Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not 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 judgement 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 judgement than for you.”
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). Although spoken on another occasion, these words provide the basis for the judgement Jesus now pronounces.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … And you, Capernaum …” These towns in Galilee were the locations in which Jesus performed “most of his miracles.”
It was just outside Bethsaida (hometown of Peter, Andrew and Philip) where the feeding of the 5000 occurred, as well as the healing of the blindman who initially saw people “like trees walking”(Mark 8:24), until Jesus touched him again and brought full restoration of sight. Meanwhile Capernaum was where a multitude of people were healed one evening just outside Peter’s home (he’d relocated there with his family and mother-in-law), where the paralytic was healed after being lowered from the ceiling by friends, and likely the place where Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead and the woman healed who had hemorrhaged for twelve years.
Meanwhile, we know nothing about the many miracles performed in Chorazin. It’s all an indication of the truth of John’s statement, at the end of his own Gospel, that “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded” (John 20:30). But these towns in Galilee experienced many, indeed ”most,” of those signs.
But they hadn’t repented – at least for the most part. They hadn’t had a change of mind which would lead to a change in behaviour, causing them to turn away from sin and turn back to God. That was the point of Jesus’ miracles. The kingdom of God was breaking into the world through Jesus himself and the invitation was being extended. But so many didn’t receive it.
Hence, Jesus makes clear the weighty consequence. Those cities in Old Testament times that had fallen under God’s judgement because of their notorious wickedness will actually fare better in the final judgement than those cities which had experienced Jesus’ presence and works. Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had received so much more of the Lord’s revelation and blessing than had Tyre, Sidon and Sodom. They were responsible for what they had received. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”
It's a cautionary tale, reminding us that we, too, are responsible for what we have received. With the whole Gospel now revealed, and the presence of the Spirit with us, we have received so much more than even those Galilean towns of Jesus’ day.
May we fully embrace what we have been given that we may walk in his ways.
Lord Jesus, thank you for all you have given me of yourself – your sacrifice, your revelation, your Gospel, your love, your presence. Strengthen me by your empowering Spirit to more fully embrace all you have given, that with joy I may honour and obey and walk in your ways.
Reflect: Open your eyes to see clearly all you have received. Take time to name as many aspects as you can. Give thanks. Confess where you have failed to take his gifts seriously. Ask for the Spirit’s empowering that you may more fully embrace it all and walk in his ways.