Jesus is now commenting on a society that has perverted and degraded John and his teachings. He is criticizing the nature of the culture he was surrounded by because they failed to see the intent and purpose of both John's teachings and his own teachings.
Instead of seeing the intent and meaning of their teachings, they judged both John and Jesus by their exterior activities.
And sadly, this perversion of Jesus' and John's teachings continues today by ecclesiastical institutions that have failed to see the intent and meaning of their teachings.
So what does Jesus' analogy about the society around him mean? - "They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: " 'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'"
The comparison relates to both expectation and an attitude of being superior. A person who expects another person to dance when they play the pipe or cry when they sing a dirge (a "dirge" is a song of grief or lamentation) is a person who expects another to do what they want. They are expecting someone to be responsive to them. As if they are to be served.
So Jesus is comparing the people of the society around him as being primarily self-centered and full of expectation about the qualifications of a teacher. They put themselves in a position of judgement, thinking they have the ability to judge and define God's representative.
The fact is, God's representative does not act to please people. God's representative is acting on behalf of the Supreme Being. Therefore, we have no ability to sit in judgment of God's representative.
And to judge God's representative - even if some of their activities might not appear to follow all the supposed rules, or they externally do some things differently than their teacher - is to offend the Supreme Being.
This is because there is an intimate loving relationship between God's representative and God. This loving relationship cannot be seen by the physical eyes. It is an internal relationship - a spiritual relationship.
And Jesus is confirming here that both he and John are God's representatives. This is why he is comparing their external appearances and how they are being judged: The underlying statement is that despite their seemingly different external activities, they were both God's representatives.
Jesus and John taught the same thing
Jesus is indicating that even though they might have slightly different lifestyles or teaching methods, they are both representing God and both teaching essentially the same message.
This is confirmed by these verses:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)After Jesus' baptism from John - his initiation as John's student - and after John's arrest, Jesus carried forth those teachings:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)Jesus also instructed his disciples to pass on these same teachings to others:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)The meaning of this teaching is defined in the commentary linked to the above verse, but this repeated summary of their teachings illustrates that Jesus was teaching the same essential teaching that John was, and Jesus also instructed his own students to pass on this same (generalized by the writer) teaching.
This illustrates why Jesus became so incensed when the crowd around him were murmuring about John. And why he was so upset with their perception and judgment of them, and their lack of vision and understanding of their teachings.
They simply did not get it. They didn't understand what Jesus and John was trying to teach: Love for God and loving service to God.
Meaning of 'son of man'
This is illustrated by how Jesus referred to himself as the υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου - being translated here to "son of man." The problem with this translation is that it is inaccurate. It is meaningless. Every male is a son of a man. Therefore the title "son of man" has no meaning.
We also find this mistranslation occurring throughout the Bible:
David described himself as such:
Let Your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man You have raised up for Yourself. (Psalms 80:17)God called Ezekiel this numerous (94) times. For example, God said to Ezekiel:
"Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against Me to this very day." (Ezekiel 2:3)Son of man is also referred to in Numbers, Job and elsewhere. What does this mean?
Both the Hebrew and the Greek forms point to the same definition. Since Jesus is referring to himself with this phrase, let's focus on the source of this translation - the Greek.
The word υἱός (huios) can mean "son" but only when referring to ones physical family. According to the lexicon: "in a restricted sense, the male offspring." But its more appropriate translation in this context (as Jesus was not speaking of being a male offspring) is related to being a follower, pupil or servant. This is supported by the lexicon: "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower 1) a pupil"
In the realistic sense, this means υἱός (huios) relates to being a subordinate, follower, or servant.
The word ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) has been translated to "man" but it also means "mankind" or "humanity." Because Jesus - nor the other references - refer not to an individual "man," the appropriate translation would be "humanity."
This means that υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου means "servant of humanity."
Let's consider the ramifications of this self-reference by Jesus. What is he saying?
He is saying that he is serving all of humanity. How is that? Because he is trying to save us with his teachings. He is representing the Supreme Being and thus passing on to us the teachings that have the ability to elevate our consciousness and change our hearts from being self-centered to being God-centered.
In other words, Jesus and his teacher John were both teaching love for God. This is confirmed by Jesus' most important instruction, taken from Moses' teachings:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)Lastly, Jesus says: "But wisdom is proved right by all her children." What does this mean?
This is an analogous expression. "Her children" here is referring to "wisdom" in this phrase. Jesus is saying that those who follow wisdom - are the "children" of wisdom - prove that wisdom to be correct.
Often people say, "practice what you preach." The sum and substance of this last phrase relates to such a notion. When a person puts into practice the teachings of Jesus, the wisdom of Jesus' teachings is proven by the results. That is, quite simply, love for God.
A person who follows Jesus and thus also follows John the Baptist as well as Jesus' disciples, puts into practice their teachings to love and serve the Supreme Being. As such, they automatically love others, and want to serve God by helping others spiritually. This is being a servant of humanity.
Loving God also brings upon a person complete fulfillment. Loving and serving God is completely fulfilling because each of us were created by God to love Him and serve Him. This is our innate identity.
We are not these physical bodies. We are not our physical ages, occupations, names, reputations or any other temporary label of the physical world. We are the spirit-persons within these temporary physical bodies. Our spirit-person has a real form: An eternal identity. That is our innate relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is why we constantly spend our lives looking for our perfect "soul mate." We are looking for the Supreme Being. We are looking for that Perfect Person who will satisfy our need to love and be loved. This is our spiritual identity. We are only fulfilled when we are re-situated in our natural position of loving and serving the Supreme Being.
And this is the gift and intent of Jesus' teachings.