asking what would it take for them to accept God’s revelation, God’s instruction? God had sent them two totally different types of messengers, one who did not participate in normal society and one who did. But they had dismissed both of them! The more that God did for his people, the less excuse they had for rejecting Him. They truly were filling up the measure of their father’s guilt Matt 23:32, 1Thess 2:16. 

Brent E. Hughes