For some reason I’ve found myself returning to the Gospel of Matthew quite a bit recently. I was reading Matthew chapter 11 and went past a verse that grabbed my attention in a new way, even though I have read it many times over. Matthew 11:21.
“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. [NASB]
Jesus performed mighty works right in the midst of the citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida. These towns near the Sea of Galilee were in the epicenter of most of Jesus earthly ministry. Tyre and Sidon, near the Mediterranean in present day Lebanon, were known as sinful cities in the time of Christ. Why would Chorazin and Bethsaida (and Capernaum if you read further) fail to respond to the same set of circumstances that would cause Tyre and Sidon to accept what God was doing and repent? Perhaps the three Galilean cities had preconceptions of Messiah that didn’t match His actual appearance.
Maybe those cities were so bogged down in their religion and its traditions they failed to recognize Him when He walked right among them. The United States is on a journey from Chorazin to Tyre. Christianity in the U.S. had become like Judaism was to Christ’s contemporaries living in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Rather than affecting culture with the love, power, and glory of Jesus, the church was largely stagnant.
In the vacuum created by the slumbering church, culture moved to what is being called post-Christian America. Some are distraught over this. Take a moment though to reflect on what Jesus said. Yes, it is true that He proclaimed woe on Chorazin and Bethsaida, but what about Tyre and Sidon? Jesus very plainly tells us that the display of His kingdom had no significant effect in the “religious” places. However, when displayed in cities lacking that dry religion, His kingdom, when demonstrated, produces results and repentance.
Don’t despair and withdraw from culture as a reaction to its withdrawal from God. Instead, engage. Acts 1:8 says you have the goods.
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth [NASB]
When Jesus spoke of the “miracles” that would bring repentance to cities, the Greek word is δύναμις (dunamis). When He told us the Holy Spirit would bring us “power” it is the same Greek word. Go out today and use the power of the Holy Spirit that you’ve been given. Be mighty and demonstrate the love, power, and grace of Christ to your city.