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The Parable of The Children in the Marketplace Made Simple

(Matthew 11:16-19)

Jesus shared this parable in Matthew 11:16-19:

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.”

Okay, let us have a look at things. Jesus had good things to say about children. He said, “Let the children come to me for such is the Kingdom of God, unless you enter as a child, unless you think and reason like a child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:14) And yet here, He is using children as a rebuke. So what’s the difference?

Well, let me tell you what childlike faith is. Childlike faith is like a child who is totally dependent on his parents. A child, if his dad doesn’t work and his mom doesn’t do the shopping, will starve. Most children don’t know how to cook for themselves, how to pay electricity bills, how to pay the rent, how to do adult things. Essentially, left to their own devices, our children would be in serious trouble.

To have childlike faith, therefore, is to be totally dependent on God and let Him rule in your life. It’s true, when an adult comes to God in humility, he becomes childlike.

In this parable “childlike” is something different. It is more like “childish” - a child who wants his own way, a rebellious, stubborn, sort of child. You know children are very good at getting their own way. They can be all happy and nice when it comes to wanting to get a treat. As soon as they don’t get their treat, they can throw a tantrum on the floor. This is the sort of child that Jesus is talking about.

“We played a flute for you and you did not dance.” (v. 17a)

If you truly tried to please a person, it shouldn’t matter if they danced or not. If you wanted to play a flute for Jesus, you should just be happy that He’d listen to it. He doesn’t have to dance.

“We mourned to you and you did not lament.” (v. 17b) You did not mourn with us. It’s just selfishness and immature childish ways.

The Scriptures, in I Corinthians 13 says, “When I was a child, I did childish things. But now that I’m a man, I’ve put away these childish things.” It is like Jesus saying to the Pharisees, the leaders and the people of this generation, “You need to grow up. John came in the spirit of Elijah. He didn’t drink as he was a Nazarite. Because he didn’t drink, you said that he had a demon. I came along and I wasn’t a Nazarite, and I drank. And you said I was a drinker; that I am a drunk. I didn’t fast all the time, so you called me a glutton. And you think I’m a bit of a jerk because I hang out with tax collectors and sinners and that would be beneath you, Pharisees.”

Jesus is a very gentle, meek and mild person. But he is also the sort of person I like. I like someone who doesn’t speak about me to other people in a derogatory manner and it’d get back to me through those people. I’d rather a person who has a problem with me speak it to me face to face. Now, I’m a person who doesn’t like confrontation. But I enjoy hearing someone’s opinion of me. Even if it does hurt, I’d rather hear it face to face

Jesus was talking about John the Baptist and this is what led him to this. He was describing John the Baptist. Then he was talking about this current generation. John was said to be the greatest of all the Old Testament saints. Jesus said that we, as mere Christians, are greater than John because we’ve got the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Today, people reject Jesus on a few grounds. People reject Him saying that He’s not very nice, pronouncing that He’s the only way to the Father. If Jesus wasn’t the only way to the Father, He wouldn’t have had to die on the cross. Jesus in the garden said to His Father, “Let this cup pass from me if there is any other way, let it pass.” And His Father said, “No, there is no other way. You’ve got to die.” (Matthew 26: 39-42) If Jesus wasn’t the only way to heaven, He wouldn’t have had to go through that death on the cross.

Jesus came to give us eternal life. But the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus because He seemed to be a person that wasn’t keeping their rigid laws. It wasn’t so much the laws of Moses that Jesus was disobeying. It was all the added laws that the Pharisees had added in the interpretation of the Law. Jesus didn’t operate in the law; He operated in the spirit of the law. John the Baptist wasn’t Elijah, John the Baptist operated in the spirit of Elijah. Jesus operated out of love and mercy. That would mean that He’d heal on the Sabbath. He’d heal a sinner. He’d let a leper touch Him. What people would consider breaking the Law, Jesus considered love. Love trumps everything. Jesus brought in a New Covenant.

This parable of the children in the marketplace is sort of a warning to people who are stubborn against Jesus. But it’s also a warning to all of us that we shouldn’t be little children demanding things from Jesus. We shouldn’t be sitting down giving Him commands all through heaven; and then getting stubborn and upset because He didn’t jump to our commands or answer our prayers.

So many Christians pray the same prayer; but what they are actually asking for is something selfish or something that isn’t in the will of God. And they’d jump hopping mad. People fluctuate between not feeling loved by God and silently despising God. The Pharisees were no different. They despised Jesus.

The Christian church is a whole lot bigger and has got a whole lot more people employed in full time occupations than the Jewish religion of their day. In the Christian church Jesus has really trumped the Jewish leaders of today.

People of these days are inherently selfish and stubborn. They like things their own way. And so Jesus’ way just seems either too easy that you can be forgiven for all your sins simply by accepting Jesus into your life, or too hard that I’ve got to give up all these things, things that I liked to do.

So for whatever reason, they said to John he had a demon because he seemed a bit way out. They said he was possessed. They also said of Jesus that He was filled with Beelzebub. They said Jesus had a demon basically too, the prince of demons. They rejected Him because He was hanging around with the desperate and the hurting.

One way to imitate Jesus is to hang around the hurting ourselves and to give from what we have got. Like Jesus, this is showing an example; to hang around people who really need help and give out of our love in an overflow of what we get from Jesus Christ.

This is about all I have to say about this parable. It’s a warning to us Christians not to be like little stubborn, sad, rebellious children. Instead be a child, someone with childlike faith, who doesn’t hold grudges against God, who believes in a loving Father and knows that, like a good daddy, Jesus does what’s best for His children.

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