Father, may this be a time of Spirit guiding, grace unfolding, and Word revealing. Seal your truth in my heart.
Read MATTHEW 11:20–24
Woe on Unrepentant Towns
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[a] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
- Matthew 11:23 That is, the realm of the dead
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect on any mission activities you have been involved in. How successful were they and how do you measure success in this area?
It’s natural to assume that everyone who met Jesus, heard his teaching and witnessed his miracles was persuaded and instantly followed him. However, today’s reading makes it clear that this was far from so. It appears that even the towns at the very center of his ministry were unreceptive, for Jesus berates these places. Bethsaida, for instance, is where Luke claims the feeding of the five thousand happened and Jesus also healed a blind man there. Capernaum was the base for much of his work in Galilee. This was where residents lowered a paralyzed man through a roof, so Jesus could heal him – and many other wonders happened there. Jesus performed further miracles that are not described in the Gospels:1 we know nothing about what he did in Chorazin (v 21), for instance.
The people in these places do not appear to have rejected Jesus, but to have been indifferent to him.2 We may be shocked that they could be apathetic about a man like Jesus. Because these places had been privileged to see so much of Jesus, they would be held more accountable on the day of judgment than pagan cities such as Tyre and Sidon, condemned by the Old Testament prophets, and the notoriously wicked Sodom destroyed by God with fire and brimstone.
Many came to watch Jesus, but it seems that few went on to follow him. What does this teach us about what to expect from mission? We should remember, though, that while most people ignored Jesus, there were some from these places who did follow him and they would become hugely significant: the apostles Peter, Philip and Andrew all came from Bethsaida and went on to change the world.3 What matters most: numbers of converts or depth of discipleship?
Dear Lord, help us not to be discouraged when people are not interested in the gospel but rejoice as your angels do over even one person that comes to you.
Forgiving Lord, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection I am loosed from my sins by his life’s blood. Keep me always ready to confess my sins and return to you.
1 John 20:30 2 William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume II, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p14,15 3 John 1:44
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