Friday, January 14, 2022

The Vision (1.14.22): Warning to Capernaum


Image: Ruins of ancient Capernaum.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 11:16-24.

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).

Matthew tells us that Christ upbraided the cities where his “mighty works” had been done “because they repented not” (Matthew 11:20).

Among those denounced was Capernaum (“the village of Nahum”) mentioned frequently in the Gospels as a chief hub of Christ’s early ministry. In Matthew 4:13 we read how Christ left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. In Mark 1:21 it says that Christ taught on the sabbath days in the synagogue there. It was the site where he healed the servant of the centurion (see Matthew 8:5).

But even at Capernaum there were those who rejected Christ.

Christ speaks of the city as that “which art exalted unto heaven.” Matthew Poole suggests this was “ether with respect to their trading and outward prosperity, or with respect to the means of grace they enjoyed in hearing Christ’s sermons and seeing his miracles.” Nonetheless, Christ continues by adding that this exalted city of privilege “shalt be brought down to hell” (v. 23).

He contrasts Capernaum’s lack of receptivity with how wicked Sodom would have responded. This was not only a pagan city, but one especially known for its immorality. It was indeed destroyed, alongside Gomorrah, with brimstone and fire in the days of Abraham (see Genesis 18—19). Sodom is a byword in the Scriptures for an evil city. Even degenerate Sodom, however, if the works of Christ had been done in their midst, would have repented and “it would have remained until this day” (v. 23b).

Christ’s point is to emphasize that the “sin of sins” is to reject him. Worse than being a pagan Sodomite is being one who spurns Christ!

How might we apply this warning to ourselves?

Consider the privileges which many of us have been given? Were you raised in a Christian family, taken to a Christian church? Do you have a Bible on the bookshelf (even if rarely read), or are you, at the least, the beneficiary of a society deeply touched by Christ? Still, many given such privileges persist in rejecting him, mocking him.

Here is the warning. A day is coming when all wrongs will be made right. It will be better on that day for Sodom, than for those who, in the end, reject Christ (Matthew 11:24). Rejection of Christ is indeed the “sin of sins.”

Christ stands before us, teaching in his word, plaintively warning, toward the end that we might experience the two great turnings: turning away from our sin in repentance, and turning toward Christ in faith.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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