I was recently reading in the Bible where Jesus cursed the cities. This reading launched me on a train of thought that I’ll share with you. But first, here are the pertinent passages from the book of Matthew, chapter 11, beginning with verse 1…
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
The cities that Jesus taught and preached in were Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum. All three were located not far from each each other on the north end of the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a large lake).
In verse 4 Jesus instructs two disciples of John the Baptist (who was in prison at the time) to tell John that…
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
As you might imagine, this man, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, having lowered himself to our estate, created quite a sensation among the people in the cities where he miraculously healed them of their sicknesses. As far as I know, Jesus healed every person who came to him seeking physical healing. We’re talking about signs and wonders like no one had ever seen before.
But, unfortunately, while the people of those cities loved the supernatural wonders and physical healings, they paid little heed to the message that Jesus preached. What was the message Jesus preached? The answer is found in Matthew 4:17…
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Kingdom of heaven? The other gospel writers use the phrase, Kingdom of God. Both phrases are interchangeable. They mean that the long-awaited kingdom of the Messiah was at hand. King Jesus would soon be taking the throne. God’s plan of redemption was at hand. The most significant event in the history of mankind would soon take place.
Of course, none of those people could possibly know Jesus would, before long, allow himself to be killed, then resurrected (in the flesh) from the dead, live again on the earth for 40 days, than ascend into heaven where all power and authority in heaven and earth would be given to him. That’s what Jesus was alluding to when he said the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
So it was that those people were were blind to the soon coming Kingdom of Christ and his eternal rule, but repent was a word that they could understand.
Repent means to “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.” True repentance involves an acknowledgement of sin and a change of course. Did this happen when Jesus preached in the cities? Well, evidently not. People came for the show and to get their healing, but not for the life change that begins with repentance (which goes hand in glove with faith). This is clear in Matthew 11:20 where it says…
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.
The Apostle Matthew (author of the book of Matthew) was a tax collector for Rome before Jesus called him to be an apostle. One of Mathew’s skills as a tax collector would have been tachygraphy, which was a form of shorthand. This being the case, Matthew was able to transcribe the words of Jesus very accurately. Here are the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:21-24…
Woe unto thee, Chorazin woe unto thee Bethsaida! For if the mighty works that were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgement, than for you.
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
“Woe unto thee” is the prophetic equivalent of a curse.
You will recall that Sodom was destroyed by God because of it’s rampant homosexual immorality. “Gay Pride” is not something new in our culture. It’s actually something very old. The Bible makes it clear that God hates pride, and He hates homosexuality. Put them together and… “Woe unto thee.”
But the amazing thing here is that Jesus declares the city of Capernaum to be worse than Sodom. Wow. How could the city of Capernaum, not known for sexual immorality, be worse than Sodom? I’ll tell you…
Sodom did not reject Jesus Christ and his gospel message of repentance. Capernaum did.
As for Tyre and Sidon, they were once-powerful pagan cities that fell under God’s judgement. Old Testament prophesies of the destruction of those cities eventually came to fulfillment. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind sure and fine. By the time Jesus came on the scene, Tyre and Sidon were long-since-conquered and subservient provinces of the Roman Empire.
Today, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, the cities that Jesus cursed, are archaeological sites and tourist attractions. They are no longer cities.
With all of that in mind, I’d like to suggest that the modern cities of our day and age are much worse than Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum ever were. The reason being, modern cities are strongholds of sexual immorality (as was Sodom), they are strongholds of paganism (as was Tye and Sidon), and they are strongholds of prideful unrepentance.
Worse yet, modern technological advances that were unimagined in Bible times now allow the anti-Christ culture of modern cities to be broadcast to every outlying corner of the globe.
There is so much more that can be said on the subject of cities from a Biblical point of view. Suffice to to say for now that God is not impressed with the cities of rebellious mankind.