“Jesus upbraided them because they did not repent”

Scripture:  Matthew 11:20-24

20 Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chora’zin! woe to you, Beth-sa’ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Caper’na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been  done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Meditation: If Jesus were to visit your community today, what would he say? Would he issue a warning like the one he gave to Chorazin and Bethsaida?  And how would you respond?  Wherever Jesus went he did mighty works to show the people how much God had for them.  Chorazin and Bethsaida had been blessed with the visitation of God.  They heard the good news and experienced the wonderful works which Jesus did for them. Why was Jesus upset with these communities?  The word woe is also translated as alas.  It is as much as an expression of sorrowful pity as it is of anger.  Why does Jesus lament and issue a stern warning?  The people who heard the gospel here very likely responded with indifference.  Jesus upbraids them for doing nothing!  Repentance demands change — a change of heart and way of life.  God’s word is life-giving and it saves us from destruction — the destruction of soul as well as body.  Jesus’ anger is directed toward sin and everything which hinders us from doing the will of God.  In love he calls us to walk in his way of truth and freedom, grace and loving-kindness, justice and holiness.  Do you receive his word with faith and obedience or with doubt and indifference?

“Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our hearts and give us a true faith, a certain hope and a perfect love.  Give us a sense of the divine and knowledge of yourself, so that we may do everything in fulfilment of your holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226)

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(c) 2002 Don Schwager