“To what can I compare the people of this generation? How can I describe them? They are like children playing games in the marketplace. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’” (Luke 7: 31, 32)
Jesus said some very hard things. For most of His three years of public ministry, He had an ongoing hostile dialogue with the religious leaders of His day. Jesus spoke these metaphors in the context of the religious establishment’s criticism of John the Baptist and Himself. They criticized John the Baptist because he was too austere and disciplined. They criticized Jesus that He was too happy and presented the image of the happy man.
In that culture, children played games in the busy marketplace. Since they had observed weddings and funeral processions they imitated those proceedings in their play. They would stop busy merchants and say “We are playing funeral today. Stop and weep with us!” Or, “We’re playing wedding today and we’re playing flutes. Dance with us!” Of course, busy merchants had no time for children’s games.
Jesus turned this metaphor into one of His hard sayings when He applied this to their critical attitudes toward John the Baptist and Himself. To paraphrase the application, Jesus was saying ‘John and I have not come to play your silly little religious games. We know our vision and our mission objectives. We have come to revolutionize the Jewish religion.’
Today many members of our religious and secular culture continue playing games that keep us from spreading and being the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others. We need to have clear vision and mission objectives to overcome the distractions and temptation of playing religious games vs. encountering and following Jesus Christ.
Dick Woodward, 29 May 2011