Read Matthew 11:20-24
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day.” (Matthew 10:14-15, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 210: Unrepentant. Today’s passage deals with people in the collective. In other words, we’re not dealing with individual people, but entire cities (more likely villages) of people. To be specific, Jesus is calling out the cities of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Before going further, let’s investigate those particular cities. Korazin was one the Eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee on the Plain of Korazin. According to the Babylonian Talmud it was known for its grain and may have been a region around Cana of Galilee and not just a single village.
Bethsaida was a city east of the Jordan River, where it emptied into the Sea of Galilee, located in an uncultivated area used for grazing. It believed that it might be the sight from which Jesus fed the 5,000 men (15,000 if you count the women and children present) with five loaves and two fish. Bethsaida was actually the hometown of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
Capernaum was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee and was the hometown of Matthew the Tax Collector. This was also the place from which Jesus operated his Galilean ministry out of. In fact, Mark 2:1 implies that Jesus called Capernaum his home during his active years in ministry. So, Jesus spent a lot of time in Capernaum and performed many miracles there, as he did in the previous two cities/villages mentioned.
Yet the villages themselves did not largely accept Jesus. In fact, he met quite a bit f of resistance from the religious leaders and from the people. That is not to say that everyone in those villages rejected Jesus. Clearly, there were people who supported him; however, most of the people were moved to repentance by Jesus, his ministry, and his miracles.
Thus, Jesus says that it will be better for Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom on the day of judgment than it will be for those villages. Harsh, right? Why would Jesus say that. Actually, Jesus answered that question for us: “For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse…For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today” (Matthew 11:21, 23, NLT).
What Jesus was lamenting over was the fact that they were witnessing the very presence and power of God before them and still there hearts were hardened. Tyre, Sidon and Sodom were rough places with wicked people; however, they did not have the benefit of seeing God face-to-face. Had they, Jesus concluded, they would have gladly repented and turned back to God. The sin of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum was their pride. They saw themselves as not needing a Savior, and they did not recognize God in Jesus because of their prideful, hardened hearts.
That should be a challenge to us. Where do we house the villages of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum within us. What parts of us do we deem untouchable? What aspects of our lives are we NOT willing to repent and let go of? Do we bear a hardened heart toward God? Are we unrepentant? Let us be challenged to head toward the light so such parts of us might be exposed and eradicated for the Glory of God and the transformation of the world.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Sin leads to wickedness and to hearts that become hardened to things of the Spirit.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
Lord, soften those parts of my heart that keep me from full repentance. Forgive me I pray. Amen.