20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 ” Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” -Matt 11:20-24 (NASB)
Jesus really ramps it up in His preaching, here in Matthew 11. He names Chorazin, Bethsaida, and His hometown of Capernaum, and lays some pretty strong rebuke on them. Why? Because He presented Himself in each town, teaching and performing miracles, and in general, they rejected Him.
Sometimes I wonder how to translate Jesus into the church today. Would He be accepted in the Christian community with outbursts like this? Jesus rebuked these cities with language of hell and judgement. It would be unimaginable to speak this kind of judgement in our politically correct, overly sensitive world without strong criticism from every quarter. What was He thinking? You can’t reach the lost with this kind of language.
These cities had witnessed a brief visit from Christ, yes it was personal, but it was brief, and without complete revelation of His person and ministry. So, what about the cities of our western world, where the gospel has gone out far and wide? We see miracles every day, with greater and greater revelation of God’s good creation. We have access to the full gospel story from Genesis to Revelation like no other generation before us. And yet, we remain just as stubborn and unrepentant as any generation before.
Woe to my hometown!