“For John came neither eating nor drinking ...” (Matthew 11:18-19)

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The 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.” (Matthew 11:18-19)

What does 'neither eating nor drinking' mean?

Here Jesus is discussing the perceptions that some of those surrounding him have towards himself and John the Baptist.

Jesus is describing John as austere: “For John came neither eating nor drinking."

The word "came" is translated from the Greek word ἔρχομαι (erchomai), meaning "to appear, make one's appearance, come before the public" according to the lexicon, as well as "be established" and "become known."

While "came" is not wrong, a better translation of Jesus' statement would be "appeared" or at least "came forth."

After all, Jesus is describing the appearance of both he and John. They appeared before humanity in that they were sent by the Supreme Being to teach.

Furthermore, "eating" is somewhat confusing as translated from the Greek word ἐσθίω (esthiō), because certainly, John ate. He did not fast his entire life - his body would have died.

Rather, the word ἐσθίω (esthiō), when used metaphorically, means "to devour," "to consume" according to the lexicon. Jesus was thus speaking not of eating food per se, but of overeating - which relates to the manner of consumption.

In other words, Jesus was describing the fact that John was extremely austere with regard to his consumption. It is not as though he didn't drink water - his body would have died of thirst.

In other words, the phrase, ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων - being translated to "eating and drinking" was a phrase indicating an extent of consumption - or the converse, austerity.

Was Jesus not austere?

Notice Jesus does not describe himself as austere, as he says, "The son of man came [appeared] eating and drinking".

This is a statement of humility. Certainly, Jesus was austere. He didn't accumulate wealth or property. He walked barefoot mostly and traveled from town to town preaching love of God.

Jesus is simply admitting that he wasn't as austere as John was. Part of this relates to Jesus' humility, as he did not speak highly of himself - outside of his relationship with the Supreme Being and his service.

Certainly, Jesus was not a "glutton and a drunkard" as some have interpreted this statement to mean. Rather, Jesus was indicating that this is what people accused him of, just as they accused John of being a "demon" - even though he was austere and dedicated to his service to the Supreme Being.

The issue here is that Jesus did sit down and eat at the table with those who were eating meals and drinking wine. This doesn't mean that Jesus was drinking wine - nor does it mean he was overeating.

It simply means that Jesus was being accused of these things. Because they wanted to find fault in Jesus. They assumed that if Jesus sat at the table with "sinners" - those who were overeating and drinking wine - then Jesus too must be doing these things.

Of course, they were wrong. Jesus did not abandon John's principles of austerity. He merely "came forth" and exposed himself to those who were overeating and drinking in order to communicate the need for us to resume our lost loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

Why were they criticizing Jesus?

Jesus is clearly stating that the people around him simply want to sit in judgment and criticize them. Why?

Because Jesus and John were serving the Supreme Being. Their lives were focused on pleasing the Supreme Being instead of pleasing themselves. Jesus communicated this directly:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:30)
This indicates Jesus' objective. Most of us in the physical world are focused upon ourselves: We want to please ourselves. So we do whatever pleases us.

This is why we are here in the physical world, wearing these temporary physical bodies. Because we reject our position as the Supreme Being's loving servants. Because love requires freedom, we are given the freedom to love Him or not.

And since our nature is to love and please someone, when we rejected the Supreme Being the focus of our love turned towards ourselves. This is called self-centeredness.

And this is what got us tossed out of the spiritual realm. This is because the spiritual realm is populated by those who are full of love for the Supreme Being and others. They are not self-centered.

Imagine if you were a sheep farmer and you had a big flock of sheep. What if a wolf then joined the flock of sheep. What would you do? Would you allow the wolf to remain in the flock of sheep? No, because the wolf would simply eat your sheep.

The wolf is not compatible with the sheep flock. Thus you will most certainly chase the wolf away from the sheep flock.

In the same way, the Supreme Being had to toss us out of the spiritual realm once we became self-centered.

How is wisdom 'proved right by her actions'?

Jesus is referring to the wisdom inherent in the methods of God's messengers, who are focused on delivering God's message to people. Some of their methods may vary, depending upon the time and circumstance, and upon the situation and opportunity that is presented to them.

This is "wisdom" because it is focused upon the purpose and objective of God and thus God's representatives. It is "wisdom" because it sees beyond the optics and focuses on doing what pleases God and is best for humanity.

The Supreme Being created the physical world and these physical bodies to send those who became self-centered. We were given temporary physical bodies to allow us to escape from our spiritual identity and our relationship with the Supreme Being.

We could compare this to going to the movies. In order to escape reality, people go to the movies. We buy a ticket and be given a special seat in a dark room. The room has a large screen and a great sound system. These are all set up to allow us to get lost in the movie. The darkness in the room allows us to forget the people around us - and reality in general - while we begin to identify with the characters in the movie.

In the same way, these physical bodies were intended to cover up our spiritual nature. These physical bodies and the senses are designed to see the world around us as though it is all real and permanent - just as the movie in a theater looks real. What our senses actually see is simply light reflecting off of molecules, just as the picture in a theater is just light reflecting off of a movie screen.

What we think we are seeing as shapes and forms around us are simply molecules that are coming and going - stacking up in certain ways than breaking apart. There is no permanency in the physical world. The permanence is simply an illusion, just as the movie is an illusion of real life.

This is what the Supreme Being set up for us in order for us to play out our self-centeredness. Here we get to pretend that we are the greatest. Here we get to pretend that we are the hero and the object of everyone's attention.

But for those who have a desire to escape the illusion of this world, God sends His messengers to bring us home to Him. They are communicating the wisdom that God brings into this world.

Note also that because Jesus is describing them together, Jesus is putting John the Baptist and himself in the same category: as messengers of the Supreme Being. This is communicated with the word "wisdom" - "But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

The lesson Jesus is trying to impart is that regardless of how the messenger of God acts, self-centered people will judge and try to find things to criticize them with. This is because by judging and criticizing God's messenger, they do not have to face the "wisdom" of their teachings. They can continue to ignore the Supreme Being and consider themselves the most important person in their lives.

Do people really care?

Part of this illusion is that we think others care about us. In reality, this physical world is made up of self-centered people and its citizens typically only care about others if they will further their own self-centered goals somehow. Even the so-called love here is conditional love. We love others on the condition they love us back or are nice to us - or on the condition that their body belongs to the family of my body.

And when it comes to someone sent to teach us about reality - what do we do? We judge them. We criticize them.

As though we are in a position to judge. We are sitting here in these physical bodies looking around us at molecules floating around - in the illusion that this world is permanent and we are these physical bodies - and we think we know it all. We think that we can pass judgment upon God's messengers even though we don't even know our own identity.

In other words, those who want to ignore and reject the Supreme Being are quick to find fault in those trying to serve the Supreme Being. Is this surprising? Certainly not.

What is a 'Son of Man'?

Jesus refers to himself as "the son of man." Isn't every male human a son of a man?

Remember the Greek word translated to “son” is υἱός (huios). While υἱός can be translated to "son" in the context of a physical relationship of father and son, the more appropriate translation here, as taken from the Greek lexicon, is "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." In other words, a devoted follower, or loving servant. Furthermore, τοῦ ἀνθρώπου means either "of man," "of mankind" or "of humanity." Thus the Greek phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου would mean that Jesus is referring to himself as the servant of humanity.

This is a humble self-description, consistent with the act of washing his disciples' feet (John 13:5).

Even in the secular world some government workers describe themselves as civil servants and so on. It is not the same, but it serves to show how this term is being used.

As for the term, "servant of humanity," Daniel was also so described, and David also humbly applied this term to himself as he prayed to God:
"O Lord, what is man that you care for him, the son of man [servant of humanity] that you think of him?" (Psalms 144:3)
The loving servant of the Supreme Being who is empowered to preach on God's behalf becomes the servant of humanity because he is delivering God’s message. If heard clearly, this message serves to re-introduce us to our original relationship with the Supreme Being. This is what ultimately saves us. And this is the ultimate service to humanity.

The Supreme being did what any loving friend or father would do should someone reject them: He graciously provided a place where we could feel we are away from Him - on our own. Even though we are intimately connected with the Supreme Being and cannot be happy without Him, He gave us a temporary façade of independence (these physical bodies and this illusory world) so that we could act out our self-centered desires.

The Supreme Being has not given up on us, however. He continually tries to call us back home. This is why He continually sends His messengers. Also, the physical world is programmed to serve us up various lessons about love, compassion and loneliness. These serve to teach us that ultimately we cannot be happy without our loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

This is a matter of identity: We were created by the Supreme Being to exchange love with Him. Therefore, although we have the freedom to choose to exchange love with God (freedom is necessary for love), we are miserable without that relationship. This fact is confirmed by the many lonely and miserable people living in this world - even those fabulously rich and famous.

Do we have to return to God?

Just because the Supreme Being is calling us back doesn’t mean we have to go back. We can still choose to reject Him and continue our mission to make ourselves happy through self-centered behavior. For those of us who are content to strive for our own happiness, we will always find ways to criticize and reject the humble servants and messengers of the Supreme Being.

This rejection also comes in the form of misidentifying Jesus. Many claim that Jesus is the Supreme Being and by doing this they ignore the Supreme Being. While certainly, Jesus is God's representative, he also came to teach us to love the Supreme Being. This is made clear by his statement:
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Note carefully the phrase, "only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." By ignoring Jesus’ most basic teachings to love and serve his Father, we are rejecting him, and rejecting the Supreme Being.

This would be likened to the ambassador of a government going to a foreign government to relay a message, and not only does the foreign government ignore the message, but they refuse to accept the existence of the country of the ambassador. They think the ambassador is there on his own. They do not accept the ambassador's role as the representative of his government. By ignoring the message and rejecting the ambassador's role, they have offended both the ambassador and the leader of his government.

And what was Jesus' central message - conveyed as God's representative? As also taught by Moses, Joshua, and all of God's messengers:
“‘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)