Missional Jesus implored his contemporaries to realize that there are final and earthly consequences for how they live now. He warned his contemporaries who saw his deeds — deeds that evoked the presence of God’s kingdom — and who were not sensitive enough to see the hand of God at work that they would find judgment on themselves and on their communities.
This is not a popular theme today, so perhaps we need to read this passage carefully to see what Jesus says. He says at least these things — and he says these things as an outgrowth of his missional ministries.
1. Those who have seen the works of God, regardless of who they are, are accountable for what they have seen.
2. They are accountable, most especially, for connecting the deeds of power with the person who does them. In other words, he urges them to connect the dots — the dot of what is done and the dot of who did the works.
3. Those who are privileged religiously, or covenantally, sometimes are blinder than those who are not privileged.
4. Jesus thinks here, not simply in terms of individuals, but in terms of groups: he is speaking here, like an Old Testament prophet, of cities and communities.
5. Some think we in the emerging movement are emphasizing too much the corporate and not enough the individual — perhaps we have over responded to a radical individualism we gravitate to so easily in the West. Still, there is warrant for thinking in terms of groups and of groups that collectively are individuals and that individuals are parts of the collective. And the warrant comes from Jesus.
Matt. 11:20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”