24 When John’s messengers had gone, 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? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,Luke 7:24-35
” ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
” ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
An apologetic for saints.
John’s disciples had occupied Jesus’ attention. I imagine all the crowd noticed Jesus’ special attention and instruction He gave to John’s disciples. They received special treatment not for their own sakes as much as for the sake of that inquiring saint that needed more light to endure the dark night of his imprisonment. The crowd must have paid close attention because after the Baptizer’s disciples departed to John with joyful news, Jesus turned to the crowd of His followers to bolster their opinion of John despite doubts.
Luke recorded the interaction for us, “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?” As Jesus scans His crowd, He knows they had once gone to see John near the Jordan River. Many of these who now followed Jesus had previously followed John. Will their good opinions be turned sour at the hearing of a little doubt? Jesus recalls to their mind the conviction they once had about the identity of that strange Baptizer. The Pharisees and Sadducees were unimpressed, but Jesus’ followers knew that John was indeed a man sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah. It was as if Jesus was saying, you all went to John in the wilderness before you became my followers because God’s Spirit persuaded you that he was a true prophet of God.
Jesus’ argument continued, “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.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.” He had an incredibly high opinion of John, and He spoke with directness and clarity to persuade His followers to hold the same opinion. If anyone among Jesus’ crowd of disciples lost respect for the old prophet on account of his little doubt, they should have felt the weight of Jesus’ argument. Jesus has effectively ranked all men below John and humbled anyone inclined toward self-righteous judgment.
The words of Christ have never missed their mark. Jesus always accomplishes exactly what He intends to achieve by His words. He restored John’s reputation in the minds of His followers. Luke reveals to us the twofold effect of Jesus’ words. First, Luke wrote, “When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John.” What does it mean to declare God just? Luke is saying that Jesus’ faithful followers, who John had baptized in the Jordan, had vindicated God’s work through John in their own hearts and with their lips. Second, Luke reveals to us another subset of Jesus’ crowd. Some of the people present for the unfolding scene of Jesus strengthening John the Baptist’s faith were actually enemies to both Jesus and John. Luke wrote, “but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” These words are not from the mouth of Jesus, but they are narrative commentary. Luke was helping us, who were not present, to be able to realize that Jesus’ exaltation of John the Baptist was to both draw and repel. That double purpose, drawing some and repelling others, is always the result of the proclamation of God’s Word.
Jesus’ words were strengthening the faith of some and condemning the unbelief of others, but Jesus isn’t finished. He will not allow those self-righteous Pharisees to shrug off Jesus’ high praise of John. His desire to establish God’s work and grace through the Baptist is accomplished, but now His rebuke of John’s enemies really began. Jesus asks the crowd, “what then shall I compare the people of this generation?” The specific subset of people Jesus means to include in “this generation” is the Pharisees and lawyers enemies of Jesus and John. Jesus uses the analogy of obstinate children. On the one hand, those wicked Pharisees claimed that John had a devil because his manners were strictest. On the other hand, those same Pharisees claimed Jesus was immoral based upon the company He often kept. Those obstinate religious leaders’ opinion was made clear by their vitriolic opposition to both John and Jesus. The average man and woman who experienced the amazing grace of God through John and Jesus would not be drawn away into damnation alongside those whited sepulchers.
The results of transformed lives (children) vindicate (justified) the Spirit of God (wisdom). The enemies of Christ attempt defamation, but as the saying goes, ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ The saints of God are not yet sinless, but they certainly are in progress. We may struggle with moments of doubt or seasons of temptation and the corruptions of their own hearts, but for the purpose that they may be humbled and experience a more constant dependence on God (see 1689 5.5). That struggle is described in graphic terms by Paul in Romans 7, and in Romans 8 the Apostle declares our comfort and security is not based upon our work by Christ’s. Therefore, Paul argues that Christian people are progressing in moral purity and inward holiness in many places throughout his writings. All that is to say, “wisdom is justified by all her children.”