In my last post I anticipated answering some Scripture questions. Here is the first one:
Matthew 11:20-30 (1599 Geneva Bible)20 ¶ Then began he to upbraid the cities, wherein most of his great works were done, because they repented not.21 Woe be to thee Chorazin: Woe be to thee Bethsaida: for if the great works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they had repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, It shall be easier for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou Capernaum, which art lifted up unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the great works, which have been done in thee, had been done among them of Sodom, they had remained to this day. 24 But I say unto you, that it shall be easier for them of the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
Fifth circle of judgement in Dante’s Inferno by Stradanus
Question (Matthew 11:20): Might there also be repentant people in those cities? What are Jesus’ criteria for judgement?
Yes, I would say there were likely also repentant people in those cities. Biblical Greek uses a normal general way of speaking, in other words people are talking, not doings maths. So If Jesus says that all people will hate the disciples for his sake, the thesis is still valid if 3000 people convert on the day of Pentecost. As to this first question, most of the disciples came from this region in Galilee and Jesus even lived for a while in Capernaüm.
This brings us to the criteria for judgement. I think Jesus applies a faith criterion: a willingness to act on God’s Word, to take his word for it, as it were, without being able to understand everything. This has to do with faith and evidence, which helps to improve faith. One find this principle everywhere in Scripture. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah in the times of Abraham had very little information about God. The same is true for Tyrus and Sidon (Lebanon) in Jesus’s day. The Lord specifically avoided this region because it was outside Israel and only cured a Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter after plainly stating that it really wasn’t his mission and certainly not his priority to do so. She had faith without a lot of evidence and Jesus praised her for it. The amount of evidence or testimony by Jesus presence, preaching and miracles in Capernaüm and Bethsaida was overwhelming. Despite God putting so much into them, most people in those cities did not have a faith response of repentance and obedience at all. In Jesus eyes the upstanding citizens of Galilee who crowded the synagogue on Saturday, but rejected the work of God when they encountered him in the flesh, were therefore much worse than the homosexual rapists in Sodom who did not have a clue. Knowledge and experience of God come with responsibility. God has a very different way of looking at things than people.