Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Proud and the Lowly
AFTER mentioning the virtues of John the Baptizer, Jesus turns attention to the proud, fickle people around him. “This generation,” he declares, “is like young children sitting in the marketplaces who cry out to their playmates, saying, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance; we wailed, but you did not beat yourselves in grief.’”
What does Jesus mean? He explains: “John came neither eating nor drinking, yet people say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man did come eating and drinking, still people say, ‘Look! A man gluttonous and given to drinking wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”
It is impossible to satisfy the people. Nothing pleases them. John has lived an austere life of self-denial as a Nazirite, in keeping with the angel’s declaration that “he must drink no wine and strong drink at all.” And yet the people say he is demonized. On the other hand, Jesus lives like other men, not practicing any austerity, and he is accused of excesses.
How hard to please the people are! They are like playmates, some of whom refuse to respond with dancing when other children play the flute or with grief when their fellows wail. Nevertheless, Jesus says: “Wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” Yes, the evidence—the works—make clear that the accusations against both John and Jesus are false.
Jesus goes on to single out for reproach the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where he has performed most of his powerful works. If he had done them in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus says, these cities would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Condemning Capernaum, which apparently has been his home base during his ministry, Jesus declares: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom on Judgment Day than for you.”
What does Jesus mean by this? Evidently he is showing that, during Judgment Day when proud ones in Capernaum are resurrected, it will be more difficult for them to admit their mistakes and accept Christ than it will be for the resurrected ancient Sodomites to repent humbly and learn righteousness.
Jesus next publicly praises his heavenly Father. He is moved to do so because God conceals precious spiritual truths from wise and intellectual ones but reveals these marvelous things to lowly ones, to babes, as it were.
Finally, Jesus gives the appealing invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”
How does Jesus offer refreshment? He does so by providing freedom from the enslaving traditions with which the religious leaders have burdened the people, including, for example, restrictive Sabbath-keeping regulations. Also, he shows the way of relief to those who feel the crushing weight of domination by the political authorities and to those who feel the weight of their sins through an afflicted conscience. He reveals to such afflicted ones how their sins can be forgiven and how they can enjoy a precious relationship with God.
The kindly yoke Jesus offers is one of complete dedication to God, being able to serve our compassionate, merciful heavenly Father. And the light load Jesus offers to those who come to him is that of obeying God’s requirements for life, His commandments, which are not at all burdensome. Matthew 11:16-30; Luke 1:15; 7:31-35; 1 John 5:3.
◆ How is Jesus’ generation like children?
◆ How will it be more endurable for Sodom than for Capernaum?
◆ In what ways are people burdened down, and what relief does Jesus offer?