Our Lord didn’t pull any punches when he spoke about the dissolute people of Chorazin and Bethsaida, two cities just north of the Sea of Galilee. He had performed many miracles in these places, and yet nothing seemed to be changing. The people remained closed to Our Lord’s message, which was a message of repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Our Lord declared that if the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had witnessed his miracles, they would have repented quickly. They would have seen his miracles as signs that God was visiting his people, and they would have repented, putting away all the obstacles that sin presents. But since Chorazin and Bethsaida didn’t repent, they faced dire consequences.
Now it may not be an attractive topic to talk about, but repentance is a vital part of our spiritual lives. Without it, we would end up separated from God forever. We would remain subject to the pride and self-centeredness that trapped our first parents—and with dire consequences.
If we find repentance hard, it’s probably because we have a faulty understanding of God. Perhaps we imagine a thundering deity who is always ready to mete out justice with a firm, unflinching hand. Some of us were brought up with the idea of the Policeman God. And yet even now we find it hard to think of God as a Father who longs to be reunited with his wayward children. And so we avoid confessing our sins to him because we are afraid of his punishment. But this isn’t the God Jesus revealed. This isn’t the shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep, the father who waits eagerly for his prodigal son to come home, or the God who sacrificed his only Son so that we could live.
Our Lord’s words against Chorazin and Bethsaida are not the words of an angry God eager to punish the wayward. They are the words of a distraught father lamenting the path of self-destruction that his children have chosen. They are the words of a passionate God pleading with his children: “Come back to me so that I can save you from the consequences of your sin.”