After John’s disciples left to return to John with a message from Jesus (Luke 7:24), Jesus turned to the people who remained. They seemed to have been aware of the fact that John questioned the direction of Jesus’ ministry, and it seemed obvious that he had expressed some displeasure in what Jesus was and was not doing. Some of those people may have been offended with John’s request, but Jesus was not. Therefore, Jesus turned to the people and asked them why they went out of the cities in order to hear John. What did they expect to find? They could not have expected to find someone tossed by the wind (Luke 7:24), because John wasn’t fickle with words. That is, people couldn’t take John’s words to mean anything they interpreted them to mean (cf. 1Corinthians 1:17). They knew John wasn’t double-minded. They knew he wasn’t tossed and carried away by every wind of doctrine (James 1:6-8).
On the other hand, neither could the people have gone out to John expecting to find a man of social respectability, someone who was obviously well bred, because such people are those who live in places like the one in which John was held prisoner (Luke 7:25). No, the people couldn’t have gone out to John expecting to find such a person as these. Rather, they went out expecting to hear a prophet, and a prophet is what they found and much more (Luke 7:26).
Jesus claimed John wasn’t just any prophet who suddenly arose without warning (Luke 7:26-28). Rather, John is the only prophet, other than the Prophet who would be like Moses, whose coming was predicted in Scripture. John was the Elijah who should come (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6; cf. Matthew 11:12-14), just as Jesus was that Prophet, who was to come, who was like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; cf. John 6:14; Acts 3:23; 7:37). Some of the people were offended with John’s inquiry, but they and the rest of the people needed to understand that John was a very important prophet, who was called to introduce the Messiah to the world. If the people who were offended in John’s inquiry began to reject John as a prophet, they would have to also reject Jesus to whom John pointed. If John was a false prophet, so must Jesus be a false Messiah, because John claimed Jesus was he whom God said would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:30-33).
According to Jesus, John’s ministry was especially effective among those thought of as sinners, like the tax collectors, but John wasn’t able to convict the Pharisees and rabbis of their sins (Luke 7:29-30). They were righteous in themselves and, therefore, would not hear (cf. John 9:41). Jesus had the same kind of trouble with the Jewish authorities.
Jesus likened what occurred to a parable of children in the market place who performed to cause God to act as they desired (Luke 7:31-35). They piped a tune of joy, but God didn’t dance (cf. 1Samuel 10:25; Isaiah 30:29). They piped a tune of mourning, but God didn’t weep (cf. Matthew 9:23; Jeremiah 48:36). How can God teach such people wisdom? Why would such people pay the price of wisdom, when they have no place for wisdom in their hearts (Proverbs 17:16; Isaiah 29:11-14). John came to them, mourning in sackcloth and ashes (cf. Luke 5:33), but the pipers whose tune called for mourning decided John had a demon (Luke 7:33). Afterward Jesus came rejoicing, just as the piper tried to induce, but those very pipers decided Jesus was a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34). Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated in all her children. In other words, a fool will always act foolishly, and the wise will act wisely. Problems occur only when fools hold positions of authority (Luke 7:35).