Jesus began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’Matthew 11:20-24
At some point in all of our lives we have been guilty of knowing the right thing to do, of recognizing the right path to take, but going our own way regardless of that knowledge. Often we dress up our wilful stubbornness in clothes of self-justification, self-assurance and ‘principle’. But, if we can find the humility to step outside our pride we know, deep inside, that we are not being faithful to God.
Today’s reading begins with Jesus condemning towns that he had witnessed following the path of self-condemnation and self-destruction. Jesus had lived, taught and worked his deeds of power in Capernaum. The towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida were just a short journey from Capernaum. All the people Jesus condemns had actually seen Jesus, they had actually heard Jesus, they had witnessed at first hand his divine power at work, but what difference had it made? None at all as far as Jesus could see! Like many of us, they just carried on in their proud, greedy and condemnatory ways.
Can we not feel Jesus’ despair?
Or are we content that we know better?
Or, are we feeling sympathetic towards the towns condemned by Jesus?
Jesus’ words to the towns where he had walked, taught and healed should be seen as a sharp wake-up call to each of us. Throughout scripture we are told that the day will come when we will be judged for the way we have lived and the way we have used our God-given time, talents and treasure. Today Jesus is hammering that message home.
It is never too late to repent and follow the path God has prepared for us.
But … are we ready to face that challenge?