Jesus said that the people of his time were like children playing a game in the public square (Matthew 11:16-19 NLT). This could probably translate to a schoolyard in our time just as well. In the passage he describes the reactions of the other children to John and himself. They are playing the normal games and these guys just won’t fit in.
I’ve tried to paraphrase it a bit, bring it up to date and look at it from a neutral observer’s point of view:
[A few days in] “So the other day we were playing the usual games of tag and the new guy – John – starts going on about something. He not only doesn’t want to play but he starts up a new thing of his own over near the drinking fountain. He doesn’t dress like the rest of us and he doesn’t go along with the gang. I think he has special needs.”
[Sometime later] “John has managed to get a surprising amount of people to put their heads under the drinking fountain! The teachers are getting involved now. He has even been telling them they are wrong in what they are teaching in religion class! Apparently he doesn’t agree with evolution. Keeps going on about judgement coming. I don’t think the teachers like it much. I still think he has special needs.”
[Later still] “John’s cousin turned up today. The first thing he did was to go up and put his head under the drinking fountain.”
[Later] “John has got expelled. His cousin is hanging out with all the druggies, drinkers and girls who everyone knows have slept around. It seems like he has gone the complete opposite direction to his cousin. I don’t think the teachers like him either though.”
So I guess we all know how this ends. But at the time Jesus drew up this analogy this was roughly where things were at.
Interestingly, it wasn’t that either John or Jesus were wrong even though they both had such polar opposite ways of approaching their relationships with their peers. John is confrontational, Jesus is winsome (at least at this point – that changes later). Jesus ends his little analogy with the comment that there is wisdom in both approaches.
I think teenagers in particular struggle with that breadth of acceptance of those they perceive to be different. But they are not the only ones.