An Obstinate Generation


An Obstinate Generation
Matthew 11:16–19 “To what shall I
compare this generation? It is like children
sitting in the marketplaces and
calling to their playmates” (v. 16).

Jesus finishes His teaching on
Elijah and John the Baptist with the enigmatic
statement, “He who has ears to
hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). This saying
presupposes the biblical view
of human depravity, revealing that human beings
need more than ears to hear —
to receive, understand, and act upon — divine
revelation. It is not as if
those who oppose Christ’s message cannot hear
spoken syllables and sounds
with their ears. Instead, the hurdle that prevents
sinful humanity from
receiving and embracing the Lord’s message is a moral
one. Apart from God’s
sovereign grace, His enemies do not want to believe His
promises or follow
His agenda (Ex. 7:13; Matt. 23:37–39; Rom. 1:18–32).

Christ makes this
point forcefully in today’s passage, assessing the hearts of
contemporaries using a back-and-forth exchange between two different
of children. Some kids complain that the other group does not dance to
tune of a flute; the other group complains that their dirge does not make
first crowd of children lament (Matt. 11:16–17). The kids represent those
against the Father. On the one hand, they did not join in when John came
the wilderness living an austere life and exhorting Israel to
(3:4–6). Yet this same group does not rejoice when Jesus preaches
about the
inauguration of God’s kingdom (4:17; 9:32–34). In other words,
there is
nothing that the Lord’s messengers can do to make those who hate Him
Whether the message is joyful or sad, the Father’s opponents will find
excuse to deny it (11:18–19). Their hearts are hardened, and their failure
embrace the Almighty’s word to their generation is the fault of neither
nor John.

As one commentator has noted, many of those living
during the ministry of
Jesus are like children who pout and whine when others
will not play their
game. They are hypocrites who will always find a reason
to complain when God’s
Word offends their ears. Without seeing the
inconsistencies of their view,
they reject both lamentation and celebration.
But in attributing sin to John
and Jesus and not themselves, they show
themselves to be fools. For the
miraculous works of Jesus show that the
unbeliever’s estimation is patently
false (11:19b).

Coram deo: Living
before the face of God
Henry asks, “If people will neither be awakened by the greatest
things, nor
allured by the sweetest things, nor startled by the most terrible
things, nor
be made aware by the plainest of things; if they will listen to
the voice
neither of Scripture, nor reason, nor experience, nor providence,
conscience, nor interest, what more can be done?” There are none so blind
those who will not see. Are you like those who refuse to heed our

For further study:

Numbers 11

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