The Castigate

In Matthew 11, Jesus says there is a group of people among us that are the toughest people to please. We are calling them simply the Castigate. Jesus compares them to children who, no matter what was being played, the people just refuse to participate. Notice the word used in verse 17. Matthew 11:17~We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. (ESV) What Jesus is referring to is both John the Baptist and Himself, Jesus. Both of their ministries were entirely for the Lord, and yet they were both different in their approach. Jesus says in Matthew 11:18~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 at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! (ESV) John lived a very solemn life. He didn’t go to parties, his diet consisted of grasshoppers and honey, living out a visual proclamation against materialism and self-indulgence. (Matthew 3:4) saying to us in Matthew 3:2~Repent, for the kingdom of heaven, is at hand. (ESV) 

John’s message and lifestyle were like a funeral song, calling for us to mourning over our personal sin, which leads to repentance. However, Jesus says most responded to John the Baptist by saying he is just deranged or has a demon. (Matthew 11:18) In contrast, Jesus came as one who eats and drinks celebrating life (Matthew 11:19), and they call Him an overeating drunk. How do you celebrate Thanksgiving or even a wedding? Do you gather for funerals and tell stories as you reminisce and celebrate the life that was lived?

So, if I am reading this correctly, John gets rejected by his generation because he doesn’t have enough fun and Jesus gets rejected by the same generation because He has too much fun. Wow, seems Kenny Loggins was wrong, it’s not your momma and daddy, but the boys don’t dance and the girls don’t rock-n-roll. Jesus said the Jews just would not play. Anyone who takes the time to look and consider the righteous lives of John the Baptist or Jesus Christ will see two men who love the Lord with all of their hearts and wanted everyone they met to get to know Him as well.

If we were to look through the picture window of your life, like looking into a store, or a restaurant and witnessed all of the activity and controlled chaos, of what would we take note? Would you be all business-like John, or celebrating life like Jesus? Neither is wrong. Moreover, would your love and passion for God be self-evident? In both the lives of John and Jesus, many people were coming to hear what they were saying about God. This says to us that people took notice of how the Lord was working on in and through them to draw people into a relationship of repentance that leads to salvation. Today, why not take a quick inventory of how you live, of who the Lord has brought by your fruit stand and how you can better serve the Lord, just by taking time for them.

Those with Ears

In Matthew 11:15, Jesus says,~He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (ESV) This tells us Jesus demands a response. If you have ears, you are included. This week, we are going to consider the three different responses people have to Jesus as we look at the topic of people who have ears.

The first group ate the Castigate (Matthew 11:16-19). By definition, it is to reprimand one severely. Do you know anyone who always seems to respond critically, even raising their voice to be emphatic? When they speak, it’s like a reprimand. They seem to know better than everyone else and these individuals are faultfinders. No matter what Jesus says or how many miracles He performs, many people are still so critical. Therefore, Jesus looks to his audience, asks what should we compare His generation to. Almost in the same breath, He answers His own question. Matthew 11:16~To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: (ESV) Like kids playing in the park. 

Listen, there is a big difference between being childish and being childlike. The Bible never says be childish. Though Jesus does teach us that we are to possess faith like a child. Matthew 18:2-3~He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV) This does not mean that we are to be childish. The point is, faith is meant to be simple, and not calculus. Matthew 19:14~Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV) 

Because Jesus and John’s generation is being childish, or immature, they are disobedient. Like a spoiled willful child, Jesus says in Matthew 11:16-17~To what can I compare this generation? They are like children…calling out to others: We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. (ESV) As a parent or grandparent, do you remember trying music, games, even new stuff and the attitude returned was just simply awful. I know Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1~To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (KJV) But I don’t remember this on the list.

Children of that day often played wedding and funeral games. It’s not as bad as it sounds. You may remember playing Red Rover, a game in which you ask a different king to send you a soldier, Blindman’s bluff, or Ghost in the graveyard. Moreover, you probably never consider those nursery rhymes where tails were cut off, babies fall out of breaking trees or a really catchy one about the bubonic plague, all because you have a pocket full of posies. In Jesus’ day, weddings and funerals were the two major social events of their culture. The children would mimic adults by performing mock weddings and funerals. In your adolescence, Prince got in on the action when you were searching for Purple Rain. Saying Dearly beloved…we have gathered…to get through this thing called life. I bet the beat of that song let you get crazy. 

Why not take a page from both our text and our youth and just go crazy as you worship the Lord today. Put on that toe-tapping music and worship the Lord while no one is looking. I bet He gets right in there with you. May the Lord bless you today with His presence.


Have you ever attempted to work on your listening? If there is an area in our spiritual or even physical lives that we could all work on, it is in our listening skills. Learning how better to listen to God and others. Take John, he was a key player in paving the way for Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus says in Matthew 11:12~From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESV) What Jesus is telling them is that He is the King, the most notable representative of the Kingdom of God. He is present with power, and within a week they will see Him transfigured. Jesus reveals to them in glory, a demonstration of the power of God’s Kingdom. 

Even without the glory, what stood among them was still the Kingdom of God. Because He is the King of all kings, the central figure of God’s Kingdom, wherever He went, the Kingdom was present. In the book of Acts, the message of the Kingdom is inextricably tied to the central person, in that Kingdom who is Jesus Christ. Acts 8:12~But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (NIV) (Acts 19:8-10, 28:23) Let’s take just a moment to knit this to one of my favorite passages, John 15. Where the King abides in any person or where a person is in Christ, the Kingdom is also present. 

This principle is to be applied to Matthew 11:12~From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESV) Even until today, Christ and those in whom He dwells suffer violence: physical/ verbal assault, affliction, constraint, oppression, and perhaps even martyrdom. Go read Hebrews 11:32-40. This world’s forceful and self-willed people seize that Kingdom as they would a fortified city, through opposing its citizens in some way.

This means the kingdom of heaven has been advancing, but violent people are attacking it. Herod Antipas is a violent man and he will take John’s head and will come also for Christ. Matthew 11:13-15~For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him (her) hear. (ESV)

Have you heard the King and accepted His Kingdom? Jesus knows despite the ministry of John the Baptist and even His own miracles, most people will not believe. That statement is so important Jesus repeats it fourteen more times in the New Testament (Matthew 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23: Luke 8:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, and 13:9). It means only those willing to hear with an open mind and heart can understand.

Refining one’s hearing includes listening carefully to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He brings scriptures to our minds when we have doubts. A powerful favorite is found in Proverbs 3:5-6~Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV) 

Take time today (and every day) to acknowledge God. Because this passage begins by telling us to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and not to trust in our own understanding. Learn how to refine your listening skills. Today, after you have praised the Lord, read His holy word and prayed about all that has been brought to mind, listen. Be still and know the He is God, as you listen to what He has to say. Take time to practice Lectio Divina—Divinely Listening or Listening to the Divine.