Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: 'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’" (Luke 7:31-32)The remarks come in the context of Jesus talking about John the Baptizer. John was the relative of Jesus whose task it was to prepare the world for the disclosure of the Messiah, Jesus. As part of that mission, John called people to repentance--that is, to turning away from sin and turning toward God--and offered a baptism of repentance.
John also had an ascetic life style. He didn't drink alcohol and he was never known to attend a party. Many found him offensive.
Jesus, on the other hand, did drink wine and His first miracle--turning water into wine--was at a party. Yet many of the same people offended by John were also offended by Jesus.
The source of their offense was that neither Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, nor John, Jesus' announcer, brought messages most people wanted to hear. Turn from sin? Put God first? Rely on God's grace through faith in Jesus instead of our own imagined goodness?
For most people, it was enough that they showed up at temple or synagogue, made their offerings, and tried to act decently. This, they thought, should keep God off their backs. They also thought that their outward shows of religiosity entitled them to critique John as prophet and Jesus as incarnate Deity.
Instead, John insisted that if people wanted to live rightly and with God, they needed to turn to Jesus.
Jesus insisted that they should turn to Him, away from their sins, selfishness, and even their religiosity.
God and the people of God must never dance to the world's tune or take its cues from the world, whether it's time celebrate or to grieve. Either the God we meet in Jesus is everything to us or nothing to us. There's no in-between. After years of preaching that, I'm finally beginning to understand that.
Whenever I fall into the trap of thinking that God owes me anything, I risk making myself into my own little god. But unlike the one God and King of the universe as revealed in Jesus, I am incapable of giving myself life or purpose or peace of mind. Only God can give these things.
If I follow God, the God revealed in Jesus, I live.
If I follow myself, I die.
God says: "Choose life!" (Deuteronomy 31:19)
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]