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Jesus’ Response to Unbelief (Matthew 11:20-30; Luke 10:13-15, 21, 22) | Werner Bible Commentary

Jesus’ Response to Unbelief (Matthew 11:20-30; Luke 10:13-15, 21, 22)

Submitted by admin on Sat, 2008-01-12 12:10.

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Jesus did most of the works demonstrating divine power in the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, located near or on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Although having witnessed many miracles, most of the inhabitants of these cities refused to repent and change their ways, persisting in unbelief. This prompted Jesus to reproach them. (Matthew 11:20) On account of their great loss, his pronouncement of woe must have been accompanied by great sadness. (Compare Luke 13:34; 19:41, 42.)

If the people of Tyre and Sidon, the non-Israelite cities on the Phoenician coast, had witnessed the miracles Jesus performed, they would long previously have repented, expressing their sorrow by putting on sackcloth and seating themselves on ashes. The arrival of the day of judgment would, therefore, prove to be more bearable for the people of Tyre and Sidon than for the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida who saw Jesus’ mighty deeds. (Matthew 11:21, 22; Luke 10:13, 14)

As for Capernaum, it would not be exalted heaven high but would be brought down to the lowest level (Hades or the realm of the dead). (Compare the different subject matter but the similar contrast in Amos 9:2; see the Notes section on Matthew 11:23.) If the morally corrupt inhabitants of Sodom had been granted the opportunity to see the working of divine power like the people of Capernaum did, they would have repented, and the city would still have existed when Jesus was on earth. On the day of judgment, the situation would be more bearable for the former inhabitants of Sodom than for the unrepentant inhabitants of Capernaum. (Matthew 11:23, 24; Luke 10:15)

Jesus’ words suggest that the judgment destined to come upon the unbelieving inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum would be more severe than that on the people of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. He did not, however, reveal just how the judgment would be more tolerable or bearable. Later, in one of his parables, he did indicate that the kind of punitive judgment to be administered would depend on the degree of accountability. (Luke 12:47, 48) It was sufficient for unbelievers to be warned about the seriousness of the coming judgment without being provided with specifics. By reason of what they had seen and heard, the inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were far more accountable for their actions than the people of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.

The unresponsiveness of the majority did not embitter Jesus. With holy spirit operating upon him, he rejoiced about those who did come to repentance and put their faith in him. “I thank [exomologéo] you,” he prayed, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it came to be pleasing before you.” (Matthew 11:25, 26; Luke 10:21; see the Notes section for additional comments on Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21.)

For the most part, the prominent ones among the Jews, the wise and learned in their midst, were more concerned about maintaining their position and upholding tradition than they were in doing God’s will. Therefore, the matters relating to coming to enjoy an approved relationship with the Father through his Son remained hidden from them. The Father let them remain blind and thus kept them from seeing their need for repentance and putting faith in his Son. Yet, to the lowly, the ones whom others regarded as insignificant, mere babes, the Father had revealed what was necessary, and they responded in faith. Their disposition was such that they were receptive to the message and person of his Son, and the Father favored them with unobstructed hearing with attentive ears.

To his Son, the Father had committed “all things” pertaining to having his approval. As the intimate of his Father, Jesus alone truly knew him and was fully known by him. In a manner that no one else could, Jesus revealed his Father to anyone whom he chose. The ones chosen would thus also truly come to know the Father as those enjoying an approved relationship with him. Jesus’ choice, as evident from those who became his loyal disciples, were all persons who had repented of their sins and came to acknowledge him as the Christ, the Son of God. (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22)

No one, however, was debarred from coming to him. To all who carried a heavy burden (suffering or oppression of any kind, the weight of compliance with traditions, or feelings of guilt and unworthiness), he extended the invitation to come to him, and he would grant them rest or refreshment. Instead of the oppressive yoke that weighed down on them and brought them pain and grief, he invited them to accept his yoke and to learn from him. He was no oppressive master, with an arrogant or superior bearing. Jesus was gentle and, in his heart or deep inner self, lowly. There was nothing about the Son of God that would make others feel inferior or worthless. He was tender and loving, displaying the spirit of a caring servant and not the harsh attitude of a superior. Therefore, the yoke of discipleship that he offered would be easy to carry, and the load would be light. It was not a life governed by a multitude of rules and regulations but a life of love stemming from an internal desire to be pleasing to him and his Father. (Matthew 11:28-30)


In Matthew 11:23 (and the parallel passage of Luke 10:15), a number of translations present the contrast by other than a literal rendering of “heaven” and “Hades.” “And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.” (NIV) “And you Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to the depths.” (NCV)

The word exomologéo, a form of which is found in Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21, signifies to confess or acknowledge openly. In the context of Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21, the term may either mean “thank” or “praise.”

See http://bibleplaces.com/bethsaida.htm for pictures of and comments about Bethsaida.

See http://holylandphotos.org/ for pictures of and comments about Chorazin and Tyre.Type either Korazin or Tyre in the Search box to obtain the specific information on each one.

See http://bibleplaces.com/capernaum.htm for pictures of and comments about Capernaum.