“‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you’” (Matthew 11:21–22).
Indifference is a terrible form of unbelief. It so totally ignores God that He is not even considered worth arguing about. As Josiah realized after God’s people rediscovered His book, “great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book” (2 Kings 22:13; cf. Matt. 22:5–6, 14).
Probably most citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida had seen Christ’s miracles, and others knew about them from reports of friends and relatives. But relatively few responded in saving faith (cf. Matt. 7:13–14). Hence the Lord’s righteous wrath came down on them with exclamations of woe for their unrepentance. It is better to have never heard about Jesus than to hear and yet reject Him (cf. Heb. 10:26–27).
By contrast, Jesus tells us that pagan, corrupt cities such as Tyre and Sidon would have repented early on had they heard Jesus’ message and seen His miracles. Few statements such as this from the Messiah would have shocked the Jews more than to be unfavorably compared to sinful Gentiles. At the great white throne, God will judge unbelievers from all eras, sentencing them to eternal punishment. At that time, many from places like Tyre and Sidon will fare better than unbelieving Jews. The greater the privilege God offers people, the greater the responsibility they have. The greater the light they see, the worse the consequences for not receiving it.
Does your church bear the marks of people who have grown lackadaisical in faith and protectively focused on side issues, or people who are active and animated in their love for the Lord? How can you be part of encouraging faithful zeal in those familiar with Christian faith?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.