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A Story About Grumpy Children
Luke 7:31-35
Sunday Morning, October 13, 2019
​I entitled this message, “A Story About Grumpy Children,” which I think goes along with the text. Do you know any grumpy children? The grumpy children I am talking about are those who complain and who never seem to be satisfied with anything. At least two other scholars called this story given by the Lord Jesus, “The Parable of the Brats.” One went so far as to define “brats” as “unruly, disobedient, objectionable, obstreperous, refractory, recalcitrant, incorrigible, obstinate and intractable.” I actually remember some of these words from notes my teachers sent home to my parents. I asked my mother on one occasion what the words meant and she said, “You’ve been bad, again!”

While it may be a good idea to attempt to correct complaining and disagreeable children, Jesus was not actually addressing the children in the crowd. He was speaking about the Pharisees and those who were supposedly experts in Jewish law that are mentioned in verse thirty. They are the ones who were incorrigible and obstinate. They were members of His society who were present in the crowd of listeners at that very moment. They had heard the message of the good news heralded by John the Baptist and proclaimed by Jesus Christ and yet had rejected God’s purpose.

We find in the New Testament that Jesus often confronted faithless and foolish people with strong language that was designed to offend and intervene with their incorrect thinking. Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life,” often rebuked some for their lack of faith. He called some a brood of vipers, hypocrites, blind guides, fools, whitewashed tombs and serpents.

Some consider this to be harsh and even disrespectful, but Jesus had a deep passion for lost souls. He knows precisely where the lost will spend eternity. His message was designed to warn the lost Pharisees and others that they should receive Him as their Messiah and be granted mercy and forgiveness of their sins. He wanted them to be saved and have everlasting life. In the words He used He was trying to penetrate their hard hearts so that they would receive the truth. Jesus was not being mean-spirited–He loved them with an infinite love. Sadly, many of them were too blind and too spiritually dead to understand that.

These verses can be divided into three parts: first Jesus paints a word-picture of children playing in the marketplace. Then, He shows how it applies to them and their faithless attitudes. Finally, He justified God’s wisdom and purposes in His plan of salvation.


Who Is This Generation?  The generation Jesus spoke about was the group of people who had gathered with Him that day, and all the others who lived in that time period. These people lived in what was arguably the greatest of all times up to today. Jesus, the God Man, was right there with them. They witnessed things no one else ever had and has never seen since. The sheer number of miracles gave evidence that God was with them. They could not ask for more or better proof. Yet, so many men and women turned their backs on Jesus in disbelief and doubt.

They were not the first generation who saw mighty miracles and chose not to believe. Even after the great miracle of the deliverance from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea, many of the people of Moses’ generation refused to believe. Even with that evidence, the majority of adults rejected God’s purpose in sending them into the Promised Land. So, God told them, “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give to your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 1:35)

God declared that they had “acted corruptly toward Him” and that they were “a perverse and crooked generation.” (Deuteronomy 32:5) In writing of that generation the psalmist declared that they were, “A stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:8)

Because of their unbelief, God “loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways.” (Psalm 95:10) Many years later, the people of Israel again fell into disobedience and unbelief and through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, I have “rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.” (Jeremiah 7:29b)

As Christians, we have been warned to have our attitudes and conduct remain separate from the world that surrounds us. The Scripture says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16a) You and I live in this type of world.

Children in the Market Place. There were no parks or playgrounds in the first century and yet, children still enjoyed gathering together to play, much as children do today. The marketplaces (or agora) of the first century were often not used every day to sell things, so while it was empty, children from the village gathered to play. The children were often young and were allowed to play so long as they stayed close by where their parents lived. In a day before electronics, computers, and iPhones, children had to pay with each other. Their homes were often very small, so they generally played outdoors. They played together.

The Game The Children Played. This is the only children’s game mentioned in the Bible. In their games, children often mimicked adult behaviors. This game included acting like adults during the two most common social events: weddings and funerals. It is unlikely these young children could actually play a real flute, so they played an air flute. Making flute-like sounds, some of the children urged others to dance to the music, pretending they were at a wedding. The children had watched adults dance at weddings and now pretended to be dancing at a wedding. Then, the game would switch, and the “flute player” would sing a sad and mournful funeral dirge, while the other children pretended to be grieving and weeping. It was likely very humorous to watch the children switch from wedding to funeral and back again.

However, in the case Jesus pictured, a group of grumpy, malcontent children refused to play. They were so stubborn and surly that instead of joyfully participating in a fun game, they chose to pout and sulk. No matter how the game was played–happy or sad–they adamantly refused to play. I think Jesus was pointing out that in this case the adult Pharisees and lawyers were acting just like grumpy children.


Condemned For Rejecting John.  John’s ministry was like the children’s funeral game. Eating bread and drinking wine were everyday occurrences in those days, but John chose a lifestyle and diet that was quite different from everyone else. He ate locusts and wild honey. His clothes were different, too. He wore a “garment of camel’s hair” and wore a leather belt rather than a cloth belt.

His approach to ministry set him apart. He was a loud, abrasive and confrontational preacher. He called people out and told them to repent, and he did not do this quietly. He told them judgment was coming and they must be prepared. He especially called out the religious leaders of the day and told them they must repent as well. 

The religious elite and the stubborn of heart rejected John because he was too austere and needed to be more congenial and more open to the world and the opinions of others. John sang the dirge of God’s future judgment, and these people refused to weep and repent for their own sins.

Condemned For Rejecting Jesus. John’s ministry was to point to Jesus as the Messiah. Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus observed no unusual dietary restrictions and wore simple clothes. Jesus’ ministry was like the children’s wedding game, with Jesus seen as the groom and His disciples attending Him as groomsmen. Jesus interacted with people to establish relationships and seemed to enjoy being with them. Jesus associated with society’s poorest people. He attended weddings and banquets. He healed the sick and made God’s truth available and understandable.

Jesus’ detractors who were filled with pedantic narcissism accused Him of being a glutton and a drunkard. The Pharisees criticized Jesus for being too worldly and joyful. Being a friend of tax-collectors and sinners assumes that Jesus joined them in their sinful behavior. They refused to believe in Jesus because He needed greater solemnity and more conformity to the current religious convention. Because Jesus would not join the Pharisees, they rejected Him.

Condemned For Eternity. The people who condemned and rejected Jesus would find that they were condemned and rejected for refusing to believe in Him. The stubborn arrogance that called on God to conform to their way of thinking instead of humbling themselves and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ.

They will be eternally condemned for their faithless rejection. Please look with me at the third chapter of John, verse sixteen, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16-19)

These people deserved to be rebuked for their childishness. Sadly, in every generation, there are people who are like this–close minded and childish. We find that the Bible tells us that we are not to be childish, but to grow in our faith. The apostle Paul rebukes the people of the church in Corinth for their childishness. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk to you as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2, NLT)

Other Christians were also admonished for remaining childish in their faith. Hebrews 5:12-14 tells us, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some-one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”


Wisdom Is Vindicated.  No everyone who hears the gospel will reject it. There were some people who recognized that the gospel that Jesus preached was God’s plan and they chose to believe in Jesus and give their lives to Him. They chose to believe that Jesus was God’s plan for eternal redemption.

By All Her Children. Those who responded to Jesus, wisdom’s children, are contrasted to those who rejected John and Jesus. Jesus here calls the crowd to be accountable for their own decision about Jesus.

Would they side with God’s wisdom? Or, would they like complaining children, not believe unless God plays by their rules? They refuse to acknowledge the sovereign will of God and attempt to dictate their own orders.

God has a plan for our lives, but many choose their own plans and purposes. There are many people who make the same tragic mistake every day. It does not seem to matter to them whether the gospel message come to them in a joyful and gentle way or in a stern and direct way. Either way they reject the message. They ultimately become a people who commit themselves to unbelief and doubt. They even attempt to make skepticism and doubt a virtue. But doubt actually closed the mind to the actual evidence. The Pharisees in this passage saw all the same evidence that Jesus was God, but doubt forced them to make the wrong conclusions. And, that is an eternal tragedy.

Receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior is so easy a child can do it. We must first recognize our need for Jesus by realizing God is right about us in telling us we are sinners. We must conclude that since that is true, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. The message of the gospel is that Jesus came to take upon Himself the penalty and punishment for sin that we deserved, and He did not. Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to pay the ultimate price–His own life–to save us. Now, we must believe in Him and we must trust Him to forgive us and grant us everlasting life. Childlike faith in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness to our souls. Childish foolishness causes us to reject Christ to the end result of eternal condemnation. Which will you choose?

Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 10/15/2019