Their Judgment is Ours?
by Pr. Dave Mann
First, let’s get the geography squared away in our minds.
Where were located the three towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum? On or near the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. These were places where Jesus frequented—where he preached, taught, and healed many people.
Where were Tyre and Sidon? Along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea (today’s Lebanon). They were populated by Gentiles (non-Jews) who were outside the community of faith.
Where was Sodom located? Though there is discussion concerning the precise location, many believe that it was positioned near the southern coast of the Dead Sea. Sodom and Gomorrah were the recipients of God’s historical judgment of fire and brimstone.
It is common to think of the Old Testament as hard and difficult, and to think of Jesus as kind and gentle. But Jesus can be firm, harsh, and (dare I say it?) even judgmental. He has the right to be so because he is divine. All authority in heaven and earth was given to him. It’s curious that we mortals want to cast Jesus in a role of being genteel while preserving for ourselves to right to judge others. Seems to me that we have it backwards. We have no right to judge, but Jesus does!
On what basis did Jesus predict the harsh judgment of God on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum? They were privileged to observe first-hand multiple miracles performed by the hand and mouth of Jesus, and yet, they did not recognize that the kingdom of God had come near to them in the person of Jesus. They claimed to be waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah to usher in the kingdom of God. And it happened before their very eyes. Did they fall at the feet of God incarnate? Did they hush their mouths in stupefied wonder? Did they gulp as they realized that their sin rendered them unworthy to stand before their Lord and Master? Did they repent?
And we—what about us? We have the inspired written Word of God, which clearly declares the work and character of Jesus—something the residents of these cities never had. We have the sacraments which bear the mystical yet real presence of Jesus himself. We have the infilling of the Spirit of Jesus which had not yet been poured out for these people. We claim Jesus regularly frequents our gatherings. And yet, dare we say that we are less worthy of the judgment of God than these infamous towns? Lord, have mercy.
O Jesus, you who were met with apathy and a yawn when you offered healing, grace, and mercy (both then and now), you who deserve honor, glory, dominion, and thanksgiving, have mercy on us. Grant us forgiveness, not because we merit anything from you, but because of your everlasting love. Amen.