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God’s Word for You

Luke 7:31-32 Flutes and dirges – will you play?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 26, 2018

The Parable of the Calling Children
31 “To what, then, shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?  32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to each other:
‘We played the flute for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not cry.’

This little parable isn’t about Jesus and John, but sometimes it’s been misunderstood so. Jesus actually helps us to avoid this in two ways. First, he says right up front in verse 31 that the parable is about “the people of this generation.” Second, he affirms this with the way he explains the parable in verses 33-34. For now, we only need to understand what is meant by the call of the children.

The scene Jesus describes is a marketplace, or agora in Greek. This wasn’t a narrow street, but the big town square, where there was plenty of room for the children to play. In the story Jesus tells, one group of children tries to invite other children to play with them. They try to strike up a game of “Wedding” by pretending to play the flute. It’s easy to imagine the children whistling or trying to make little flute noises while holding reeds or sticks, acting out a happy wedding procession, with the girls all holding flowers or pretend lamps, and the proud (or shy) boy playing bridegroom, with the rest of the boys being the crowd of onlookers.

Next, Jesus pictures the children trying to call other children to play some other game, since the “Wedding” didn’t happen after all. This time, they go the other direction, trying to mimic the loud wailing of a funeral procession. Children would easily imitate the professional mourners and their crying and other histrionics. But nobody else wants to play.

The “Wedding” game didn’t work, and the “Funeral” game didn’t work. So the children cry out: “We played the flute, but you didn’t dance. We sang a dirge, and you didn’t cry!” What could the children who were calling out do differently? If they were your children, and they came back to the house moping because the other children wouldn’t play a happy game and wouldn’t even play a sad game, what would you say? Wouldn’t you say something like, “Don’t worry about those kids—you just play your game and if they don’t join in, don’t worry about them”? Oh, some parents might try to get their children to ask the non-responsive children what game they might want to play, but that’s not the reason behind the work of John and Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to play whatever the Pharisees wanted. Jesus came to get the Pharisees to see the difference between what he was offering (both and John were offering the same thing), and what they were expecting. Sometimes our expectations cloud us to what God really offers. Jesus will explain that next.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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