Sermon: Indifference or Repentance Matthew 11:16-24

Truth Taught- Jesus saves all who come to Him by faith, repenting of their sins and judges all who refuse. 

Introduction

So far in Chapter 11 we’ve seen John the Baptist’s estimate of Jesus.  We remember he had a question of clarification.  He didn’t fully realize the work and ministry that Jesus was doing as the Messiah.  Jesus responded by showing the disciples sent by John exactly who He is…


Matthew 11:4–5 (ESV) 

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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. 

John’s concerns were immediately gone.

Then last week, we saw Jesus’ estimate of John.  He called John the greatest human to ever live and explained why that was the case.  John didn’t sway to the right or left under pressure, He didn’t sell out to have a plush position and he stayed humble keeping Jesus in the forefront.  
Matthew 11:11 (ESV) 
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 

The passage that we are looking at today focuses on the people’s estimate of John and Jesus and Jesus’ estimate of this generation.  Even though God sent the greatest prophet to warn them and His only Son to heal and save them, they were, for the most part, deaf to the message.  Their assessment of Jesus and John the Baptist was wrong.  Then we’ll see Jesus’ appraisal of them and it is very sad.  
Jesus preached and taught the crowds and He expected them to respond.  The gloomy reality was that ultimately very few affirmed His message.  Even with Jesus’ great command to hear in verse 15 there were just a few that heard His message and responded appropriately.    

In this passage we see the sinner’s perception of the work of God.  We see a sad picture of an entire generation that is unresponsive to Jesus’ message of salvation.  He has worn Himself out by preaching and teaching.  He has spent countless hours healing them and caring for all their illnesses.  He has done so much and yet there has been no real commitment to Him.  They like all the stuff He gives them like the free meals and restored health but when it comes to anything like repenting of their sins and believing in Him for salvation there is nothing.  
Let’s look together at Jesus’ message here.  I pray we use this to see for ourselves how important repentance is as we hear and read God’s Word.     

Matthew 11:16–24 (ESV) 

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 

17    “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; 

we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 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!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” 

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” 

1.  This Generation is Never Satisfied 

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 

17    “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; 

we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 

Jesus tells the crowd that they are like small children playing in the market place.  They have no real understanding of what’s at stake when Jesus was with them and pleading for their repentance.  They were like frivolous children with no concern and no care for what’s really important.
Most children don’t really have much of an understanding as far as spiritual issues go.  They have a very short attention span.  It’s hard to keep their attention or focus for more than a few minutes at a time.  Children are often fussy and sometimes very hard to please.   

This is the point Jesus is making here.  He’s telling the people that they are like children, never happy, very fussy, and have no understanding as to the eternal magnitude of whose standing right in front of them and what He is offering them.

In Jesus’ day the center of town had a marketplace.  Adults would gather to buy and sell.  While the adults met, the children would also come and play with other children.  Their games would mimic their parents.  Two games they would play were wedding and funeral.  Some believe these two were selected because both enlisted other children to come join them.  They acted out their various parts for a wedding procession and for the funeral procession.  While they were playing some got tired of the game quickly and didn’t want to play anymore.  Others wanted to play something else.

17         “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; 
They played the flute with a happy tune like at the wedding ceremony but the children were fussy and did not play along.  They didn’t dance to the happy tune.  They didn’t want to play wedding.
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 
Here they changed games.  They went from playing wedding to playing funeral.  Here they sang a sad song, like at a funeral, but the others didn’t want to play that game either.  They didn’t mourn.  
Jesus tells those who were wanting more miracles that they were very childish.  Nothing He or John the Baptist did could convince them.  They did not want to respond to Jesus or His message.  They were indifferent and fussy like a bunch of spoiled children.
There are some people who just don’t want to play, no matter what the game is, right? No matter how you approach them, they don’t want to play. They’ll criticize the wedding, and they’ll criticize the funeral. Nothing satisfies them. They will always find fault, because they are basically unwilling to participate, unwilling to be satisfied. Now, Jesus says, “That is like this generation. You just don’t want to play. No matter what the game is, you will not be satisfied.  I’m bored is the constant response from this generation.  I’m bored…I’m not happy with anything.  I’m not playing the happy game.  I’m not playing the sad game.  I’m simply not playing.  
2.  This Generation Is Always a Critic
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 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!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” 

John the Baptist was a little like the funeral game.  He was famous for his asceticism.  He was a recluse living alone in the wilderness crying out for the people to repent. 

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  

He was the funeral.  He called out sin and did so with great passion.  He practiced abstinence from alcohol.  John had taken a Nazarite vow.  He refrained from anything to do with wine or even grapes.  His life was strict and solitary.  John and his disciples fasted a lot.  John was the funeral.  After a while no one wanted to play the funeral game anymore.  John was odd by their standards.  So, a generation refusing to listen and repent concluded to their own destruction that John the Baptist was demon possessed.  We don’t want to play with John any more.  He is too boring.  All John wants to do is fast and pray.  Zero fun.  John was the funeral.

Surely if the people don’t want to play funeral they would like to play wedding.
19 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!’ 
Jesus came offering salvation by grace through faith.  He came eating and drinking with those who invited Him to eat with them.  He didn’t practice a life of a hermit like John.  Jesus travelled around with His disciples always with Him.  He went to the people and always had someone around Him.  He forgave sin.  He healed all that were brought to Him.  Jesus was the wedding.  He played the happy tune.  He was at the table of great banquets and feasts.  Jesus was the wedding. 

He came and got into the flow of social life. He came and had meals with people, and dwelt in their homes, and attended the social activities. He was at weddings, and He was at funerals, and He was at special events, and He was in the synagogue, and He was in the temple. And He walked from village, to village, to village, to village. And He was by the sea with the fishers, and He was in the boat. And He was there where they were, and He was a part of their life, and He shared food and drink with them.

 
Yet, this generation, as Jesus puts it didn’t want to come out and play either.  They were all excited at first with the freebies and the healings but once that was over and it came time for their allegiance, they took their ball and went home.  

The point Jesus is making is that people just don’t want to hear truth.  They will criticize everything if it keeps them from giving the truth a hearing.  John was a loner…he’s too weird.  Jesus is around people…He’s a friend of tax collectors.  John only eats locusts, what can he tell us that’s important?  Jesus is eating with friends, He’s a glutton…what can He tell us that’s important.  Do you see the point?  The dynamic is if I can criticize someone or a particular church then I can justify not hearing their message.  I can create a reason in my head why I’m not bound to what they say.
Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” 

You see, truth or wisdom ultimately is justified by what it produces, and that is an unanswerable argument. The wisdom of John the Baptist, which insisted on repentance, and the wisdom of Jesus, which insisted on salvation, was shown to be justified by what it accomplished in the hearts and the lives of the people who believed. They rendered the right verdict, they who believed, and they become the testimony to the truth. Some people are just critical, and you meet them, and I meet them. They’re not even looking for the truth.

They just want to find everything wrong with Christ and Christianity, and that’s a tragic response, because in the end, the truth will be justified by what it produces. You see, these people had a smugness that made them sit in condemning judgment, and they were wrong. Now, in those verses there’s a certain gentleness. The rebuke there is mild. When it says, “Wisdom is justified by her works,” that’s a mild thing. I mean, He doesn’t really crash down on the generation of critics. But draw a line in your Bible between verse 19 and 20, because something happens between those two verses. Something dramatic happens.  Eternal judgment falls.

God is patient and works to bring about repentance.  He does not look for people who are sinless but looks for those who hear the message and who take proper steps.  To repent is a God wrought event but we still must repent.  God is longsuffering but He will demand justice and the hammer will fall.  Jesus worked so hard preaching and teaching with everything He had.  Healing the multitudes looking for repentance and for the most part there was none.

Have you repented?  Has God shown you your sin?  Do you agree with Him?  Ask Him to grant you repentance so that you can turn from it.  Have you turned from it?
Here’s a glimpse of God’s wrath…

3.  This Generation Will Not Repent

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” 

Jesus’ gentle rebuke is over.  Now, after months and months of pleading, preaching, teaching, healing and basically banning all illness and disease from their cities, after raising their dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons they still will not repent.  They still will not agree with Jesus about their sin, they still will not repent.  
That time is now over.  Did you know there comes a time after much patience on God’s part that the time to repent is over.  Whenever God begins to speak in woe language repentance is no longer offered.  There comes a point when you can’t repent even if you wanted to.

We have a very clear example of this in the OT
Isaiah 6:8–11 (ESV) 

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people: 

       “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; 

       keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 

10    Make the heart of this people dull, 

and their ears heavy, 

and blind their eyes; 

       lest they see with their eyes, 

and hear with their ears, 

       and understand with their hearts, 

and turn and be healed.” 

11    Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” 

       And he said: 

       “Until cities lie waste 

without inhabitant, 

       and houses without people, 

and the land is a desolate waste, 

Here’s the determined judgment of God because the time had run out.  Repentance is no longer an option for these people.  They waited too long.  Now we are introduced to the holy God who will judge unrepentant sinners.  
The thing that seems odd to us, because we always think of God as a pushover…He’ll forgive me; He’ll overlook this one sin.  If Isaiah’s mission as a prophet is to be successful, his words will blind the people, cause their hearts to be dull, cause deafness and confuse them when it comes to God.  This will bring God’s judgment which is what God knows its time for.  So, Isaiah’s is successful if nobody repents and God destroys them.
This is where Jesus is with the people He is speaking to.  Time for repentance is past.  He begins denouncing them with the woe curses found in Revelation.     

The curse of woe means that you are destined for death and judgment that is about to happen and there is nothing you can do about it.  It’s like the man waiting in his cell for the prison security to come and walk him to the place of execution.  All chances are gone and now is the time for judgment.

Listen, if you’re here today and you have put God off, perhaps all your life.  You may have said He really wont judge me.  Perhaps your thinking is that God will always forgive or that you are not too bad or I’ll be able to repent tomorrow.

I’m sure there were people in the cities where Jesus preached that thought they too were not too bad and actually good.  Because they refused to repent Jesus announces the death sentence on the entire city of people.

Then He tells us that their judgment will be the absolute worse there is.  Why? Because they had more revelation than those of Sodom.  They had the Son of God preaching to them and healing them and they still were indifferent.

Conclusion/Application

Please listen, God has set aside time for us to repent.  We are in a time when repentance and salvation is still being offered.
At the end of the Book of Isaiah when only a small percentage of the people remained God held off His final wave of judgment for the sake of the remnant.

Isaiah 61:1–3 (ESV) 

61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, 

because the Lord has anointed me 

       to bring good news to the poor; 

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 

       to proclaim liberty to the captives, 

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 

   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, 

and the day of vengeance of our God; 

to comfort all who mourn; 

   to grant to those who mourn in Zion— 

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, 

       the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; 

       that they may be called oaks of righteousness, 

the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 

 This is that passage Jesus reads in the synagogue to inaugurate His ministry.

God has offered salvation to anyone who would come to Him by faith and repent of their sins.  Today, as Isaiah said and as Jesus said is the day of salvation.  Today repentance is possible and salvation available.  Today God offers forgiveness.
Tomorrow, it may no longer be available.  Praise God for salvation in Jesus Christ!!

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

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