“‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” – Matthew 11:21
Ok…..so….huh? What on earth is He talking about here?
Jesus is calling out cities in the region of Galilee by name. These are towns where the people saw His powerful miracles of healing and casting out demons with their own eyes. However, they refused to repent by turning from sin and accepting Him as the Messiah (Matthew 11:20).
Jesus uses the Greek word ouai, which is translated into English as “woe,” or more archaically as “alas!” The word is used in the New Testament to combine ideas of “doom” and “pity.” Jesus proclaims “woe” upon Chorazin and Bethsaida.
Chorazin—spelled Korazin in some translations—is only mentioned in the New Testament in this statement by Jesus. Scholars suggest its ruins may be found northwest of the city of Capernaum, Jesus’ adopted hometown on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Bethsaida is likely the place mentioned as the hometown of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (John 1:44). It was on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus condemns both towns for not turning from sin and to faith in Him after seeing His mighty works. Repentance in the Old Testament was often marked by acts of great humility and mourning, including wearing the coarsest of materials and covering one’s head and body in ash. Christ says if the people in the towns of Tyre and Sidon had seen Him do the same miracles, they would have long ago repented from their sin in sackcloth and ashes.
Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast. They were often condemned by prophets in the Old Testament because of the pagan worship of the false god Baal. The pair became famous as living symbols of God’s wrath in the judgment (Joel 3:4), as well as places where unlikely-seeming repentance and recognition of God might occur (1 Kings 17:9, 24).
Sackcloth and ashes are the appropriate dress to show mourning or repentance.
Are you wearing your sackcloth and ashes today?