Day 5 – Kids songs, chanting, and Biblical randomness
My children have this thing with clapping and chanting. I can take each one separately…clapping at an event or in excitement; chanting Matins or even “We want a cookie!” or some nonsense, but I can not take the two combined. You know the sound. Little girls gathering together on the playground doing some hand jive with repetitive words. Kids love that stuff, but I don’t think I’m the only adult that at some point hollers, “Enough already!”
Maybe my weirdness about children’s playground chants is why the following verse stuck out to me. Maybe it’s because when I was searching the Scriptures about dancing, these verses were in red letter, which makes most of us sit up a little straighter. Maybe it’s because it took me two good days and a few commentaries to even begin to formulate what in the world Jesus was saying. Whatever it was, this tiny passage seemed worthy of sharing.
Let’s read Matthew 11:7-18 (the parallel is found in Luke 7):
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John:“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
who will prepare your way before you.’
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. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.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 hear.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
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!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
What a passage! It was so curious to me that Matthew 11:17 addressed both the dancing and mourning we find in our Ecclesiastes passage. That doesn’t mean they are really connected, but it does mean that God was poking at me to look into these verses.
Jesus speaks here about John, but he’s really addressing the crowd concerning their faith. He asks them what they came for? What was their motivation in coming to hear John preach and teach? He then outlines the basis for John’s preaching and teaching. He points to the Old Testament as a voices that bear the Truth concerning who John is and more importantly who he is in relation to Jesus.
Verse 16 gets really real. “But…”
Uh-oh. You know that kind of but. I use that kind of but as a mom. “I gave you everything you needed to succeed. I made you a chore chart. I laid out all your clothes. I bought prepackaged snacks. BUT… we still can not make it to school on time?!”
This is a what-in-the-world-happened but. Jesus even uses the “what in the world” phrasing. “To what shall I compare this generation…” Like, where do I even start? How can I help you understand yourselves?
Jesus uses a familiar children’s song of the day, in verse 17, to help them understand. This song he uses as a tiny lost parable.
The people of Jesus’s time are a generation of children sitting around chanting and playing on the playground. Some of them (Jesus, John, the disciples) are doing their thing, playing instruments, and singing. The crowd, though, is full of the people who look at them, but do nothing. They refuse to join in. They look at them as though their song makes no sense, their instruments are out of place. They choose nothing over the Gospel. Nothing over a life changed by grace.
You see, children love chants and songs, evidently this was as true in 20AD-ish as it is in 2016AD. When my children sing and laugh and clap together, other children inevitably run over and desire fervently to learn the ditty. This is normal behavior.
John preached, Jesus taught. They were authentic and genuine and true to the Word of the prophets and teachers of the Law. They were the real deal, but all the people wanted to do was watch in confusion and contempt. This is not normal behavior when you hear the life changing message of Christ Jesus. This is choosing nothing.
Jesus offers us so much. He offered us His very self on the cross. He walked out of a tomb and ascended to His Father in the heavens…so that we could LIVE.
Jesus, in this passage, invites us to LIVE. Whether that is in songs of praise and dancing or returning week after week hungry for His Word, or sharing comfort with His people. He placed His Spirit in us so that we can, in fact, respond.
When we engage in worship, when we reach out to our brother, when we eat at His table, we are Living and breathing Who He is to the next generation and to our own generation. We need not be the generation of Jesus day, watchers on the sidelines. We are Spirit-filled believers in a Holy and Living God. Praise the Lord!
So let us go and respond. What does that look like for you today? I don’t know. It looks different for you than it looks for me and that’s a beautiful thing.
But let us Live with a capital L. Let us sing when Jesus plays His music of Grace, respond with words of repentance and sorrow when we see our own sin, and Dance when He extends His ever present mercy.
Singing and dancing with you today, sisters, in Jesus precious Name.
What chants do you remember from childhood?
What was your favorite Jesus song to sing as a kid?
What ways has Jesus given us, in His Spirit, to respond to Him?