And saying, We have piped unto you, and you have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and you have not lamented.
Read Chapter 11
Cyril of Alexandria
When some children are dancing and others are singing a dirge, their purpose does not agree. Both sides find fault with their friends for not being in harmony with them. So the Jews underwent such an experience when they accepted neither the gloominess of John the Baptist nor the freedom of Christ. They did not receive help one way or another. It was fitting for John as a lowly servant to deaden the passions of the body through very hardy training, and for Christ by the power of his Godhead freely to mortify the sensations of the body and the innate practice of the flesh, and to do so without reliance on strenuous ascetic labors. Nevertheless John, “while he was preaching the baptism of repentance,” offered himself as a model for those who were obliged to lament, whereas the Lord “who was preaching the kingdom of heaven” similarly displayed radiant freedom in himself. In this way Jesus outlined for the faithful indescribable joy and an untroubled life. The sweetness of the kingdom of h...
We have piped. Christ, says, St. Jerome on this place, was represented by the children that piped, or played on pipes, and St. John by those that mourned; because Christ refused not upon occasions, to eat and converse with sinners. (Witham)
Jesus shows the Jews by this simile, that he had endeavoured to induce them, by the common life he led, to an imitation of his virtues; and they had not complied with his desire.
We have lamented. This part is to be understood of St. John, who led a most austere life, and notwithstanding was despised by the Jews. (St. Jerome in St. Thomas Aquinas)
Similar to this is the complaint of the Almighty, by the mouth of the prophet Isaias: What is there that I should have done to my vineyard, and have not done? Our Redeemer and the Baptist imitated skilful huntsmen, who made use of various and opposite stratagems, that if the nimble animal escape one, he may fall into another. As men are commonly more engaged by fasting and austerities, therefore did the...
Now what He says is like this: We have come each of us an opposite way, I and John; and we have done just as if it were some hunters with a wild beast that was hard to catch, and which might by two ways fall into the toils; as if each of the two were to cut it off his several way, and drive it, taking his stand opposite to the other; so that it must needs fall into one of the two snares. Mark, for instance, the whole race of man, how it is astonished at the wonder of men's fasting, and at this hard and self-denying life. For this reason it had been so ordered, that John should be thus brought up from his earliest youth, so that hereby (among other things) his sayings might obtain credit.
But wherefore, it may be asked, did not He Himself choose that way? In the first place He did also Himself proceed by it, when He fasted the forty days, and went about teaching, and not having where to lay His head. Nevertheless He did also in another mode accomplish this same object, and provide fo...
. It is the malcontent nature of the Jews that He is speaking of here. For as they were cantankerous, neither John’s asceticism nor Christ’s simplicity pleased them. They were like foolish little children who are never satisfied — whether one cries for them or plays the pipe for them, they are not pleased.