Sometimes you just can’t win! Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do you will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And that is exactly what Jesus was saying in this section of scripture.
You Just Can’t Win
The Pharisees and scribes opposed Jesus and judged him for many things. They wanted to tear him down because he was a threat to their way of life. Jesus ministry was undermining their power base and the hold they had over the people by administering the law.
Jesus was teaching that you could be set free from sin and the law, and that did not sit well with the Pharisees and the scribes. They took any opportunity to condemn what he was doing and saying, and here Jesus showed the complete pig-headedness and falseness of their approach.
Damned If You Do
Both Jesus and John the Baptist came preaching a message of salvation. Both Jesus and John the Baptist were opposed by the Pharisees who in their pride and arrogance refused to see the truth.
Jesus and John the Baptist were very different when they came to the people and taught. Here, Jesus pointed out some of the differences.
John the Baptist was in the wilderness preaching the word, and all the people went out to him. He wore a garment made of camel hair, drank only water and ate only locusts and wild honey. He did not drink any wine and ate no bread or meat. Today he would be considered to be living an alternative, “get away from it all”, country, vegetarian lifestyle.
Damned if You Don’t
Jesus then came along and was basically a city dweller. He ate meat, bread and fish and he drank some wine. He wore a robe and regular cloth garments. He taught the people in the synagogues initially and when his fame grew too great he taught them in the open plains and the seaside.
It was almost as if in their lifestyle that Jesus and John the Baptist were two sides of a coin. They were poles apart in how they came and appeared to the people.
But in their teaching they were aligned. The message of salvation and obedience to God was identical for they both were led by the Holy Spirit and spoke the truth as they proclaimed the gospel of salvation to the people.
Changing the Status Quo
As far as the Pharisees were concerned, neither Jesus nor John met with their approval. And Jesus showed them that regardless of the approach he or John took it could not and would not satisfy the arrogance of these stiff-necked Pharisees and scribes. They were never going to be in harmony with the truth.
That is why he uses the analogy of children playing in the market place saying, “We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.” (Verse 32) Children play games and look for others to join in their games. If they don’t get others to join in they change the game to suit.
But regardless of the game being played, the Pharisees would not join in. Regardless of the approach taken to spread the gospel of the truth, the Pharisees would not accept it, either from Jesus or John the Baptist. The Pharisees and scribes were not interested in joining in and learning the truth for they wanted to remain as they were with their own power base.
They were resisting change to hold onto the status quo, even though it was clear from both Jesus and John the Baptist that change was in the air. The world was about to be turned upside down, but they would not listen regardless of the source of the message. The people listened and found the truth, but the religious leaders of the time refused to accept the truth and so be saved.
How Does This Relate to Today?
Are things any different today? There is an established religion that is deep set in its traditions and forms of worship that often have little bearing or alignment with the truth of the scriptures. There is a lack of harmony with the truth of the gospel as taught by Jesus and the apostles.
There are some who choose to ignore or even say that some of the fundamentals of the gospel and the truth no longer apply today. For example, some believe baptism is not necessary or the reason for baptism is different to what the Bible teaches. Some believe receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues is not necessary; that it was only for the spreading of the gospel in the beginning of the New Testament age. Some believe that you can be accepted by God on the basis of good works even though the Bible teaches we can only be accepted by faith and not works.
There are many issues in some of the traditional teachings in many churches that do not accord with the truth of the gospel. It is important then for each of us to study God’s word in the Bible, come to him in prayer when we have questions and learn the truth from Jesus Christ himself. Certainly listen to what others say, but find out for yourself and measure all that you hear against the gospel.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by ramzi hashisho)