Woes Upon the Privileged Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Woes Upon the Privileged
I have titled my message, “Jesus Pronounces Woes Upon the Privileged”. By privileged, I don’t mean those who are wealthy and prominent or those who are members of the upper classes; but I am referring to those who have had the privilege of hearing the Gospel.
Today, we are told that humankind is getting better and that we are also better. But that is not correct, since in the past, there were times when all men knew about God, and most men worshiped Him. That was true for generations after Adam left the Garden of Eden. However, we read in the Bible, that mankind turned from God to idols, and that he became so corrupt, that every imagining of his heart was continually evil. That is why God sent the flood and started over with Noah. Noah and his family came through the flood, and once again, for generations all men recognized God, but in the long run, they turned from God to idols. It is not too long after the flood that we come in the Bible to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is found in Genesis. The people of those cities were depraved, and they had rejected God. God punished Sodom and Gomorrah, and 2000 years afterward Jesus reprimanded the cities Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, and warned them that they may face a similar fate. These were cities of privilege, as we shall see, yet Jesus said, “Woe unto you.” Let’s look first at how God dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah.
In Genesis we read, Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; (Genesis 19:24)
God saw to it that Lot was safely inside Zoar, and then the rain came. Brimstone and fire fell from heaven, bringing total destruction to Sodom, Gomorrah and all of the cities of the plain. That day had dawned clear and bright, with no sign of the impending storm; then the storm came to demonstrate that it was not from natural causes. In Job 31:3, it says, “Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?” God’s punishment is called “strange” by people because His ways are not our ways, and therefore they seem strange to us. He is our Savior, but He will also be the destroyer of all who reject Him. God had poured out His anger over all mankind by sending a flood; now He uses fire to annihilate the depraved people who lived in these cities. It was all wiped out...people, animals, vegetation, buildings; the destruction was total and absolute.
Jesus’ word of warning to the cities of His time, and by the way, also to us today is found in Matthew 11, verses 20-30. Here, He pronounces woe upon those who had the great privilege of hearing the Gospel, and seeing the miracles that were done, but did not repent of their sins, and believe in Him.
It says in verse 20, Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done because they repented not:
He had not spoken unkindly to these people, previous to this. At the outset, they received Him cheerfully, and He had made Capernaum His home. Since then, they had begun to ridicule both John and Himself.
He did more miracles in these cities, as well as his greatest miracles. In Capernaum alone, He healed the centurion’s servant, recovered Peter’s Wife’s mother from a fever, restored to health the man sick of the palsy, raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead, made well the woman who had a bloody issue, opened the eyes of two blind men, and expelled an evil spirit from a man possessed by one. He did all of these things, and more, in this one city, so He was just in admonishing them. What more did they expect the Messiah to do? The answer, not surprisingly, is that they expected Him to conform to their opinions, which arose from their own desires, not from the promises in God’s word. They sought after a deliverer, which would liberate them from the oppression of Rome and make their nation once again great; not one that had come humbly to save their souls.
He came to save men, but men are not truly saved, unless they are, in fact, sorry for their sin. God loves us, but we are not saved by His love, but by the death and resurrection of Christ, and by faith in Him. Jesus taught that faith and repentance are two sides of the coin, we call salvation. Both will take place in the heart of a believer, but they may not happen at the same time, or in a specific order. That is because, faith in Jesus Christ leads us to see our great wickedness, and the man who understands he is a sinner is ripe to receive the Gospel. The ways in which men come to be saved, shows the great insight of God, for sending such a Great One as Christ.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:21)
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin!”-This city is not mentioned anywhere else in scripture, but it is believed to have been about twelve miles from Capernaum. The woe that is theirs is more pity than anger, since their disbelief, has caused them to miss everlasting blessings. It is Christ, who will bring both blessing and judgment...blessing to believers and judgment and justice to unbelievers.
“woe unto thee, Bethsaida!”- We know that Andrew, Philip, and Peter lived in this city, which was a suburb of Capernaum, because John 1:44 says, “Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”
Jesus is saying, that if the residents of Tyre and Sidon had received the benefits of Christ’s preaching, and of seeing the miracles which were done in Chorazin, they would have repented. These were two neighboring Gentile cities, situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Later on, these two cities did receive the Gospel and became Christian cities. That they did receive the Gospel and did repent confirms the truth of Christ’s words. You know the story of Jonah and the whale; that God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of the judgment of God that was approaching if they did not repent and turn to God. He was sidetracked for a short time by a whale, but Nineveh repented, and in that way escaped God’s wrath, and these cities should have followed their example. It says in Jonah 3:5 &10, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
Let me ask you a question. Where is the Gospel preached more, than in America, seeing that it is given out in thousands of churches, over the radio, through TV evangelism, and in books and tracts? It is said, that every year, the Bible is the #1 seller. For these reasons, we are blessed by God, above all other nations. But from those to whom much has been given, much is expected. America must repent and turn from self-indulgence to faith in Christ, or else we will be punished more harshly than any other nation. I pray that we will not hear Christ say, “Woe unto you America, for you have had the advantage of having the Gospel presented to you, but you have not repented.” There will be an end to God’s patience, and it will be an awful end, for those who have refused to believe.