Matt. 11:20 ¶ Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent.
Matt. 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Matt. 11:22 But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
Matt. 11:23 And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Matt. 11:24 But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
During much of Jesus’ period of ministry he lived in Capernaum. The cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida were nearby and the citizens of these three towns were blessed with opportunities to watch Christ in action. They witnessed miracles on a regular basis and heard Jesus himself preach the good news of the kingdom. Who wouldn’t have wanted to have experienced Jesus first-hand?
There is an old Hebrew saying that you will be “exalted to heaven.” Capernaum was living in that Hebrew blessing. The Messiah was living amongst her citizens and this city was blessed above all others. But maybe she was overly blessed because somehow the people just didn’t “get” it. Instead of living into the blessing, they would be brought down to Hades. Why? Because they were taking for granted all that they were experiencing and would not repent. Jesus had come to them as a loving Savior and they had been blessed by his presence but now he was warning them because of their lack of genuine faith.
The cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom were remembered for their wickedness in the Old Testament. However, Jesus is declaring that these cities would have repented had they experienced the blessings that Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had and that these cities would suffer destruction as a result of their unrepentant nature. All three cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were destroyed by the Romans. The ruins of Chorazin were not discovered until 1962, and Bethsaida, while the birthplace of Peter, has never been found. The ruins of Capernaum were found by Edward Robinson in 1838.
Were these towns overly blessed by the presence of Christ and his disciples? They took their blessings for granted and suffered complete destruction.
We are not blessed to experience Jesus’ miracles in person or to see him walking down the street of our town, but are we not blessed in many parts of the world to have many churches? And are we not blessed by the promise of the Holy Spirit living in and through Jesus’ followers? And didn’t Jesus say that those who would come after him would do more than he did? Could it be that today’s Christians are just as overly blessed as those who experienced Christ in these three cities and may be taking their blessings just as for granted as those in Jesus’ time?
Maybe it’s time to take stock of our blessings and recognize that we are being called to action as a result. The people of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida were being called to repentance and so are we. They were absorbed by their local life and culture and took for granted that Jesus was among them calling them to take up their cross and follow him. We are blessed to hear the Word preached week after week in our churches. We have homes and libraries filled with numerous translations of the Bible. We are surrounded by miracles (only we often don’t take time to recognize them) on a regular basis. But could it be that it will be better for the citizens of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom on the day of judgement than for those of us who have been overly blessed?
The call to life in the kingdom is not a half-way calling. It is, instead, a call to a radical lifestyle of following after Christ, day in and day out. It is a call to imitation of Christ and continual and on-going transformation into his image on a daily basis.
Are we suffering from being overly blessed? Take time out to listen to the still small voice of Jesus beckoning us on into a radical life of holiness.
Lord, please help me to live for you and listen to your voice every single day! Amen.