Summary: Jesus warns some people of the consequences of rejecting Him.
You did not study real hard for the math test. After all, you are a pretty sharp guy and you have always gotten good grades in the class. The test seemed pretty easy, and you are fairly certain you aced it. The teacher is handing the tests back right now. You glance over at Jimmy at the next desk. His paper has a big "D-" on it. What a loser that Jimmy is. He will probably flunk the class. Oh, here comes the teacher. She puts your paper upside down on your desk. You turn it over, expecting to see a nice, big "A"...but no, it says 37%, "F." You flunked the test. A very unpleasant surprise.
Friends, today we are going to take a look at some folks who had an even more unpleasant surprise. As we continue our study of Matthew, we come to Chapter 11:20-24. This is a very interesting passage, where Jesus warns some people of the con-sequences of rejecting Him. I believe there are also some very important lessons for us, so let's pray that the Lord would help us to learn them today.
We are going to look at Jesus' words concerning six cities. Matthew 11:20-24 Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! 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. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." Here Jesus gives a very stern warning to the people in three cities, really just villages where He had been ministering: Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. These towns were located in northern Israel, along the north side of the Sea of Galilee, about 20-25 miles northeast of Nazareth, which was Jesus' home town. Capernaum was a fishing village which kind of became the home base for Jesus once He had left Nazareth. In Chapters 8 and 9, Matthew reports a number of tremendous miracles that Jesus did in this town, including raising the centurion's daughter from the dead. Korazin is a town we know really nothing about, other than it was a couple of miles north of Capernaum. Bethsaida was probably the home town of the disciples Peter, Andrew and Philip. None of the Gospels tell us about any specific miracles that Jesus performed in the last two towns, but Matthew implies there had been many. This reminds us that none of the Gospel writers ever pretended to give us an exhaustive account of Jesus' life and min-istry. As John says at the end of his Gospel, John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Anyway, these three villages were average Jewish towns, full of lots of what seemed to be nice, ordinary God-fearing people.
In contrast, Jesus refers to three other cities. Tyre and Sidon were large Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean, not far away, but places often denounced by the Old Test-ament prophets for their worship of Baal, a perverse religion which included child sacrifice and religious prostitutes. Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 26-28 are two prophecies against these pagan cities. Sodom, of course, is the most notorious city of all. Genesis 19 describes the great wickedness which oc-curred there, including the homosexuality, and then tells how God destroys Sodom and its sister city Gomorrah. These cities are the bad guys. Any godly person would say that the people who lived there deserved every ounce of punishment they got. The folks living in those three Jewish villages would think, "Hey, it is obvious. They deserve to experience God's wrath, but we don't." That is why it is a shock, a very unpleasant surprise, to hear Jesus say that one day, on the day of judgment, things are going to be worse for the people in these quaint Jewish villages than it will be for the folks in those wicked pagan cities.
Now, before we focus on the main point of this text, I want to note three important truths about God upon which Jesus bases His teaching. These are things that are very relevant for us, because they are still true.