Feasting with God #40
A Glutton, a Drunkard, a Friend of Sinners
Text: Matthew 11:18-19
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.
The childishness of the Pharisees is revealed: When John the Baptist came, they found fault in his fasting, how he set himself apart from the general populace. When Jesus came, the found fault in his eating and drinking, how he deliberately did not set himself apart from the general populace. They would simply not be pleased.
This is not only a fault in the Pharisees of 2,000 years ago. It is human nature to have certain expectations, and to demand that things measure up to those expectations. When nothing ever measures up, we are dissatisfied and disappointed over and over, finding satisfaction only in ourselves: “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” is our mentality. For the Pharisees, this meant that the Messiah who had come, Jesus, who proved himself to be that Messiah by his deeds, was not what they wanted. So they planned to continue in the working of their laws, laying burden after burden on themselves and other people, trying to climb their own way to heaven.
For us, this means very little different. We are dissatisfied with the Gospel for any number of reasons: “That’s too easy; it has to be harder.” “That’s too old; it has to be more relevant to me today.” “That’s too culturally locked in Israel from 2,000 years ago; it has nothing to do with the broader cultural context.” “That’s too limited in its perspective; it has to apply to more people.” “That’s too remote; there’s no real emotion behind it.”
Human beings, you and I, we want what we want. If it’s not exactly what we want, then there’s something wrong with it. It’s this that causes us to go church-shopping even when we’ve been consistently fed the Gospel. It’s this that causes us to grow sick of hymns that are uninteresting to us or liturgies that are old and dusty, even when these things feed us the pure and unadulterated Word of God. We’d rather worship in our own way, worship a God who “means something to us” than the one who reveals himself in his Word.
This is why Jesus points out this hypocrisy and childishness. Notice, he doesn’t actually call out the Pharisees here. He mentions “this generation,” (11:16). The generation, the people concurrent with Christ, were guilty of this childish dissatisfaction, and their issue has continued through the ages to us today. All people are guilty of seeking out what they want rather than what’s true.
And this is why Jesus concludes: “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” The wise people will prove themselves to be wise by their actions: by forsaking their selfish wants and following the objective Word of God. But more than this, Jesus’ wisdom is demonstrated by his deeds: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (11:5). These actions prove Jesus to be the Wisdom of God incarnate (cf. Prov. 8, 9), the Word of God incarnate (John 1:1), the Messiah who was to come. If the people are wise, they will judge these deeds as they are objectively meant to be judged, and they will indisputably here see Christ the Messiah.
But the people of the world are not wise in this way. We are all blind, foolish, childish, and cannot see this. We can’t see it until the Holy Spirit enlightens us: “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15). The enlightening of faith given by the Spirit leads us to see Christ as he is: our Savior from sin who fulfilled the whole law by his deeds, and who paid the price for our disobedience by his obedient death on the cross. And one further deed of this Jesus is a convincing proof to us of the wisdom of trusting in him: he rose from the dead, and lives now eternally, to intercede for us as our High Priest, declaring all our sins forgiven continually before God in heaven.
Dear Christ, we thank you for your obedient life and death, by which we are declared forgiven and justified. We thank you also for sending the Holy Spirit to give us faith in your sacrifice, for on our own we would be blind and concerned only with our own accomplishments. Maintain us in this wise faith until our last day, when we will come into our inheritance in full in our heavenly home. In your name we ask it. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.