Matthew 11:20-24 (NIV) Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
More light demands greater responsibility. That is an old saying, but its truth was never more evident than in people’s response to Jesus.
Jesus did mighty miracles everywhere He went as a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom. The concept was that anyone could say that God’s kingdom had arrived, and some people would follow them. But when concrete evidence of God’s kingdom is present, the people will be held accountable if they do not believe and repent.
Jesus had spent a lot of time in both Korazin and Bethsaida, doing miracles and teaching clearly about God’s kingdom. But, despite the evidence, the people were slow to respond. They appreciated the miracles, but they would not acknowledge the truth of the kingdom that Jesus was preaching, and they would not turn away from their sins. Their preferred scenario was for Jesus to keep visiting and keep doing miracles, and then go away and let them get on with their lives the way they preferred them.
The same attitude was even more prevalent in Capernaum. Jesus used it as a home base for a couple of years. Every time Jesus returned, the streets to His residence quickly filled up with the sick and demonized looking for help. But when Jesus went away, the people just went on with their lives as if nothing special had happened.
Many of the people in these cities saw themselves as good people – at least as good as most people, and better than some. But that self-view missed the point entirely. If they had eyes that could see, they would have seen that it was none other than Holy One of Israel walking down their streets, staying across town, and touching their lives with healing. Such knowledge would have prevented them from comparing themselves to others, and to simply see themselves in the light of Jesus. Such a clear view would have driven them to their knees.
But their eyes were glazed over with their own thoughts and opinions, and turned inward to their own needs, so they couldn’t clearly see, and thus they would not repent. The doom pronounced by Jesus on these places is terrifying. To be condemned as a community worse than Tyre and Sidon, gentile towns that had rejected God in spite of His earlier judgment on them, was mind boggling. To be considered worse than Sodom was inconceivable. But to refuse to repent in the very presence of the Son of God is to close one’s eyes to the biggest light imaginable, and to bring judgment on oneself.
Father, we all enjoy receiving from You and having You meet our needs. But after we have received, how can we simply go back to our own lives unchanged? Forgive us for not being always so conscious of You and what You are doing in us and for us that we immediately renounce our old way of life, and exchange it for a life lived in You. Amen.