Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mt 11:7-30 for Jan 16

Three little towns at the top of the land of Israel, within five miles of one another: someday their location will change -- intolerably, and downward (Mt 11:20-24).

This New Testament passage from the One Year Bible for today finds us hearing Jesus do for the culture of that generation what He did not come to do (9:13) for individuals of that culture: not only describe elements of it critically (11:16-17), but also denounce it (11:20) for such elements. We've been reading along in Matthew how repeatedly Jesus called and associated with the sinners, outcast, the infirm of a culture (11:4-6), even talking about the tiniest response to Him or His disciples -- like a common Middle Eastern greeting when they enter a house -- Jesus says that even such things will not go to waste (10:40-42)! In this section He expresses Himself about the proud elements of that culture, the civic and religious pride (11:23), including those famous for supposed wisdom and intelligence too (11:25).

But it is an event-based denouncement. Their denunciation is NOT because of what they started with when He arrived! It is because the Lord came to them, and they didn't change anything (11:20)! Whatever the problems were, whether different forms of pride, or just venting their common practice of criticizing everything (11:16-17), the arrival of John the Baptist, and His own arrival doing amazing things among them would have turned the legendarily worst cities of the Old Testament, like Tyre and Sidon (Ez 28) and Sodom (Gen 19) around (Mt 11:21-24).

The irony truly is astonishing. The Lord paints a picture of a Sodom that would have been standing right now, if He had done what He did in it (11:23). Sodom was thought to be down at the bottom of the Dead Sea area, which even now, is the lowest elevation area on the globe. So the Lord pictures the city of Sodom standing there today, for comparison with Capernaum, the proud town that will be going down lower than Sodom (11:23), much lower.

There are many places in which the New Testament is pretty clear that the Lord's judgment of a culture, however evil, is event-based: what did it do with Him, when He and His arrived (10:14-15; 10:40-42; 25:40; Jn 3:19; 1 Jn 5:5-10; Jn 6:40; 2 Cor 5:18-20).

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