I originally wrote this thinking I would be speaking in Bet Saida. Bet Saida is mentioned a lot in the Gospels. In John, we’re told that it’s the hometown and Philip, Andrew and Peter. In Mark, Jesus healed a blind man. In Luke, this is where Jesus fed the five thousand men (plus, I always point out, their wives and children, so it was actually a lot more than five thousand).
And yet, in both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is cursing Bet Saida for not repenting! It certainly boggles the mind – as it seems to have boggled Jesus’ – that people can see so many miracles and then still be like, “Yeah, no, we’re fine, thanks.” Jesus tells the people here, “If the miracles which were done here had been done in Tyre and Sidon” – cities which also saw major crowds turn out to listen to Jesus after a single healing – “they would have repented ages ago”.
I wonder if we’re ever like that at all. We’re very privileged to live in the time and place we do. We have the Bible, which records all sorts of things Jesus and God have done, and we can access it freely, whenever we want. We can read about Jesus’ miracles. I’m sure some of us have even seen miracles ourselves. Perhaps we weren’t there to see Jesus make blind people see or feed thousands and thousands of people with a single basket of food, but we’re certainly not entirely ignorant of the things He did.
But have you ever procrastinated repenting of something? “I’ll just leave it a week,” you might have thought to yourself, “I know I must repent, but it can wait. This is more important right now.” Or even, “It’s too fun; I don’t want to give it up, and I know I’ll have to if I start taking this following Jesus thing more seriously.”
It’s definitely tempting to procrastinate like that sometimes, and I wonder if that’s what happened to the people in Korazin and Bet Saida. They’d seen Jesus perform miracles, they knew repenting was the right thing to do and how to do it, but maybe they also knew how much their lives would change when they did, and they were scared of that.
I’m speculating here as to why they didn’t follow Jesus, after hearing Him speak and seeing Him perform miracles, but the fact is, they didn’t. And, at times, I haven’t, either, and I’m sure it’s the same for you.
When He’s chastising Bet Saida and Korazin, in Matthew and Luke, Jesus has harsher words yet for them than just, “You stupid, foolish little people”. He goes on to say, “When Judgement Day comes, it will be much worse for you, because you’ve chosen not to repent.” And in Matthew, He adds, “What happens to Sodom won’t be as bad as what happens to you.” You remember what happened to Sodom, right? Fire and sulphur from the sky and people turning into salt. Jesus takes it seriously when you don’t repent even when you have all the facts.
So next time you find yourself procrastinating in repenting, if you’re doing something you think probably isn’t best for someone who’s trying to follow Jesus, but you’re enjoying it and don’t want to give it up, if you’ve spoken harshly or harassed someone or otherwise been a less-than-great witness, but you feel justified in it; next time this happens, stop for a moment and think about what Jesus said to Korazin and Bet Saida.