The Unbelieving Towns
20In the towns where Jesus had worked most of his miracles, the people refused to turn to God. So Jesus was upset with them and said:
21 You people of Chorazin are in for trouble! You people of Bethsaida are in for trouble too! If the miracles that took place here had happened in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have turned to God long ago. They would have dressed in sackcloth and put ashes on their heads. 22I tell you on the day of judgment the people of Tyre and Sidon will get off easier than you will.
23 People of Capernaum, do you think you will be honored in heaven? You will go down to hell! If the miracles that took place in your town had happened in Sodom, it would still be standing. 24 So I tell you on the day of judgment the people of Sodom will get off easier than you.
In these few verses we have a powerful and sobering narrative. The words and works of Jesus are affirmations that the promised kingdom has arrived. Resistance to the message of the kingdom has serious consequences. Those in the crowds did not like what they were hearing and they “demonized” the messengers. Jesus now zeroes in on more egregious examples of this resistance to the good news that the kingdom has come. Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, each of these towns had opportunity to witness the powerful deeds of Jesus and yet without effect. No repentance took place, no acknowledgement that the messiah had come. Remember, these are towns Jesus knew well and many in these places would know him and his family.
One wonders whether their resistance was one of rejection or of indifference. Did they see what was going on and refuse to believe it or were they simply indifferent to the words and actions of Jesus? Either way the judgment that comes is severe indeed. They were in a privileged position having first-hand experience of Jesus and his miraculous work. It would now be better for the pagan people of Tyre and Sidon than members of these communities and it is likely that even the citizens of Sodom would have responded to such signs and wonders.
We who know who Jesus is carry a weighty responsibility. Discipleship is no place for nonchalance, or the uncommitted “whatever”. We are called to radical obedience, to dance to a quite different tune and order our lives by a very different agenda than that offered up by our contemporary culture. We need to be vigilant and not make excuses so that we can escape the radical call of the gospel. The stakes are high and we need the courage to respond aright.
Lord protect me from the temptation to insist on my own ways rather than the ways of your kingdom. Keep me from the sin of indifference. Open my eyes that I may see and follow in your footsteps. Grant me grace to live faithfully to the glory of your name.