Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 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. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 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. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.Matthew 11:20-24
If you thought the previous scriptures were rough, this portion is scathing! Jesus gets very direct and blunt with the cities where He had preached and performed so many miracles. He had just rebuked the “religious leaders” of the day, and now He turns to the people of these cities and tells them that, regardless of the lack of good religious leadership, they are without excuse if they abide in their impenitence!I
Chorazin and Bethsaida were two cities very close to Capernaum. Chorazin is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament but Bethsaida is the hometown of Philip, Andrew, and Peter. Both of these cities had no doubt heard of the miracles and teachings of Jesus. He had done many wondrous things around and in these two cities. Tyre and Sidon were two coastal cities on the Mediterranean Sea. They were considered by the Jews to be some of the worst places for living in sin and luxury. Jesus, speaking hyperbolically, says that if He had ministered in an area such as those, even they would have repented.
What Jesus is really saying is that they the unbelievers in His generation need to stop thinking so highly of themselves. Their rejection of John and Jesus puts them in a worse position than Tyre and Sidon which were destroyed for their sins!
Next, Jesus turns to the larger central city of Capernaum. They may have improperly exalted their own opinion of themselves but the true exaltation is that Jesus spent most of His ministry there! Nevertheless, Jesus compares them to wicked Sodom which had less that ten righteous souls therein. He says that even that wicked place would have turned if it had the abundance of evidence that Capernaum had. He pronounces the same doom for Capernaum by showing them that they are worse than the most wicked city they can imagine.
Wow, such strong rebuke! But let us not point the finger at some other city or nation. Let us not exalt ourselves and say that is talking about some other church or individual. Our belief is reflected in our actions (James 2:18). If we are not transforming our lives in thankfulness to the grace of God bestowed upon us, we are no better than these ungrateful and wretched cities.
I think it far better to justify wisdom and believe!