16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” — Matthew 11:16-19.
John came leading disciples to fast over Israel’s sin (Mt 9:14; 11:18) — “We mourned to you, And you did not lament.” This somber approach referred to the ministry of John the Baptist. John said, “Repent!” They did not repent.
Jesus came celebrating the kingdom like a wedding feast (9:15-17; 11:19; 22:1-14) — “We played the flute for you, And you did not dance.” This social approach referred to the way Jesus interacted with people. The flute could be used for dancing (Matt. 11:17a) at both a party or a funeral (Matt. 11:17b). Jesus said, “Come!” They did not come.
Even though John the baptizing prophet came as an ascetic (i.e., a prophet from the desert, like Elijah), the Jews rejected him. Jesus came as one who readily associated with humans of all social levels and yet they rejected Him too. This either speaks of the fickleness of the Jewish leaders or shows their prejudices.
Wisdom is justified by her children
The children of true wisdom can justify all God’s ways in their salvation; as they know that all the dispensations of Providence work together for the good of those who love and fear God. (Adam Clarke.)
The children of wisdom are the wise – those who understand. The Saviour means that though that generation of Pharisees and fault-finders did not appreciate the conduct of John and himself, yet the “wise,” the candid – those who understood the reasons of their conduct – would approve of and do justice to it. (Albert Barnes.)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.