How do you respond to people who are hard to please? You know who they are. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, there is always something wrong. They are skeptical, critical, and judgmental about everyone and everything, and have a rather superior attitude about their own abilities and opinions.
Jesus ran into a few in the form of Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious lawyers (experts in the Mosaic Law). In Luke 7, Jesus is talking to the crowds about John the Baptist, who by this time has been taken prisoner by Herod. Many in the crowd had responded to John’s unique life and fiery messages of repentance and judgment against sin. They recognized him as a prophet of God who had pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah. Now, the crowds had to decide if they would accept Jesus, who came also preaching repentance, but in a completely different manner than John.
John lived an austere life, separated from the crowds. He did not participate in social events or the culture of the people; he did not eat their food or drink their wine. The people had to go out to the desert to hear him preach. Jesus, on the other hand, went to weddings and dinner parties. He lived among the people and was surrounded by crowds most of the time. He was always teaching and having conversations with those interested in hearing what He had to say.
Two completely different methods and personalities, but the same message: Repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their rejection of the gospel message, by comparing them to children playing games in the marketplace.
Luke 7:32-35 – They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon!” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.
The Pharisees rejected God’s purpose for themselves (Luke 7:30). God was speaking to them in multiple ways, but they continued to find reasons to reject Him. They were like children who refused to play with their friends; nothing pleased them. Jesus knew their hearts; they didn’t want to acknowledge or confront their own sinfulness, so they were making excuses by criticizing the method and messenger.
Some people are going to reject the gospel no matter what we say or how we present it. God gives all men free will. Our focus as Christ-followers can’t be on trying to please others or somehow make the gospel more “palatable.” We need to share the simple truth and let the Holy Spirit do the convincing.
By comparing the Pharisees to children, Jesus reminds us that frankly, some people won’t take the message seriously. Matthew Henry comments on this passage, “This is the ruin of multitudes, they can never persuade themselves to be serious in the concerns of their souls. Old men, sitting in the Sanhedrin, were but as children sitting in the market-place, and no more affected with the things that belonged to their everlasting peace than people are with children’s play.” The things of the world – money, success, entertainment, pleasure – will distract many to spend their lives at play on the broad road to destruction, never stopping long enough to contemplate the sobering truths that affect eternity.
Jesus concludes by saying, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” The gospel still bears fruit. It changes lives and transforms hearts. Those who are willing to hear and respond give evidence that it is true. Jesus’ words are vindicated by the effect they have on the surrendered heart.
How about you? Are you hard to please, finding every reason to disbelieve and reject God’s purpose for you? Do you find fault with those who share the good news about Jesus, so you don’t have to actually consider if their message is true?
The gospel isn’t child’s play. It’s serious truth with eternal consequences. Don’t miss the message because you’re distracted by the messenger.