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Upbraided for Unbelief

"Proof" doesn't always convince, does it? A patient thought he was dead. His psychiatrist stood him before a mirror and had him repeat many times, "Dead men don't bleed." Then the doctor stuck a pin in the patient's finger and made it bleed a little. "See?" the doctor said triumphantly. The patient exclaimed, "Yes, I see — dead men bleed after all!" Matthew 11:20 states Jesus' extreme displeasure with three cities where He had performed an abundance of miracles. In speaking about the Galilean cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, Matthew records, "Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not." Jesus goes on to make the startling statement that on the day of judgment things will be "more tolerable" for the wicked, pagan, non-Jewish cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom than for these three Jewish cities. Note Jesus did not say the day of judgment would be a fun day for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, or that they would get a "Go past Judgement" card. They will undergo God's judgment, just as surely as ancient Israel and modern America. But Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had received extra-ordinary proof and many opportunities to repent. The very Light of the world had preached in their synagogues, healed their sick, cleansed their lepers, restored sight to blind eyes, and even raised people from the dead (Matthew chapters 8 and 9). Yet, in spite of all these proofs the people did not repent. Light had flooded their cities and their hearts, but they chose to stay in the dark.

Matthew says Jesus began to "upbraid" these cities. The Greek word translated "upbraid" is defined by Strong's concordance as "to defame, i.e. rail at, chide, cast in teeth, taunt, reproach, revile, upbraid." The word is translated "rebuke" in the New King James Version, "denounce" in the English Standard and "reproach" in the New American Standard Bible (1977). Jesus was put out and very displeased with people who could witness the faith-producing proof and evidence He provided in their cities and yet not believe and repent. Jesus' words in Matthew 11:21-24 provide a stark contrast with much preaching heard today —preaching that is silent about the Lord's demand that people repent, and silent about the certainty of God's judgment if they don't. Some preachers today never upbraid anyone for not repenting. Such thinking and preaching re-makes God in the image of man. Why repent if "I'm okay and you're okay"? Convinced that I God, like many people, would never judge anyone, millions have (mis)judged the "day of judgment" to be totally unnecessary. The passage under consideration demonstrates that having Jesus in your midst and seeing Him perform multiple miracles will not prove the reality of God or move people to repent and submit to the Lordship of Christ if they have closed minds. I read about psychiatrist Dave Larson who was at a podium pointing to a cartoon slide on a screen, "The Agnostic Fleas." The fleas are standing in a forest of fur, and one says, "Sometimes I wonder if there really is a dog . . ." Those who reject Jesus and His call to repent do in spite of an overwhelming amount of proof that Jesus is precisely who He claimed to be. So plentiful, powerful and persuasive is the evidence that the Bible condemns people as being "without excuse" for refusing to submit to the reality of God (Romans 1:20). Who but God's Son could upbraid people who refuse to repent? How could anyone refuse that call if He is? Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ