The Gospels – The Gospel According to Matthew
Upbraiding the cities
Matthew 11:20-24 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
Again the strictness and severity which are characteristic of Jesus. He was not grieving and lamenting here. He was not perhaps feeling sorry for Himself here. He was chastising these people and telling them about the just consequences of not listening to His words.
The miracles and mighty works which were meant even further to help these people, to make it easier for them to believe in Him and change for the better did not help. What then will work to change these people? Probably nothing. Even the greatest works and power did not induce them to change. These works did not penetrate into their souls.
With these words, He passed judgment on those who would not listen to the only Word that would prevent them from destruction under the just Laws of God. There is probably nothing anymore that can be done for the inhabitants of these cities. If these mighty works of miracles were not enough to wake them up from their spiritual lethargy, then nothing will. Those who had been chosen by God had rejected Him and Jesus was certain that if the works that He had accomplished in these Jewish cities had been accomplished in non-Jewish ones, the inhabitants would have since changed for the better. From then on, the Word was now to be allowed to be spread among all nations. The Israelites had lost their spiritual supremacy and abandoned. With this realization, Jesus had now to let His Word be spread and the mantle of leadership be taken up by some other people.
He concluded by saying that the fates of the inhabitants of these Jewish cities and the cities themselves would be so unbearably grievous at the time of reckoning. A fate worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah could hardly be imagined and could hardly be more terrible. It is tantamount to a complete spiritual destruction of those who had rejected the only Word that could save them. The inhabitants of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah perhaps would still have a second chance to reconsider and change for the better but those who so brazenly rejected the Son of God in spite of the great works He accomplished amongst them were to be given no further opportunities.
To whom much is given, much is not only expected, but demanded and this is the case with those who had been chosen as hearers of the Word of Jesus at that time in Israel. The peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah had no opportunity to witness such great works, nor did they have the privilege of the Word of God brought to them. Now if such had had to suffer such a fate as they did, then it is not difficult to imagine the fate awaiting those of Israel. The rejection of the Word of God is one of the worst crimes that could be committed and to make it worse, the murder of the Son of God. It is difficult to believe that people expect mercy from God when He had already so many times made His Word available to mankind only to be persecuted every single time. There indeed must come a time when His forbearance will be over. Jesus said that not a dot shall be unaccounted for and the longer it takes for mankind’s trespasses against the Laws of God to accumulate, the more terrible the effects will be.