Citywide Condemnation (Matthew 11:21-24)

Photo by Daniel Abadia on Unsplash

Jesus, discouraged at the fickleness of the crowd who had gathered around Him while   He spoke to John’s disciples, now begins to denounce the towns He had done most of His miracle in – likely the same towns the crowd had largely come from; “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.” 

Philip, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida. Chorazin was Bethsaida’s neighboring town. Capernaum was the base from which Jesus chose to minister from. All three are in the same general area in the northern part of Israel known as Galilee. Although they were smaller population centres, they had seen firsthand the kindness and goodness of the Father through the work of the Son. Not only had they heard Jesus preaching, but also John before Him. Further, they had – as all the Jews did – the words of God in the Torah and the ways of God given to them by their forefathers. And now they had seen the Son, and still they did not believe and repent. The result was Jesus’ indignation and condemnation. 

Do not think that unkind. Jesus the Son is kind. So much so that God’s judgment of unbelief is – in some proportion – to how much of Himself and His kingdom has been revealed to us. To those who have seen and heard much, much is expected. To those who have seen little, less is expected. It is not that Jesus is excusing the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, but that He is expecting much of those who both have the Word of the Lord and experience the working of the Lord. 

In fact, that He so harshly speaks of these rural towns tells us that He will have an even higher expectation of us and the cities and towns we live in. For we have both the Torah and the New Testament. We have experienced the works of God first hand through salvation via the preaching of the Gospel. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, given to all believers to daily guide and teach us. We have the incredibly rich history of all the Christ-followers who came before us – the writing and encouragement of pastors, preachers and believers from every generation prior, all the way down to the New Testament! 

We – and those around us – do well to remember the exhortation of Psalm 2; “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”  

What then will He say of us and our cities on that final day? 

God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.


APPLICATION: Intentionality

When was the last time you participated in a significant outreach event?