Context: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has instructed His disciples in the basic principles of His religion and His work. It is already apparent from the size of the multitudes which follow Him about that Jesus must train others who can assist Him. He does not send them forth immediately, however; the number of His apostles is not yet complete and those He has instructed are not ready. He continues to heal and to set an example of faith and of conduct for them; and once, when they have embarked on a ship and a storm arises, the example is strongly reinforced. Waves break over the craft and the disciples, terrified, awaken Jesus. Reproving them for their lack of faith, He quiets the storm. After He has called Matthew, and His disciples number twelve, He empowers them to perform miracles and sends them forth to preach among the children of Israel. Then He returns to His own work in the cities. John the Baptist, imprisoned but in no way daunted, sends two of his own disciples to ask Jesus if He is truly the Messiah who has been foretold. John is not entirely satisfied with Christ's claims. Jesus asks John's disciples to carry a report of His activities back to their master, then speaks of John to the multitudes. John, He tells them, is the messenger–Elias reborn–who has been sent to herald the coming of the Messiah. He follows this statement with a parable in which He likens His generation to willful children who refuse to play merely for the sake of refusal. John has led a solitary life and people have criticized him; Jesus has led a public life and has been criticized by the same people. He has been asked (see Chapter 9) by the Pharisees why He spends his time with publicans and sinners; a number of these persons had come to hear him speak. Jesus' reply was that people who are well do not require the services of a physician. The incident has formed the basis for His parable.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold, a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.