Jesus has high regard for John the Baptist, but how do most people regard John? “This generation,” Jesus declares, “is like young children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to their playmates, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance; we wailed, but you did not beat yourselves in grief.’”
What does Jesus mean? He clarifies the thought: “John came neither eating nor drinking, but people say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of man did come eating and drinking, but people say, ‘Look! A man who is a glutton and is given to drinking wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Matthew 11:18, 19) On the one hand, John has lived a simple life as a Nazirite, even abstaining from wine, yet this generation says he is demonized. (Numbers 6:2, 3; Luke 1:15) On the other hand, Jesus lives like other men. He eats and drinks in a balanced way, but he is accused of going to excess. It seems impossible to satisfy the people.
Jesus likens the generation to young children in the marketplaces who refuse to respond by dancing when other children play the flute or by grieving when others wail. “All the same,” he says, “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” (Matthew 11:16, 19) Yes, the “works”
After Jesus characterizes the generation as unresponsive, he singles out for reproach the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where he has done powerful works. Jesus says that if he had performed such works in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, those cities would have repented. He also mentions Capernaum, which has been his home base for some time. Even there, most did not respond. Jesus says of that city: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom on Judgment Day than for you.”
Jesus then praises his Father, who hides precious spiritual truths “from the wise and intellectual ones” but reveals these things to lowly ones, who are like young children. (Matthew 11:25) He extends an appealing invitation to such ones: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for yourselves. For my yoke is kindly, and my load is light.”
How does Jesus offer refreshment? The religious leaders have burdened the people with enslaving traditions, such as overly restrictive Sabbath regulations. But Jesus refreshes them by teaching the truth of God, free from the taint of those traditions. He also shows the way of relief to ones who feel crushed by the domination of political authorities and to those who feel weighed down by sin. Yes, Jesus reveals to them how their sins can be forgiven and how they can be at peace with God.
All of those accepting Jesus’ kindly yoke can dedicate themselves to God and serve our compassionate, merciful heavenly Father. Doing so does not involve a heavy load, for God’s requirements are not at all burdensome.