‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ (Matthew 11:17)
John and Jesus were as different as you can imagine. John was edgy, prophetic, demanding. He was an ascetic, removed from the cares and concerns of this world. His food: grasshoppers and wild honey. His clothing: camel’s skin and leather. He came to the Jordan to call Israel back to the wilderness, to repentance, to prepare a way for the coming of the Lord.
Jesus was gentle, compassionate, kind, gracious. He healed the blind, the sick, the lame, the dead. He came eating and drinking, with Pharisee and tax collector, with the “religious” and with “sinners.”
John was the bulldozer, Jesus is the road. John prepared the way, Jesus is the Way. John was the prophesy pointing to the Lamb, Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
The religious world has no use for either John or Jesus. The religious Pharisees looked at John with his strange clothing and diet and his radical call to repentance and concluded, “He’s mad. He has a demon. He’s a fanatical lunatic.” The same religious types looked at Jesus and the company he kept and they concluded, “He’s a glutton and a drunk.” You just can’t please the religious types, can you?
Jesus said that John was the greatest ever born of woman, excluding, of course, himself. And yet the least in the kingdom, the tiniest of baptized newborns, is greater than John. Greatness in the kingdom of God looks like a loser in this world - John rotting in Herod’s prison, Jesus hanging dead on a cross. Who would think of making a religion out of that sort of stuff? But this is God’s way, not our way. He sings the dirge of the Law that we would mourn our sin and look to Jesus. He pipes the flute of our salvation that we would dance for joy at the sound of sins forgiven.
“Wisdom is justified by her deeds,” and Jesus, God’s Wisdom in the flesh, is justified by His dying and rising that justifies you.
Almighty God, grant us a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, a cheerful hope in Your mercy, and a sincere love for You and one another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.