Wouldn't we censure Jesus today for being politically incorrect in being insensitive to those with a hearing disability?! But the ears he's talking about aren't physical. Whether or not we suffer physical disability, we don't need to be spiritually disabled.
Today's generations play at video games rather than weddings & funerals. Here, Jesus is at least sad, probably angry at how child-ish we can be, as distinct from child-like. Including sad & angry at those on both sides of the conflict in Palestine today, & other places where children are too practised at funerals, too traumatised by them, to want to play at them? Maybe the children Jesus watches play at being John Baptist, too? Do they shout at people, then drench them? Maybe they even play at being Jesus? How would they / we portray him? Do people see us living out a Way distinctive enough for them to want to re-enact it? Jesus is showing us 'Games People Play' isn't just the title of a book!
What he wants us to do is act him out in the margins of our lives.
Not just play Gospel in our sanctuaries. How do we act out
loving till it hurts? [By the way, THOM 46, about recognizing God's Rule
as the essence of child-likeness, throws light on that 'greater than John'
business in v.11.]
Going to extremes, of eating, drinking, abstaining, anything, really, makes us vulnerable to critics. Jesus appears to give the thumbs down to all extremism except loving! But what if we slip into a Laodicean mediocrity? A lowest common denom -ination? Someone will eventually react & go to an extreme to correct this. And we'll be hurt, offended! More, those who take the high ground at extremes usually expect others to join them there! And they do! Still more offence & hurt. Discerning the right Way requires us to make a great act of confidence in God's Wisdom. In Godself. The term 'In extremis' reminds us it's possible to die spiritually way too far out there!
Several towns come in for a real tongue-lashing. Is ours among them? Here's the Jesus who brings not peace but a sword. None of this 'Gentle Jesus meek & mild stuff! Do we sheath our tongues in their scabbards too easily these days in the effort to be nice to anyone & everyone? Where a verse or two earlier Jesus's been counselling moderation, here even he takes an extreme view. Even moderation can be taken to extremes, can't it? The gist of 20-24: identify the works of God in our midst, be those works, or bring / become a judgment on ourselves.
25-26 re-iterate the topsy-turvy nature of God's Rule. How much effort do we expend trying to turn things right side up - as we see it? To do so is to work against the Rule of God. Turn traitor! If we think God's Rule's too upside down sometimes, before we try to correct it, let's give it a fair chance to turn us & our world order wrong side up so that it matches God's.
We come to a Mystery, Paradox at the Centre of the God-us relationship:
we can't know God (as Father) if the Son doesn't reveal him
to us. A plank of Christian Faith. Relax! You & I can't / don't have
to (re)solve this paradox. God's always at work taking the initiative in
this revealing process. Faith means identifying God at work doing that
revealing Godself in our midst. And responding appropriately. Ears &
P.S.The ancient middle eastern expression we usually translate 'father' appears to have much richer & wider meanings than our word 'father'. More like the ongoing creative heartbeat of the Universe, & not male-specific at all.
Back in theological college in the late 50's, I heard Hugh Gough, later Archbishop of Sydney, preach on 28-30. The point he made was that many of us persist in coming without taking, while others want to take without coming. Jesus calls us to do both at the same time. (Those old enough may remember how for centuries the 'comfortable words' of the old BCP used to lure us into exactly the trap Gough pointed out. It was always "Come unto me...& I will refresh you". Full stop! Never mind the 'taking' bit. I rest Gough's case.) Sorry for this nostalgia, but it was a great sermon!