An Unpleasant Surprise
AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE
I read a story this past week about a high school student who took a math test…and the reason his story caught my attention is because I have done the same thing.
- Even though it was his final exam this student didn’t study much for the test …after all, he was a pretty sharp guy and he had always gotten good grades in math.
- And the test seemed pretty easy…so he was pretty certain that he had aced it.
Well, the teacher started handing back the test papers…and as she did the student glanced over and saw the grade of the student next to him…and it was a D-.
- He kind of smirked and thought to himself, “What a loser! He will probably flunk the class.”
About that time the teacher put his paper upside down on his desk. He turned it over expecting to see a nice, big “A”…but instead, it said, “37%, “F”!
- He was completely surprised! Couldn’t believe it.
Here in this passage that was read we find some people who had an even more unpleasant surprise!
- They too thought they had all the right answers only to find out that they couldn’t be more wrong.
- It is an interesting passage that has the potential of having a very happy ending…but that really is dependent on each one of us learning what Jesus has to say here.
- We will begin in verse 20 but first let me give you some background.
If you remember John the Baptizer is in prison and has been there for about 12 months.
- And John seems to having some doubts so he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus truly is the “Expected One, or do we need to look for someone else.”
Well, Jesus sends back confirmation to John that He really is the “Expected One” and for John to remain faithful to Him no matter what happens.
- And as John’s disciples leave to take the message to John, Jesus begins to speak to the multitudes…and He vindicates John.
- He speaks of John’s character…how strong and bold he was…how unwavering he was.
- And He says that John was the “spark” that caused people to seek after the kingdom of God.
- And He confirms that John was the Elijah that Malachi spoke of 400 years before…and like the prophet of old John came preaching a message of repentance.
But then Jesus makes a comparison in verses 16-17.
- He compares the “generation” of people that He has been teaching to children who can’t make up their mind…children who don’t like anything…children who are fickle….if they thought John was fickle they needed to look at themselves.
- They were so fickle that when John came preaching they said he had a demon because he came “neither eating nor drinking.”
- Then when Jesus came along they said that he was a “gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” because He did “eat and drink.”
- What it amounted to is regardless of the evidence…regardless of the miracles…regardless of the healings that confirmed who John and Jesus both were…these people, like a lot of people today…were intent on denying and rejecting Jesus.
- They think they are pretty smart…they know a lot…it fact they are a little arrogant in their intelligence…but just like the student who thought he knew it all…who thought he had it made…they are in for a big surprise.
Look at verse 20: Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.
- If you look at the next few verses the cities that Jesus “reproaches” are Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.
- All of these were in very close proximity of one another…so what Jesus is doing here is He is “reproaching…upbraiding…reviling” all of the people in that immediate area.
And notice why He is reproaching them: They had seen the miracles…not just a few…but “most of His miracles”…we don’t know for sure how many but John says in John 20 that there were “many that were not even recorded.”
- So these people had seen “most of His miracles”…they had seen the blind receive their sight…they had seen the crippled walk…they had seen the lepers cleansed…they had seen the deaf hear…they had even seen the dead raised up…and they had heard the Gospel preached to the poor…
- All of these were proof of who Jesus was…and they stubbornly hardened themselves…and refused to repent…and refused to believe in and obey Christ.
- They refused to change…they just stayed with their old, condemning way of thinking…their old condemning way of living…their old condemning beliefs and practices…even when they knew better!
- It is the same thing that many people do today…they just flat refuse to accept the truth and change.
As a result, look at what Jesus says next: 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. 22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.
- Listen, it is a dangerous thing…it is a condemning thing…to deny…to reject Jesus.
- When you know the truth, especially about Christ…and you refuse to acknowledge it…when you refuse to accept it…when you refuse to repent…you are subject to a very, very unpleasant surprise!
23 “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
Now, let me go back and point out a couple of things.
Back in verse 21 Jesus mentions Tyre and Sidon…and in verse 23 He mentions Sodom.
- Now, at first glance it looks as though these three places weren’t justly treated.
- Jesus says, “If the miracles occurred in these places like they did in Bethsaida, Chorizin, and Capernaum, they would have repented”; so it sounds as though they weren’t given a full chance to repent or to be saved.
I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying here.
- First of all it is impossible for God to be unjust…it is completely against His nature.
If you go over to Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 26-28 and Amos 1:9 and Joel 3:6 the people of Tyre and Sidon were some of the most money-mad and cruel people you will ever find.
- They were Phoenicians and they sold many of the Israelites into slavery to the Edom-ites and the Greeks.
- They were a pleasure-mad, arrogant, wicked people that the Jews despised.
And we know what the Sodomites did.
- And what Jesus is doing here is He is not saying that they were treated unjustly…that they weren’t given a fair chance…
- What Jesus is doing here is he is pointing out to these Jews who have rejected Christ just how hard hearted and wicked they are!
- He is saying, “If you Jews think that the people of Tyre and Sidon were hard-hearted and stiff necked and refused to repent, you are much worse than they ever were!”
- “You have had all of these miracles…these signs…these wonders that speak volumes to you about who Jesus is…and still you reject Him…
- All the people of Tyre and Sidon and Sodom got was the prophets and the angels warning them….you got so much more than they did…and still you refuse to repent.”
- “Why, these people that you despise and have no use for…you are worse than they are.”
- Jesus is pointing out their hypocrisy: “You despise Tyre and Sidon for not repenting…for not doing what is right…but you are worse than they are.”
Now, notice the end of verse 22: “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.
And look at verse 24: “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
- A lot of people take these two verses and use them to say that there are different levels of punishment in hell. (“You are going to get it worse than they are.”)
Are there different degrees of punishment in hell…is there punishment level 1, and punishment level 2, and punishment level 3?
- Will some sins be punished more severely than others?
I don’t think so.
- I don’t know of any passage of scripture in the Bible where God says, “If you are going to go to hell, if you won’t do this…and if youj won’t do that…then it won’t be as bad on you.”
- What God says is hell is a horrible place…it is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth…it is a place of eternal punishment…it is a fiery hell…a place of outer darkness…a place where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched and you want to do whatever it takes…if you have to cut off your arm…cut off your foot or gouge out your eyes to keep from going there…whatever it takes you do it because hell is that bad.
- Hell is hell…and it only takes one sin to condemn us to hell…it is so bad that God has provided a means of atonement for our sins so we can escape the fires of hell and even if there are degrees of punishment the lowest degree is still more than you want to endure.
- So, I don’t believe that Jesus is indicating here that there are different degrees of punishment in hell.
I believe that what Jesus is doing here is He is emphasizing how far God has pulled away from these people…how revolting they are in the sight of God…how disgusting they are to God!
- He is saying, “If you think the people of Sodom were disgusting to God…you are much worse.”
Why? Because in spite of all the evidence…in spite of what the prophets of old said…in spite of what John came preaching…in spite of all the miracles…in spite of people being raised from the DEAD…they hardened themselves…would rather believe a lie instead of the obvious truth…
- They would prefer to continue in their sin…they would rather cheat, steal, rob, lie and commit acts of immorality and adultery…than repent and obey Christ.
And I don’t mean to be negative, but isn’t this what a lot of people do today?
- No country in the world today has heard more about Christ than this one. (crosses everywhere)
- No country has seen Christ’s influence more than this one. (Bibles every where)
- No country has more churches than this one.
- No country in the world has been more blessed by Christ than this one.
- No country has access to the word of God more than this one.
- And yet our culture and society is continuing to harden themselves against God, refusing to repent, all the while thinking they are “Christians.”
Catholic Church taking a softer stand on same sex marriages and abortion.
- And state after state calling that which is “evil, good, and that which is good, evil.”
- I am afraid that so many who call themselves Christians are going to be in for a very unpleasant surprise!
Now, we can look at this passage and say it is so negative…talking about the judgment!
- A lot of people don’t like that.
So, let’s look at it from a positive point of view…this passage manifests Jesus’ love for all because He is warning those who are in danger and calling them to repent and be saved.
- That is love.
- In fact, look at the following verses….this is extended to all, even those who have refused to believe.
Matt 11:25-30 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. 26 “Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
- As hard-hearted as they were…as arrogant as they were…as sinful as they were…as disgusting as they were to God…if they would come to Christ…and learn from Him…they could find “rest for their souls.”
- And that is true for all today.
On a regular basis I meet people who are good people…they are smart, intelligent, well- people.
- They make their own way in life, they pay their bills, they are responsible with what they possess, and they are well liked.
- And compared to them there are some that you might say are “losers.”
But some day, they will stand before the Lord, and they might snicker at what others receive…but because they have rejected Jesus…because they didn’t need Jesus…because they only wanted the parts of Jesus they liked…because they think they can do it on their own…or because they want to continue to live a life of sin…when the verdict is read…they will be in for a very unpleasant surprise.
- Don’t let that happen to you.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023