Please read Luke 10:13 – 16 - What are you doing with what you are hearing about Jesus?
Seek the help of the Holy Spirit in understanding God's Word.
V13. Woe - a statement of fact.
Jesus is about to send the seventy-two out and has just reminded them that some will not receive the message they are being sent to declare. He supports that statement and gives it life by speaking of Galilean cities who have rejected the same message when he has preached it. Those hearing these words will be left in no doubt as to both the seriousness and the reality of what they are stepping into.
"Woe" is not used in an angry or threatening sense, but as a judicial verdict pronounced with genuine regret. There is nothing cold and distant, either in what Jesus says or in the manner in which he says it. He is stating the facts. In doing so, he conveys sincere pathos because what is being announced is horrifying.
The towns mentioned, Chorazin and Bethsaida, were communities in Galilee, close to Capernaum on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus had his home. They are towns which, given the statements made, had evidently experienced a lot of Jesus' ministry. It is interesting, though, this is the only time Chorazin is mentioned in the New Testament, besides the parallel passage in Matthew, Matthew 11:21. Bethsaida is mentioned six other times. There is the parallel passage in Matthew 11:21, and then in Mark 6:45, Mark 8:22, Luke 9:10, John 1:44 and John 12:21. The two references in John state that Bethsaida was the home of Philip, Peter and Andrew. My point – given the lack of information about Jesus' extensive ministries in these communities, is that it shows us how little we actually know of Jesus' work.
The two 'woes' arise solely because of the response of these two towns to Jesus' ministry. Ministry that Jesus defines as "mighty works". The comparison Jesus draws with the twin ports of Tyre and Sidon, situated on the Mediterranean Sea coast north of Galilee, is striking. Part of the former Phoenician empire, these cities were huge commercial centres, renowned for their depravity and debauchery. Historically, they had been the subject of prophetic statements in Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 28; now their comparison with the cities where Jesus has ministered is devastating for those listening. The idea that Jewish cities could be mentioned in the same breath as the pagan heathen communities is almost unthinkable, but to do so in the way that Jesus has done, well, that is just unbelievable. The thought, that if the mighty works done by Jesus in these two Jewish Galilean towns had been done in the two Gentile metropolises of Tyre and Sidon resulting in repentance, is to the Jewish mind seriously disturbing. And note, just in case anyone would mishear the Word repentance, Jesus underscores the significance of what he is saying with the addition of "sitting in sackcloth and ashes". Jesus is saying, 'had I done in these port cities what I did in the Galilean towns, then they would have been broken with grief at their sin and been transformed'.
To us, the transformation of two large cosmopolitan cities would have been remarkable. Even greater than what took place in Nineveh by God's hand through Jonah. Why Jesus did not go to Tyre and Sidon if such an impact could have been made, is a question that cannot be answered. Yes, the prophecies in Isaiah and Ezekiel may shed a degree of light on it, but ultimately it is the providence of God that governs all things according to his eternal decrees. What it does do though, is to remind us that God's ways are not our ways, Isaiah 55:8. A fact that should constantly drive us from our ways to his ways, even if his ways don't make any sense to us most of the time.
V14. The sobering conclusion.
The sobering conclusion of what Jesus says is that, come the Day of Judgement, Chorazin and Bethsaida will fair worse than Tyre and Sidon. Why? Because they have heard the Truth and rejected it. These words must have sent shock waves through those who heard them.
V15. But there's more.
But there's more. Jesus isn't finished, and if his hearers thought that what he had just said was startling, his next statement is off the page. "Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades." What? Capernaum was the city where Jesus lived. Capernaum was witness to numerous mighty works of Jesus. We have encountered some of them in our walk through this time in Jesus' life. The streets of Capernaum were ringing with the authoritative teaching of Jesus. Matthew, the former tax collector, was a resident of Capernaum. No other community in the world was exposed to the power and teachings of Jesus as the people of Capernaum had been. They obviously thought they were heaven-bound, but the reality that awaited many of them was horrifyingly different. They would join the line of Sodom, Tyre, Sidon, Chorazin, Bethsaida. A line no city should want to be associated with. A line of descent into hell. If these words were just speaking about material destruction, the tearing down of government systems, businesses, places of education, hospitals, etc., it would be bad. If they were alluding to the decimation of the physical structures in which cities exist, it would be an end of that community. But that is nothing by way of comparison with what Jesus is speaking of here. These words of Jesus relate to the eternal destruction of people. It is the inhabitants, the people going about their daily affairs in Capernaum without a care in the world, that Jesus is speaking of. These ordinary, decent, good people have witnessed his work firsthand; they have heard him preach the good news of the Kingdom and have been taught many things by him. Because of their refusal to truly confess and repent of their sin, and follow him 'all in', these people will be in hell.
This is something to think about.
V16. Hearing and rejecting?
As he sends these men out, he leaves them with one thought – 'it's not about you and the people you are going to, it's about them and me, and them and the God in heaven'. The seventy-two are going to experience rejection – that is guaranteed; but they are to remember that it isn't about them, it's about Jesus and the Father. They are being sent out with the most exciting message the world could ever hear – the good news of the gospel. News that will transform many people's lives, but not everyone will greet them with open arms, and they need to be acquainted with, and face, that reality. It is important that they understood and accepted that, otherwise they would have given up after the first few days.
Nothing has changed. Christ sends us out with the most exciting message the world has ever heard – the good news of the gospel. Many will reject it, but we must grasp the fact that they are not rejecting us, though it might seem like it. They are rejecting Jesus, and in rejecting Jesus, they are rejecting God the Father. The consequences of that rejection will be eternal, so it must not deter us from going forward daily with his good news.