Matthew 11:16-19 New International Version (NIV)
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
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, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Most of us here, and in fact most of the people in the world love to think that they have come to believe what they have believed because the evidence has lead them to their conclusions; that they are purely objective in their belief. In other words the reason other people don’t believe what I believe is because they are stupid or morally bankrupt. Theists do this about atheists and atheists return the favour and do it about theist.
This simply isn’t the case. People only believe what their presuppositions allow them to believe. And in fact this is exactly what Jesus is identifying here in this passage tonight. People are rejecting him, not because what he says is controversial, or difficult they are rejecting him because they simply don’t want to believe him. So tonight I hope to paint as Jesus paints the reasons why the Christian faith is true and in the same way expose the worlds and in fact our presupposition that are keeping us from trusting God and believing him to be good.
So Jesus identifies why people don’t believe and it is because;
1. We are Children having a tantrum
Jesus starts this with what should I compare this generation to? Then he goes about describing a scene that everyone in the crowd would be familiar with. A group of Children playing while their parents shop. This group of children are trying to negotiate the kind of games that they are going to play, and one child starts playing a wedding song, a happy tune to dance to, and the rest of the children start crying out, not that one, dancing is stupid.
So, the child says well lets play a funeral song, a dirge, but the children cry out again, no that is stupid, we don’t want a sad song now. Now anyone with kids knows this situation; it is basically children throwing a tantrum, and no matter what you do they don’t want it; because effectively they are just having a tantrum that they aren’t getting their way.
Jesus effectively relates the crowd, and effectively us today to a bunch of kids having a tantrum that we can’t have it our way. And this is exactly what was happening in this situation; John was preaching repentance, and he was too harsh a demon, Jesus comes preaching grace and he is a drunkard. The reality is that no amount of evidence, or convincing would convince the people that He was the Christ, they had decided that he was not, because to use the illustration he wasn’t playing their song.
The reality is that we think God is unfair, we think the bible is old-fashioned, we don’t come to church because you know those people are hypocrites. We stay away from God not because He doesn’t make sense, because He doesn’t play to our tune.We all want a God who simply allows us to be us. Who doesn’t cramp “our style” so we read the bible and leave it. because that God is so retrograde. The reality is that we don’t delight in the God of Scripture, not because he doesn’t make sense rather, he doesn’t make sense to us, because we don’t want God we want a God who appeals to us. And this is the crisis of Many of us as we read scripture; it was John Calvin who said that the Bible has to be inspired by God, as no other book so glorifies God and humbles man.
This is why we don’t read and love the Scriptures, because it makes us too small and God too big, this is why we avoid church, this is why we do not throw our lives at the foot of the cross and say LORD I am yours, because we don’t want the God of Scripture, we want a God who works for us, we want a genie who grants our requests, a tame God who overlooks our faults and demands nothing of us. But, this is not Scripture, and this is not Christianity; you see as Jesus pictures in the passage;
2. Christianity is too pessimistic
John came preaching repentance, his message was a simple message, repent for God’s Messiah is coming and when He comes He will come to judge the whole world! Repent and believe! It was a pessimistic message of judgment of sin. This was John’s message, and the people, as Jesus says, call him possessed. Well, the message of Christianity still has this pessimism about it. You cannot preach the gospel without mentioning judgment of sin! In fact the message of the Gospel – of Christianity – is that you are more sinful that you could ever believe. In places in Paul’s writing the absolute level of our sinfulness is described as endless, we are helplessly sinful. No-one wants to hear that, we want nice messages that we are deep down okay people, follow your heart, the power was in you the whole time. I mean, we have spent our lives trying to convince ourselves of these lie. But when you are alone and are actually forced to reconcile who you think you are with how you actually are; how do you stack up? We are hopelessly sinful, and most of the time we feel inadequate for the challenges of life. I know what is good, but can’t seem to motivate myself to do, and the evil I know I should avoid, that is the stuff I end up doing all the time! We should cry out as Paul cries out in Rom 7 Oh, what a wretched man I am!
This is the pessimistic message that John was bringing, and it is the pessimistic message of the bible and Christianity. The people, rejected John, and reject Christianity because it is too harsh. Nietzsche excuses this harshness as lower class and weak peoples jealousy of the strong and powerful. Marx called this the Opiate of the masses, and the Church peaches this as a power play to keep people down. The new Atheist calls this shackles that are meant to hold back the human spirit. It is too harsh. But it does account for the reality we find ourselves in. Unshackled, freed and empowered people don’t gravitate towards goodness, they descend into chaos.
If you want to account for what is wrong with the world, it is not a force out there, it is not the economics, or politics, or social realities; it is the human heart! Given the opportunity people will take advantage of each other, and abuse each other. So Christianity gives an accurate account of the world; it is chaos, because deep down in our hearts chaos reigns! But that is only one side of Christianity and the Message of Christ because;
3. Christianity is too optimistic
Jesus identifies himself as a friend of tax collectors and sinners, eating and drinking, the crowd calls him a drunkard. The gospel is always too optimistic; it comes to say, you want freedom from your sins, you want love, you want hope in your life, trust in Christ to be your salvation! And the rebuttal is; is that it?! You will always get someone saying, “I simply can’t believe in a Region that says that the worst of child killers on their death bed can simply ask for forgiveness and they will be saved! That is not fair!” But that is the point; the whole message of the gospel is unfair, we don’t get what we deserve, because Christ got what we deserve. It is far too optimistic, far too simple, far too easy for the world to hear. Ask yourself does any other way actually fix the crisis in the human heart? Every other religion; says try and be good, that is what we want to hear! Live a good life, the question is can we, and a deeper question is how good is good enough.
One of the great crisis of a life lived trying to live up, is the ideal is always the next step on the ladder out of reach. I’ll explain it as such; you want to live a good life; so you get rid of all the obviously bad things in your life, you don’t swear, abuse alcohol, you try and look after yourself and you try and be kind to others. Easy. The problem is who says you are done? What about, not lying? Well that get’s harder, cause what about white lies? What about lying to not hurt people’s feelings. What about always treating others with kindness and goodness, that is easy until you realise what about people you disagree with or who are actively against you? Next you will realise that all this is useless unless you actually fix your thought life, and here you will discover that you are actually hopeless to fix yourself, because feeling and desires seem to jump out of nowhere and impress themselves upon you. so thoughts jump out of no-where and cause you to think horrible things! Are you guilty of those thoughts, and you will discover that trying to live up to the standards that even you set become increasingly more difficult the more you do them.
The only way to really be good, is to, I don’t know become a new creature, be maybe born again, but this time good! And this is the extreme optimism of the Gospel church, that which people don’t want to accept because of what it means! The gospel says that when you trust in Christ, you die to yourself, and live in Him, you are given a new nature so that you no longer live, but that He lives in and through you. We don’t like this profoundly optimistic view because if it is true it means that we indeed truly owe God everything! We cannot own our salvation, and therefor have nothing to bargain with we are simply His! He owns us, because he purchased us with His very blood!
You see the message of the gospel is far too pessimistic and far too optimistic for the world, the question is; is it true?
4. Wisdom proves it right
In fact, in the Greek it says, and Wisdom is proven right by her children. In other words, Jesus is saying, what is produced will show you this is all true. Another way of saying this is to say; look at the person who says life is just about living, there is no judge, live how you want, do whatever you want! Look at that person and see are they free? Have they discovered life? Has the wisdom of that life shown fruit? The answer is for a season it looks good, but the dead end of that life is nihilism, if nothing matters, then nothing matters so what is even the point of going on? A life of no boundaries ends up being a life of no meaning and chaos.
Well, what about a life of strict rules? Look at what it produces, a life filled with guilt, filled with hypocritical self-righteousness, powerless harshness and dead teaching.
Wisdom proves itself, the gospel proves itself; look at the life the gospel produces, a life that recognises the world is bad, because I am bad! There is a real humility there, but the gospel also says I am so loved that the God of this world loved me enough to die for me. In this there is a deep yet humble confidence! A true peace a happiness, a meaning to life that nothing else can give. The gospel proves itself!
Now, I must warn you as C.S. Lewis does in don’t come to Christianity, don’t come to Christ, because you want to be happy, or because you want meaning, because if you do you won’t come with your whole heart. Come to Christianity because it is true, and because it is true it will give you happiness and meaning. “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” – C.S. Lewis
We cannot come to in on our terms, it cannot be played the way we want it to be played, to use the illustration that Christ uses, it is not our song, therefore we cannot sing it on our terms. It is true, and therefore have to come to it with our everything!
So, stop trying to come to God on your own terms, stop trying to get God to sing your song, come the gospel for what it is God’s truth spoken to us! And believe!