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Matthew 11:20-30: Jesus rebukes the cities

Posted by adventbiblestudy on November 21, 2011


Matthew 11:20-30 MKJV Then He began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works were done, because they did not repent. (21) Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes! (22) But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to the heaven, shall be brought down to hell. For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (24) But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you. (25) At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank You, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the sophisticated and cunning, and revealed them to babes. (26) Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. (27) All things are delivered to Me by My Father. And no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will reveal Him. (28) Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. (30) For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Also see Mark 7:3-16

Large crowds gathered around Jesus whenever He preached in the countryside, but things were different in the cities. He was nearly thrown from a cliff by an angry mob when He preached His first sermon in a synagogue in His hometown. The trend continued when Jesus spent weeks traveling from city to city preaching the kingdom of Heaven, and spreading God’s pure and simple message of love and forgiveness.

To the disciples one city after another began to look alike. They wondered why the Master did not seem to notice the difference between the country and the cities. In the countryside people came with food to share. In the cities everything demanded a price. The people in the country were polite and orderly. They gathered in small groups, sitting quietly upon the grass, leaving ample room for others with a need to approach the Teacher and Healer. The children were well attended by neighbors and relatives. The city crowds acted quite the opposite where crowds pressed the Master. People pushed and shoved to gain access to Jesus. Many of them came asking questions having nothing to do with the subject Jesus taught, but asked Jesus to judge trivial matters between neighbors or family members. The children often ran around out of control, many of them fighting, or taking advantage of the crowds using the large number of people as cover to steal from individuals and local merchants.

When Jesus healed in the country, shouts of praise echoed from hills and through the valleys. Inside the congested cities, praises were often drowned out by the chatter of the crowds.

Jesus’ sermons in the cities were often attended by a large number of priests, Pharisees, and scribes, where they felt more secure. The rude crowds gave them with a sense of boldness to question Jesus’ teaching. They felt it was their duty to defend the traditions and doctrines Jesus’ teaching challenged, like washing hands before eating, which is an important health issue, but was perceived as a religious necessity by the priests. The simple acts of washing hands, cups and bowls had been turned into religious rituals, giving people the impression these acts were vital requirements some how related to their salvation, and a necessary duty to God. In reality, these traditions created divisions between the classes as well as Jews and gentiles. Jesus made it clear, the Jews had rejected God’s laws in favor of their traditions.

A sad look fell upon Jesus’ face as He closed His eyes to pray for strength to deliver the message He had been given by the Spirit of God. It was a struggle inside the Son of man between the love He had and the warning He had to deliver. His mind went over every detail of the past weeks. He remembered every person He had healed, every sermon He had preached, and every question answered. In His mind He pictured the expressions on the faces of those who believed, and the doubt in the eyes of those who remained skeptical.

Jesus hung His head low as He prayed. At last he raised His eyes to the people in front of Him. His eyes now gave a piecing glare as He scanned the faces, reading the heart of each individual. His muscles tensed, His throat tightened as those near the front could see His Adam’s apple quiver. Jesus let out a long sigh before He began to speak. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes!” The disciples thought about the prophecies pronounced against Tyre in the book of Ezekiel, describing how they placed their trust in their riches. Jesus continued, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to the heaven, shall be brought down to hell. For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” This brought to mind the destruction of Sodom, how two angels left on a mission to destroy Sodom while Abraham pleaded with the remaining angel to spare the city, and how they could not find ten righteous men in the entire city.

After a long pause Jesus continued. “I thank You, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the sophisticated and cunning, and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things are delivered to Me by My Father. And no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will reveal Him.” The disciples had heard Jesus talk about His relationship with the Father many times. They knew the relationship He had with God. They also knew Jesus was referring to the priests and Pharisees. Jesus had often told the disciples how their traditions and power had blinded the religious leaders. Now the disciples could understand why Jesus had used Tyre as a symbol to illustrate to their greed.

Jesus gave them a moment to consider which relationship they were going to choose, that of the world, or the relationship with God, He was offering. For the first time the crowd became silent. This gave Jesus the opportunity to finish His message in a soft compassionate tone. “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

The disciples could finally understand the contrast between God’s simple law, and the countless rituals imposed by the priests and Pharisees. All their lives they had been taught the traditions were followed because they made it easier to understand God’s law. After listening to Jesus for more than a year, they finally began to understand traditions complicated, and in fact distracted from God’s law. They could see many of the traditions had little or nothing to do with God’s Word, but came from other sources. This made them think. They could understand how following traditions put an undue burden on the people, which was so different than the simple truths Jesus had been teaching. Experience had taught them to accept the easier, less complicated way of life.

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