Warning to the Unrepentant

Matthew 11: 20-24
Exo 2:1-15a / Psa 69

…if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
(Matthew 11: 23)

Let us heed the words of Jesus:
The worse will come without remorse;
We know that there is no excuse,
Repentance is our sole recourse.

Then Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of His miracles had been performed, because they refused to repent. “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. 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 to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For 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.” (Matthew 11:20-24)

Reflection

After leaving His boyhood village of Nazareth, Jesus travelled north to the towns and villages along the banks of the Sea of Galilee, where He spent most of his three-year ministry. He made His base in Capernaum, where He stayed in the house of Simon Peter. Jesus never travelled more than fifty miles from His base, preferring to preach the kingdom of God and repentance in the cities of Capernaum, where He performed many miracles, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, the birthplace of Peter, Andrew and Philip, where Jesus fed a multitude of five thousand. These three cities or towns were known as the “triangle of evangelization”, since Jesus concentrated His ministry in these Jewish towns rather than in the other Gentile and Samaritan areas.

Why did our Lord curse these three cities where He had spent such considerable time in His short ministry of three years? It makes one wonder how these places could be worse than the wicked cities of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon. Sodom and its twin city of Gomorrha were Old Testament cities that were destroyed by fire and brimstone for their people’s corruption. Tyre was a powerful Phoenician city that oppressed Israel. Ezekiel (Ez.26:3) and Amos (Am 1:9-10) prophesied that Tyre would be attacked and destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Then later, Alexander the Great would conquer it and bring an end to the Phoenician Empire. Sidon was a pagan city that worshipped Baal, also known as Satan. These three cities were cursed because of their wickedness, but Jesus was saying if he had performed His miracles there, they could have repented and been saved. This was the case in the city of Nineveh, where the whole country repented and were converted when the prophet Jonah came to their city and warned them of God’s impending wrath (Jonah, ch.3).

In spite of all the signs and wonders that Jesus performed in Capernaum, the people there remained impassive and unrepentant, and even resented and opposed Him. They witnessed Jesus’ miracles, and heard His words of wisdom, and yet they refused to repent and believe. Thus, Capernaum sealed its own fate, and like Sodom before it, as our Lord had predicted, it disappeared into the dustbin of history. Its fate and that of Chorazin and Bethsaida serve as a lesson to us that impenitence and rejection of Christ’s teachings can only lead to physical and spiritual destruction. Those with political power today flaunt their authority with impunity, but the Word of God never fails – they will get their just desserts. And it may be sooner than later.

Thank You, dear God for making us realize the damnation we would face without repentance. May the most precious blood of Jesus wash away all our sins. Amen.

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