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Why did Jesus reference Chorazin and Bethsaida in Matthew 11:21?

Chorazin and Bethsaida audio

In Matthew 11, Jesus pronounces judgment on the people for rejecting Him. Specifically, He proclaimed woes on the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:21) because He worked miracles in those cities, and they still rejected Him. Chorazin was a city in Galilee, a territory in which He worked many miracles (Matthew 4:23). Bethsaida was also in Galilee, northeast of the Lake of Galilee. Bethsaida was the hometown of Philip, Andrew, and Peter (John 1:44), and Jesus went there on many occasions.

Galilee had prophetic significance, as it was said that the people (including those east of the Jordan and in Galilee) who walked in great darkness would see a great light (Isaiah 9:1–2). The Messiah was that great light, and He did great things in the region of Galilee. Yet, rather than embrace their Messiah, the cities of Galilee rejected Him. Jesus exclaimed that, if He had done in Tyre and Sidon the miracles He did in Chorazin and Bethsaida, Tyre and Sidon would have repented quickly (Matthew 11:21). Even Capernaum was judged—another Galilean city. If the miracles Jesus had done in Capernaum were done in Sodom, He said, Sodom would have repented (Matthew 11:23).

These cities and the people in them would be accountable for their rejection of the Messiah. Chorazin and Bethsaida are mentioned as some of the evilest cities because of the great opportunity that they wasted. Their Messiah had come. He had healed their sick. He had presented them with the kingdom. He came with the good news that they could change their mind about how they might be righteous in God’s sight. He offered them righteousness by grace through belief in Him. He offered a new birth and a place in His kingdom. Instead of changing their minds as He required, they rejected Him as their Messiah. That generation would be held accountable, Jesus said, and the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida would be judged even more harshly than Tyre and Sidon. Capernaum would encounter less tolerable judgment than even Sodom had endured.

Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and all of Galilee serve as a cautionary tale in Matthew 11. They were given a great light and had an incredible opportunity to see firsthand the miracle-working of the Messiah. While we haven’t had that same opportunity to be eyewitnesses of His earthly ministry, we have His Word that testifies of Him. Will we make the same mistakes as Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and the other cities that rejected Him, or will we embrace our Savior and receive God’s righteousness by believing in Him?

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Why did Jesus reference Chorazin and Bethsaida in Matthew 11:21?
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This page last updated: May 3, 2024