July 5, 2020, Matthew 11:7-19 – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

Did I put too many questions before you this past Monday? As I reread that post, I see I asked a lot of you.

After the post was up, I came across this from the novelist William Styron,

“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.”

The quote connected with me because I am asking us to look at the lives of several different folk as we reflect on the passage. One great way of exploring Scripture is to try to live into the lives and situations of the folk we encounter in Scripture.

Ready for some more?

You can find this week’s passage at – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+11%3A7-19&version=NRSV

Today let’s focus our attention on this part –

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
                Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus asks us to consider some children playing with one another. And one group of the children have a problem with the other group because they are not playing according to the rules. They don’t play the game right, they don’t act as is expected.

He then shifts the focus to John and the Son of Man (can we all agree this is Jesus’ self-designation for himself?).
He says John came on the scene “neither eating nor drinking.” We might say he had a rather stern or even ascetic lifestyle. And “this generation” said of John “he has a demon.”

Jesus says the Son of Man “came eating and drinking.” By the logic of how they viewed John, you might expect that at the least they would say of the Son of Man that he has no demon. But that is not what they say. They characterize the Son of Man, Jesus, as a “glutton … and drunkard.” And then, they say something the Gospels would tell us is true. They say Jesus is a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But from the context, it does not seem they mean that as a compliment about Jesus’ good character. It appears they would claim that being a friend of tax collectors and sinners is on the same level of bad behavior as being a glutton and drunkard.

So the folks Jesus calls “this generation” dismiss both John and Jesus as people who cannot offer them any worthwhile advice and are not to be imitated or followed.

Would you believe they got it wrong?

How is it that hearing John and Jesus, hearing what they taught, even seeing how they treated people, “this generation” got it so wrong?

How is it any of us today still mischaracterize people? We see someone and make quick judgments about who they are, how they live, the kind of people they are, and even what they are worth.

Can you recall having made such a judgement about someone and only later realized you got it wrong? What helped you realize your initial opinion of the person was wrong? How might that experience inform how you see people now?

If I have not completely exhausted you by now, give the scene in the Gospel some thought. Live there a while, and then see how that might inform your encounters with folk today and tomorrow.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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