Reading Time: 7 Minutes
The majority of Jesus’ ministry took place in Galilee, the northern part of Israel. They were privileged to hear his famous Sermon on the Mount. Many of them were eyewitnesses to his healing power. Imagine the kind of talk that a healed leper or a blind man would generate.
In spite of Jesus living among the people and performing so many miracles, the majority of people went on living as if he didn’t even exist. Their failure to respond to Jesus caused Jesus to denounce them.
A Sad Report
The failure of the cities resulted in what Matthew recorded in the following verses: “Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 ‘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. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
23 ‘And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11.20-24).
Jesus compared the fate of the cities who had been favored with his message and miracles to ancient cities that incurred God’s severe judgment. The one fault of cities like Chorazin and Capernaum is that they failed to repent.
Jesus began his ministry with the pronouncement, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4.17). Jesus revealed that God’s kingdom was present, through deeds of power. Never before had they known so many people being freed from evil spirits and illness. Truly, the effective reach of God’s power was evident.
Yet, the people did not change their behavior, even though God was clearly doing new things in their very midst. They resembled the list that Paul gave to describe people who ignore God’s activity. He wrote, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3.2-5).
The cities of Galilee were judged more severely than ancient cities like Sodom, because the people looked more like Paul’s list of wrong behavior than they looked like people who were following Jesus.
It is important for us to ask ourselves how we resemble the “bad guys,” when reading the Bible. How has the teaching of Jesus and the miracles we have seen changed us? Are some of the issues Paul wrote about still lingering in our lives? Do we sense God’s power in the world and has it made a difference in our lives?
I hope we all can say that Jesus has made a profound difference in our lives. We are not perfect, but we are making progress toward the great life Jesus wants us to have. We don’t ignore Jesus, but we are living with him in a life-changing way.
Jesus Praises Some
Some people responded to Jesus ministry and message. Notice what Jesus said about them. He said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11.25-27).
The opponents of Jesus were people who claimed to be wise and learned. They were the religious authorities, who spent years following a respected teacher to obtain the status that they held. They had a head full of knowledge, but a heart that resisted God.
On the other hand, there were ordinary people who were dramatically changed by Jesus’ ministry. They had heart-knowledge that came from the revelation of God’s truth from God himself.
My friend, Pastor LeRoy Sullivan, was one of the most powerful African American pastors in the city until his death several years ago. He was one of the wisest men I have known, but he barely graduated from high school. I used to tell him, “I had to buy a $20 book and read it to get what the Holy Spirit gave you for free.”
LeRoy and people like him are blessed to have such a close relationship with God, that God can give them inside information about what is really important in life. This is a gift of God, but it is available for everyone who is open to receiving it. If we put aside our self-will and pride, we will be receptive to learn directly from God.
Encouragement to Pray
Jesus’ statement in verse 27 is a great encouragement for us to pray for others. He said, “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (verse 27).
If we can only know the Father and the Son through revelation, then we have an open door to pray for such revelation. I remember praying for the town’s “bad guy” when I lived in Louisiana. It was a pretty feeble prayer, but God answered it.
I prayed the prayer for this man’s salvation as I drove by his house. The prayer was more of a wish than anything else. Very soon after praying, he and I got acquainted and became good friends. A year later, he opened his life to Jesus while sitting with another preacher and me in the living room of my mobile home.
What happened was that God revealed Jesus to his inner person. He responded to that revelation and opened his life to begin living in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Who do you know that you can pray for today? God wants to reveal the life and ministry of Jesus to that person. Pray for him or her and then look for the results.
Dear Jesus, first please forgive us for neglecting your amazing work in our lives. You have done all things well, and we have often turned aside from your grace to our own self-will. Second, please help us to be open to what you want us to know about you. We desire to make progress in our relationship with you. Third, we pray for our friends who need to know you. Please show yourself to them.
As I recently listened to a friend lamenting over all the ways her husband has failed to live up to her expectations, my mind wandered to the areas that I’ve seen Jesus working in this young man’s life, the changes I’ve witnessed….and the aggressive, almost hostile words from this beautiful young mother who couldn’t be satisfied. And I thought to myself “Is this what Jesus was talking about? The “religious” leaders who failed to see goodness, who failed to thank God for answering their prayers, who always wanted more-more-more but never wanted to address their own shortcomings?” And even worse…is this me? Do I acknowledge God’s work when I see it – do I praise Him for answering prayer, even if he uses someone I’d never have thought of? Am I willing to accept His discipline and corrections in my own life? Removing the log in my eye and allowing me to offer grace for the speck I see elsewhere.
I have enjoyed praying Ephesians 3:16-19 over people this week. Specifically for my family members and generally for all who worship at Maywood. I pray that we readily accept the works of Jesus around us and praise Him especially when He uses and blesses folks we wouldn’t. After all, He has blessed me and I’m sure there are many who would not.
Lord, please show me the ways my heart is closed to You. Open those dark Pharisee-places and fill those corners with Your light. More of You, less of me. Amen
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Thanks Denise and Rudy for your comments. Thank you for praying Ephesians for people. Your prayers will make a difference in everyone’s lives.