“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
I am sure that each of us can relate to the frustration that Jesus surely feels here. In our Daily Office reading for the celebration of Holy Eucharist we have this moment of absolute frustration and discouragement that Jesus feels regarding those who witness his ministry and can only complain. One can almost see Jesus shaking his head and giving a divine facepalm.
Why they complain, I think, can be boiled down to one issue: neither Jesus nor John said, acted, or reacted as the people expected. “You didn’t do what we wanted!” the Scribes and Pharisees seem to whine.
Clearly the messenger and the Messiah that they’ve received did not live up to their expectations. The two cousins did not act or speak as the people thought they would. Neither Jesus nor John, did the things “respectable people” would do. They did not fit into the pre-conceived notion of how the coming and actual arrival of the Messiah would work or look like. How very world-like of them; how very God-like of Jesus and John.
Jesus’s facepalm moment here in Matthew’s gospel concludes with, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” The acts that will be done by Jesus in his ministry will prove the wisdom of God over the wisdom of “the world.” Isaiah sums it up: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) The ultimate expression of this is Jesus’s own death on the cross which transforms our lives, our relationship with God, and confirms God’s love for God’s creation.
I would wager that most of the time we cannot see the wisdom of God’s actions in the events of the world. Harder still may be to see the wisdom of God’s actions in our lives. The eternal question raised to God by creation, in those moments of loss and pain, frustration and seeming abandonment by God. But before we give our own facepalm to God, let the words of John’s gospel ring in our ears: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
And, this is Good News.