Lesson 128—September 4, 2016
Opportunity to Receive Jesus, but Choosing to Reject
Scripture: Matthew 11:20-24
Lesson Goal: To learn that no matter how we mask our rejection of Jesus it stills leads to judgment.
Introduction: Have you ever wondered, or given any thought to, what it would have been like to be alive during Jesus’ days of ministry? What do you think would have been your emotions and thoughts had you personally witnessed Jesus’ messages and miracles? How would you have responded to Jesus if you had personally observed Him healing the sick and even raising the dead to life?
From time to time, individuals tell me that it seems like it would have been easier to believe in Jesus if we had lived during His day. My response to such comments usually takes the form of a question: “What makes you think so?” It seems that some have the mistaken notion that to have lived and been a part of Jesus’ day and culture would make it easier to believe His message and to trust in Him as the Messiah. (See John 20:29, John 6:36). Seeing is not always believing! Nowhere is that fact more distinct than in the lives of the religious leaders and rulers during Jesus’ day. Most of them simply chose not to believe, in spite of Jesus’ life, work, testimony, ministry and their very own Scriptures as made known by the prophets. The Believer’s Study Bible speaks to these facts:
Though unbelieving men might slander Him, He is vindicated in His works and in the lives of His followers. Though the masses might refuse to acknowledge Him as Messiah-King, His claims were completely verified by His miracles and by the spiritual transformation of His devoted disciples.
J. Dwight Pentecost offers these enlightening words:
In view of the rejection evidenced in the previous section (Matthew 11:16-19), Christ pronounced woe upon the cities in which His miracles had been performed. His words indicated that the hearts of the Jewish people were harder than the hearts of Gentiles, for if the miracles had been performed in Gentile territory, the Gentiles would have believed His message and turned in faith to Him. Christ indicated clearly that the judgment for rejecting His Word was separation from His Kingdom. Because the people had had the light of both Christ’s words and work, they were subject to greater judgment than the Gentiles who had not had that testimony. Why did the Jews, who had been schooled in the Old Testament Scriptures, reject Jesus? Some might say it was because He did not fulfill the messianic prophecies. Others might argue that Christ could not substantiate His claims. But Christ, in this brief section, explains the real reason for Israel’s unbelief. The fault was not in Him but rather in them. Christ viewed the nation as blind and unable to see until the blindness has been removed.
What are some causes or reasons for spiritual blindness? How does a person become spiritually blind?
What are the results of spiritual blindness?
What can a person do to keep from becoming spiritually blind?
In verses 20-24, Jesus speaks with sternness and frankness. He speaks an emphatic declaration: “But I say to you…” Jesus speaks with powerful, undeniable and unmistakable authority. His words are words of warning and wisdom.
(v.20) Jesus begins to rebuke, reprove, denounce the cities “in which He had done most of His mighty work.” In the verses that follow, Jesus mentions six cities, three are Jewish and three are Gentile. In verse 20, Jesus also very clearly tells why His rebuke is needed: “because they did not repent.” Jesus speaks words of warning to the three Jewish cities for their lack of repentance while addressing the fact that if the Gentile cities had been given the same opportunity as the Jews they would have repented. Because of this opportunity given to the Jews and their refusal to repent, they will receive a greater, stricter judgment.
What do we do with the opportunities God graciously gives?
What are some opportunities God have given you?
Please expound upon this statement: With opportunity comes responsibility.
(vv. 21-22) “Woe” speaks in terms of judgment, literally how great one will suffer. Chorazin is a small village about 2.5 miles north of Capernaum (Jesus’ ministry headquarters). Bethsaida was a village about 3 miles east of Capernaum. Bethsaida was the hometown of Andrew, Peter and Philip. The locations of these two cities made it clearly evident that the people had opportunity to see and hear Jesus. They were very familiar with His message and miracles and had witnessed firsthand the ministry and power of Jesus.
What evidences has God given you concerning Jesus as the Savior of the world?
What are some of the works of grace God has provided for you to substantiate the fact of Jesus’ messiahship?
What opportunities has God provided to you personally to help bring you to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ?
What have you done with God’s opportunities?
Because of their rejection of Him, Jesus declares woe on them. Then in verse 21, He shares a shocking and amazing fact. He states that if the cities of Tyre and Sidon, which themselves were evil (see Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 28), had been given the opportunity that was afforded Chorazin and Bethsaida, they would have repented. But Chorazin and Bethsaida, only steps away from Jesus’ ministry outreach (Capernaum), would not repent, but rather rejected Him. Jesus said these evil cities would have given evidence of their genuine repentance and mourning over sin “in ashes and sackcloth.”
John McArthur states:
If the Jewish people had been asked to name the most evil people in history, those two cities [Tyre and Sidon] and Sodom would have been at the top of the list. Yet because of their stubborn rejection of the truth and refusal to repent and trust Jesus Christ, the Jewish people faced a more severe judgment than those wicked Gentile cities who had never heard of God.
How is God gracing you today with opportunity simply by putting this lesson before your eyes? How is God blessing you today with opportunity by allowing you to be in this place today?
How is God offering opportunity today because you have a Life Focus teacher teaching this lesson? What is God’s opportunity for you today? Please answer prayerfully and honestly.
(vv. 23-24) “And you, Capernaum”
For the Jew, no greater contrast could be offered than the contrast between Capernaum and Sodom. This contrast for the Jew was unimaginable. The self-righteousness exhibited in their selfish pride would not exalt them to high places as the people of Capernaum expected, but would rather cast them down into the depths of judgment.
Capernaum, of all places, had been given the opportunity to see and witness the truth of Jesus’ message and ministry. They, above all others, had been given the opportunity to hear His teaching, to witness His miracles and to respond to His message. They just rejected and refused His message.
As we study the Gospels, we do not find evidence that the city of Capernaum was openly hostile toward Jesus or that He received persecution or torture from them. They did not abuse Him with beatings or mockery. They did not come against Him with any violence or force. They simply refused to accept His message. They were not necessarily hostile in rampage against Him; they were simply indifferent toward Him and His message. This indifference, casual disinterest, led to their rejection!
Please understand that indifference, causal interest, or casual complacency that leads to rejection of Jesus brings judgment just as much as the outward, atheistic scoffing of Jesus.
No matter what adjectives are placed before the word rejection, it is still rejection and the outcome is the same. Judgment!