I invite you all to recall what I said about Proverbs 8. I brought out a little bit about wisdom and then stated that that would be recalled more as we looked at other texts in the New Testament. Tonight, we are looking at such a text.
16“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17” ‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
The context going on in this passage first off is very good news for doubters. John had seen a lot and he wanted to be sure and Jesus did remind him of the evidence. What he spoke about were the signs that would follow the Messiah.
What’s even more comforting for us is that Jesus then turns around and praises John to the crowd. In any time I’ve had of doubt, I have taken this to be a great solace that Jesus does not condemn an honest questioner. John had not seen the miracles that Jesus had done as he was put in prison shortly after the baptism of Jesus.
Jesus speaks though about the differences between he and John. He’s pretty much saying “You people can’t be pleased.” John did one thing and they condemned him. Jesus did another thing and they condemned him as well.
However, Jesus says that wisdom will be proved right by her actions.
What’s he saying?
On one level, we could say that he is talking about conventional wisdom. If one is wise, they will see who Jesus is. They will see that his actions are the ones that mark his claim to be the Messiah despite what people say.
There’s another level I think going on though.
We know that later in the gospel, Jesus will be in debate with the Pharisees. In Matthew 12:42, he says this:
The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.
Solomon was the wisest king of all, but Jesus is saying one greater than Solomon is here. The difference is not that Jesus simply possesses greater wisdom, which he does. (And by the way, we Christians do a huge disservice to Jesus when we don’t see him as an intelligent thinker. How often do you think “Jesus was smart.”? When George W. Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher, it was a very rational statement and Jesus was, and is of course, a far greater mind than the philosophers.) The difference is that Jesus is Wisdom.
Why the feminine? Sophia, Wisdom, is often pictured as feminine simply because she plays a subservient role. She wasn’t bound to being feminine and in the same way, Jesus can be a man and still be the embodiment of Wisdom.
By doing the actions that he does, Jesus is showing himself to be the Wisdom of God.
We will look more at the self-understanding of Jesus tomorrow.