Friday, December 26, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 16: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. (Luke 10:13-14 NASB) 

This passage is filled with historical references with which we need familiarity to understand. We will take the two cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida first. 

Chorazin was a town in Gallilee located north of Capernaum and west of the Mount of Beatitudes. It is now an excavated ruin. Some sources say it was known for the grain that grew there. The olive millstones found in the ruins indicate a likely olive industry as well. Jesus spent time teaching and doing miracles in this city, but the people rejected Him, despite the miracles He did there. 

Bethsaida was the home town of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, possibly very near Capernaum, as it was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. An alternate possible location is on the Sea of Galilee at its northernmost tip, in the Tetrachy of Philip in an area now known as the Golan Heights. It was in Bethsaida that the second touch healing of the blind man occurred (Mark 8:22-26) and it was where Jesus withdrew for quiet time (Luke 9:10). There is controversy about the exact location of Bethsaida, but suffice it to say it is now lying in complete ruins. The people of Bethsaida had considerable contact with Jesus and His disciples because of the three apostles who lived there and yet, according to Scripture, they also largely rejected Jesus. 

It brings to mind the saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt." Perhaps because the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida were so familiar with Jesus, they were not able to equate Him with God. When we see God as distant and remote, it is hard to comprehend how intensely personal He is, isn't it? It must have been difficult to equate the Coming Messiah King they expected with the Flesh and Blood Suffering Servant standing before them. Even the attesting miracles Jesus performed were not enough to open their eyes, and we are left wondering what it would have taken to open their eyes and their hearts.   

We, too, have much the same problem, don't we? Because we in this country, especially those of us living in the Bible Belt, are so familiar with the church and have spent so much time around "church people", we can easily think of Jesus as just a baby in a manger who grew to be another "church person" with little to offer. In fact, He is God made flesh, now reigning in Heaven, and one day will judge the world. What would it take to open our eyes and our hearts to Jesus? 

He has already done all that is needed to redeem the world. There is nothing more that Jesus needs to do. The problem lies with us. Will we embrace His teachings? Will we deny ourselves and follow Him? In the wake of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, let us commit ourselves anew to follow our Lord and pray that He will open our hearts and our eyes to know and see Him more clearly. 

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