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“We Played Pipes And You Wouldn’t Dance”

  • International
  • September 19, 2012
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As the ministry of Jesus grew in the public eye, it met with unabashed appreciation from the multitudes, and critical suspicion from the religious establishment. In particular, the disciples of John the Baptist looked at Jesus with hesitation: was he the ‘One who is to come’, the Messiah? But then, why does he not declare himself? Why doesn’t he act like the Messiah?

The ordinary people had welcomed John the Baptist and hung on his words. It was the members of the establishment, the scribes and Pharisees, and the priestly caste, who had refused his baptism.

Jesus describes this attitude of petulance by drawing a comparison to the games of children, played in the local marketplace: “we piped for you and you wouldn’t dance; we wailed and you wouldn’t mourn.”

Children can be difficult with one another, and refuse ‘to play the game’. So too, the so-called “good people” of Judaism, the Pharisees did not accept John the Baptist because they found him too strict and rigid. He had a fanaticism about him which made them say he was ‘possessed’. And as regards Jesus ? He wasn’t acceptable because he seemed to be ‘too lax!’ Jesus mixed about with all, even the disreputable, and dined and wined without care.

“--- and yet, God’s wisdom is proved right by her children!”

God’s wisdom, in the Old Testament metaphor, is poured out upon all. As a generous matron, Wisdom invites all and sundry to her wedding feast, and urges the guests to share in the meal without shyness. God is not miserly with his blessings and gifts (as we are!), and does not preclude anyone from coming to his table (as we do!). We, self-righteous people, disdain the poor and the unworthy, when they embrace God’s gifts without inhibition. Nor do we take the first step ourselves, always finding fault with others, and pretending to be what we are not.

Jesus confronts us with a choice. Come, dance with me; or weep and wail with John. But don’t be evasive, don’t stay uncommitted.
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