Matthew 11:16-19 – But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented…
Subject: Wicked men are inconsistent with themselves.
THE occasion of this discourse was John’s sending to Christ two of his disciples, saying, “Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?” When the messengers had gone back, Christ enters into a discourse with the multitude concerning John, of which the verses read are a part, in which Christ reproves the unreasonableness of the Jews in rejecting God’s messengers. We may observe in the words the following things:
I. The messengers of God that are here instanced in that they had been rejected, viz. John the Baptist and Christ. The former is spoken of in the context as being on some accounts the greatest of all the prophets that ever came before Christ, as you may see, verses 9-11, “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” The latter, even Christ, was the great prophet of God, the Head and Lord of the prophets, God’s only-begotten Son.
II. In what the unreasonableness of their rejecting these messengers of God appears, viz. in their inconsistency with themselves in those objections which they made against them. And here we may observe,
First, the nature of their objections against these two messengers of God. They objected against their manner of living with respect to their meat and drink.
Second, the different manner of living of those two messengers of God. Christ came eating and drinking, but John came neither eating nor drinking, i.e. John lived on a very coarse and spare diet, as we read, Mat. 3:4, “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” He carefully abstained from that free use of pleasant meats and drinks that others allowed themselves in. But Christ came eating and drinking, i.e. freely using the comforts and enjoyments of life, taking indifferently all kinds of food or drink that were wholesome, comfortable, and lawful. This diverse manner of living of John the Baptist and Christ was agreeable to the diverse errands that they came upon. John’s errand was to call men to repentance, to awaken them to a sense of their sin and misery, to bring them to mourn for their sins, and humble themselves before God for them, that they might be prepared for the comforts and blessings of the kingdom of heaven that were to be introduced by Jesus Christ. A life of abstinence from the pleasant things of this world was agreeable to the purpose of awakening the soul and of leading it to mourning and humiliation for sin, which it was especially John’s business to preach and set an example of.
But after John had thus prepared the way with awakenings and repentance, then Christ came to administer comfort to those that were thus prepared for it, to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to comfort those that mourn, to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isa. 61:1-3. And freely eating and drinking, and enjoying the comforts and pleasant things of life, [were] agreeable to such an errand as this, and therefore Christ, in his first beginning of his public ministry which succeeded John’s, declares this to be the business he was come upon. Luke 4:16-19, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias: and when he had opened the book he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”