Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Woes Upon the Privileged


I have titled my message, “Jesus Pronounces Woes Upon the Privileged”.  By privileged, I don’t mean those who are wealthy and prominent or those who are members of the upper classes; but I am referring to those who have had the privilege of hearing the Gospel. 

Today, we are told that humankind is getting better, and that we are also better.  But that is not correct, since in the past, there were times when all men knew about God, and most men worshiped Him.  That was true for generations after Adam left the Garden of Eden.  However, we read in the Bible, that mankind turned from God to idols, and that he became so corrupt, that every imagining of his heart was continually evil.  That is why God sent the flood and started over with Noah.  Noah and his family came through the flood, and once again, for generations all men recognized God, but in the long run they turned from God to idols.  It is not too long after the flood that we come in the Bible to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is found in Genesis.  The people of those cities were depraved, and they had rejected God.  God punished Sodom and Gomorrah, and 2000 years afterward Jesus reprimanded the cities Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, and warned them that they may face a similar fate.  These were cities of privilege, as we shall see, yet Jesus said, “Woe unto you.”  Let’s look first at how God dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Genesis we read, Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; (Genesis 19:24)

God saw to it that Lot was safely inside Zoar, and then the rain came.  Brimstone and fire fell from heaven, bringing total destruction to Sodom, Gomorrah and all of the cities of the plain.  That day had dawned clear and bright, with no sign of the impending storm; then the storm came to demonstrate that it was not from natural causes.  In Job 31:3, it says, “Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?”  God’s punishment is called “strange” by people, because His ways are not our ways, and therefore they seem strange to us.  He is our Savior, but He will also be the destroyer of all who reject Him.  God had poured out His anger over all mankind by sending a flood; now He uses fire to annihilate the depraved people who lived in these cities.  It was all wiped out-people, animals, vegetation, buildings; the destruction was total and absolute.

Jesus’ word of warning to the cities of His time, and by the way, also to us today is found in Matthew 11, verses 20-30.  Here, He pronounces woe upon those who had the great privilege of hearing the Gospel, and seeing the miracles that were done, but did not repent of their sins, and believe in Him.

It says in verse 20, Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

He had not spoken unkindly to these people, previous to this.  At the outset, they received Him cheerfully, and He had made Capernaum His home.  Since then, they had begun to ridicule both John and Himself.

He did more miracles in these cities, as well as his greatest miracles.  In Capernaum alone, He healed the centurion’s servant, recovered Peter’s Wife’s mother from a fever, restored to health the man sick of the palsy, raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead, made well the woman who had a bloody issue, opened the eyes of two blind men, and expelled an evil spirit from a man possessed by one.  He did all of these things, and more, in this one city, so He was just in admonishing them.  What more did they expect the Messiah to do?  The answer, not surprisingly, is that they expected Him to conform to their opinions, which arose from their own desires, not from the promises in God’s word.  They sought after a deliverer, which would liberate them from the oppression of Rome and make their nation once again great; not one that had come humbly to save their souls.

He came to save men, but men are not truly saved, unless they are, in fact, sorry for their sin.  God loves us, but we are not saved by His love; but by the death and resurrection of Christ, and by faith in Him.  Jesus taught that faith and repentance are two sides of the coin, we call salvation.  Both will take place in the heart of a believer, but they may not happen at the same time, or in a specific order.  That is because, faith in Jesus Christ leads us to see our great wickedness, and the man who understands he is a sinner is ripe to receive the Gospel.  The ways in which men come to be saved, shows the great insight of God, for sending such a Great One as Christ.

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:21)

“Woe unto thee, Chorazin!”-This city is not mentioned anywhere else in scripture, but it is believed to have been about twelve miles from Capernaum.  The woe that is theirs is more pity than anger, since their disbelief, has caused them to miss everlasting blessings.  It is Christ, who will bring both blessing and judgment; blessing to believers, and judgment and justice to unbelievers.

“woe unto thee, Bethsaida!”- We know that Andrew, Philip and Peter lived in this city, which was a suburb of Capernaum, because John 1:44 says, “Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”

Jesus is saying, that if the residents of Tyre and Sidon had received the benefits of Christ’s preaching, and of seeing the miracles which were done in Chorazin, they would have repented.  These were two neighboring Gentile cities, situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  Later on, these two cities did receive the Gospel and became Christian cities.  That they did receive the Gospel and did repent confirms the truth of Christ’s words.  You know the story of Jonah and the whale; that God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of the judgment of God that was approaching if they did not repent and turn to God.  He was sidetracked for a short time by a whale, but Nineveh repented, and in that way escaped God’s wrath, and these cities should have followed their example.  It says in Jonah 3:5 &10, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”

Let me ask you a question.  Where is the Gospel preached more, than in America, seeing that it is given out in thousands of churches, over the radio, through TV evangelism, and in books and tracts?  It is said, that every year, the Bible is the #1 seller.  For these reasons, we are blessed by God, above all other nations.  But from those to whom much has been given, much is expected.  America must repent and turn from self-indulgence to faith in Christ, or else we will be punished more harshly than any other nation.  I pray that we will not hear Christ say, “Woe unto you America, for you have had the advantage of having the Gospel presented to you, but you have not repented.”  There will be an end to God’s patience, and it will be an awful end, for those who have refused to believe.

But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. (Matthew 11:22)

Here are some of the great truths expressed in these words of Our Lord:
1. Everyone that hears the Gospel is either wonderfully blessed or left more wretched than before.  For the word of God will not return void; but will always have an impact.
2. The miracles that Jesus did were done for the purpose of leading men to repentance, because they demonstrated that He had the power to force them to repent (which He never did.).
3. Even among those men who stand condemned at the judgment, there is a difference, and the punishment will be more dreadful for some than for others.
4. That God takes into account our opportunities before He measures our guiltiness and sets our judgment.

We are not told what they are, but it is plain to see, from God’s word, that there are degrees of punishment, that depends upon our exposure to the Gospel.  That is proof to me, that man has a “free will” to accept or reject the Gospel.  It is not the terribleness of our sin, which decides our fate; it is that we reject Christ.

This verse begins with, “But I say unto you.”  What Christ says, can be depended upon to come true, because He will make it so.

He said, “It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”  Christ will mete out different degrees of judgment, because some sins are worse than others.  Those who have heard the Gospel will suffer more, because they will be conscience of the reality, that they could have escaped punishment, if they would have believed.  Jesus said that part of what He had come to do was to make men aware of their sin:
• “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:41)
• “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.” (John 15:22) 

As soon as you come to faith in Christ, you recognize that you are a sinner, and that none of your sins are unknown to God, and that you need a Savior.  There is sufficient evidence of God’s grace, coming through His son, that men should believe, and for that reason God has said that we are without excuse.  Now is the time to ask for mercy from God, because none will receive mercy on the Day of Judgment; only justice.

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (Matthew 11:23)

Capernaum was a city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which at that time was home to 30,000, including Jesus, Peter and Andrew.

Capernaum was the most privileged city on all the earth, because Christ made His home there.  There were many lectures on grace given by Him there, and more miracles were done there than in any other city.  They received the Gospel, like it was daily bread; for that reason they had a great advantage for the pursuit of heaven.

He told them that they “shalt be brought down to hell:”  Hell, or as it is called in some translations, “Hades”, means the abode of the dead.  Christ is saying that because of God’s displeasure, Capernaum will be utterly destroyed.  In less than 30 years, the Romans smashed that city, and in so doing, proving the certainty of His predictions.  Sin not only destroys individuals; it destroys cities and nations.

Jesus states here, that if He had done the same miracles in Sodom that he had done in Capernaum, even though the Sodomites were as bad as they were that they would have repented and their city would have remained today as a monument to God’s saving mercy.  Where there is true repentance through Christ, even the greatest sin will be pardoned and the greatest ruin prevented, and Sodom is no exception.  It must be a forewarning to the people of this era, that on the great day of judgment, our punishment will be greater than what will fall to Capernaum, because we are greater debtors than they are, for we have received more of the Gospel, we have more of the word of God, and today the Holy Spirit prepares the hearts of men to receive the Gospel.

But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. (Matthew 11:24)

Remember, He is speaking to the inhabitants of Capernaum.

Sodom had been destroyed, nearly 2000 years earlier, but its people were still awaiting judgment, because He was speaking of the future eternal judgment of God.  Therefore, we can see that worldly punishment doesn’t satisfy God’s vengeance.  In the present day, we can see the accuracy of Christ’s words confirmed by fact, because even though both Sodom and Capernaum were destroyed, the ruins of Sodom remain until today, however nothing has been found of the city of Capernaum.  We can see in this verse;
1. The people of Sodom and Capernaum are still alive, in the spiritual realm.
2. There will be a future judgment, where all men, good and bad, will stand before Our Lord.

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matthew 11:25)

When He said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” I believe that in this prayer to His Father, that He looked up into heaven, as it is reported that He had done before.  He was not discouraged by His rejection by Capernaum, where He gave out the Gospel and performed miracles more than in any other city; and allegations made against John the Baptist and Him by the religious leaders, calling one a glutton and friend of sinners and the other a man possessed by a demon.  It is at this time, when most men would be disheartened, that He gives thanks to God.  In like manner, we should be grateful to our Heavenly Father, even more when we suffer, knowing that because He is our Father, that He will deliver us from our problems, and be merciful to us, if it is His will.  We should note also, that Jesus calls His Father “Lord of heaven and earth”.  He is sovereign, and His will, will be done, and we should always give Him respect and praise.

He thanked God, “because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,”  The wise and prudent are the Pharisees and Scribes, who have considerable learning, and they are proud of what they have accomplished, and they crave the praise and admiration of other men, more than they desire to obey God.  God does not effect their minds, so that He prevents their understanding, He just leaves them to their own understanding, and to go their own way, because men without God will always choose to do evil.  It is true that God has not used great men to give out the Gospel, but He chose simple fishermen and publicans, who were poor or despicable.  The Bible has this to say about the people of God:
• But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” (1 Corinthians 1:27)
• “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
• “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

 If you are a child of God, then you know that you did not come to Him, by your own merit, but that you were saved by grace, and that He has been merciful to you by saving your soul.

He went on to say, “and hast revealed them unto babes”; but He is not speaking of children, or of persons who are depending upon their own abilities and goodness to gain entrance into God’s fellowship.  The Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of men, who recognize that they are sinners, and that they need a Savior.  If you have been saved, you cannot brag, you can only thank Him for revealing Himself to you.  The salvation of a sinner is the work of Christ.  He did the work, when He hung on the cross.  His death was payment, for the debt of sin that each one of us owes.  His miracles, His resurrection, and even His rejection, by fulfilling scripture, are proof, that He was God, and that He has the power to save us and to keep us.  Finally, our only hope of living the Christian life, in this world, is due to the support of the Holy Spirit, who comes to live in the heart of every believer.  We are told in Colossians 1:12-14, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”  Our part of Salvation is to believe the Gospel-That Jesus was the Son of God, that He died to pay our debt of sin, and that he rose from the dead and is in heaven today.  Christ takes care of all the rest.

Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Matthew 11:26)

Jesus expressed his pleasure that God chose to disclose the Gospel to the ordinary man; those who are not rich and wise by worldly standards, but are poor and simple people.  Again, this shows the great wisdom of God, in choosing this method, and in bringing salvation, through such a great one as Jesus was.  Jesus is content to do God’s will, because God’s will is the only rule of righteousness.

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

Jesus repeated this message after His resurrection and before His assention, for it says in Matthew 28:18, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  John17:2 reveals that He has authority over all humanity, for the administration of the kingdom of grace, and that includes the power to save.  There it says, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”  And His power knows no limits: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:22)  The investiture of power took place at the glorification of Jesus, for it was at that time that He said, just before His assention, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  It pleased God to give this power to Christ, and to give him the church and to give Him the kingdom:
• “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” (Colossians 1:16-19)
• “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8)
  Note that God calls Christ God in this verse; just another proof of the Son ship and deity of Christ.

However, the Bible tells us that there will be a time in the future, after God has judged the world and Satan has been subdued, that all power will be returned to God, because it says in 1 Corinthians 15:28,  “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)  I don’t comprehend all of this, because it involves the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the great wisdom of God, so I accept it because it is in God’s word, and give glory to God for His great plan that placed salvation in Christ and all things under His control.

Christ is the revelation of God to man.  There is no true knowledge of God, or peace of mind, except in Christ alone; for the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ.  That is what we are told in 2 Corinthians 4:6,  “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  We are indebted to Christ for all the knowledge we have of God the Father’s love and will.  Ever since Adam sinned, there is no comfortable interchange between God and man, except through the Mediator.  Through His claim to exclusive knowledge of God, Jesus asserts his own divinity.

God is revealed to those who know Christ, having come by faith and obedience to know God through the working of the Holy Spirit, the communication of prayer, and the revelation of God’s holy word.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Come unto me is another way of saying believe in Me.  Those who come unto Him, come as sinners to discover a full, suitable and willing Savior, who can meet every need.  In his gospel, John said, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

When He said, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden,” He is talking about those who groan under the burden of sin, the burden of ceremonial law, and the burden of tradition, and Luke reported that Jesus also said, “And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46)  The Pharisees placed a dreadful burden upon the Jews, making the word of god more significant than God Himself.  It was a terrible yoke, but Jesus came to free His church from these yokes, to cancel the imposition of those worldly ordnances, and to introduce a purer and more spiritual way of worship.  All those who will come to Him, are invited to leave their burdens with him, and enter into rest and peace of mind.

Jesus promised, “and I will give you rest.”  That is to say, rest from the terror of sin, spiritual rest, ease of mind, tranquility of soul; all from an application of pardoning grace. 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Our Lord has just spoke on the subject of the yoke of oppressive religion and religious traditions, which are heavy burdens to carry, but there is also the yoke of sin, which a man can carry for eternity.  Now He tells us to…..

“Take my yoke upon you,”-But there is something that you must do first; you must get rid of the burdens that you are tied to.  You must come to Christ in faith, and allow Him to be your Savior.  He has a yoke for those who believe, that is different and new.  It is the yoke of a servant and disciple.  As such, we follow His commands, because we love Him, not because our eternal salvation hinges upon keeping the law and following traditions.

“and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:”-Those are the characteristics of Jesus, that committed Him to God’s plan for saving men; whereby He left heaven’s glory and humbled Himself by becoming a man, and then to suffer and die in our place.  When He was on earth, He was God, but without the glory of God.  Here, He was the exact opposite of what He was in heaven.  What a terrible price He paid to save us.

“and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”-That is to say, peace of mind now, and eternal peace with God in heaven.  All men are enemies of God, until they are reconciled to Him, through faith in Jesus Christ.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

The yoke of Jesus is easy, because we are tied together by love.  We love Him, because He first loved us.  There is no longer the threat of the destruction of our bodies and souls, if we transgress a commandment.  If we sin, He is pleased if we confess our sin and ask Him for forgiveness.  We no longer depend upon our righteousness, but on the righteousness of Christ.

The Scribes and Pharisees had placed a heavy burden on the Jewish people, by adding thousands of man-made laws to God’s laws, and the penalties for breaking those laws were severe.  Christ, by contrast, applies a light burden, which may at first be difficult to carry, but becomes easier as faith grows.  All of the burdens in this life, that come from following Christ, are made easier by the knowledge that God knows about them, and that He cares for us, and that they only last for a short time, before He provides relief.  Indeed, we are to celebrate our afflictions, knowing that we share in the suffering of Christ, and the saints that came before us.  And that all of life is just a brief trial, and then we cross the threshold and enter into eternal joy with Our Lord.

O How I Love Jesus!

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