Many Christians are quite familiar with the words of Jesus when He gives a call to group of people whom He describes as “weary and heavy laden.” He says He will give them rest if they take His yoke upon them for “His yoke is easy and His burden light.” He tells them He is “gentle and lowly in heart and [they[ will find rest for their souls.” (Matt. 11:27-30)
However, what immediately precedes this is quite a contrast. Back to verse 20, where he pronounces judgment upon entire cities – cities where He had done some of His mighty works. He pronounces judgement upon Chorazin and Bethsaida, saying it will be worse for them than for Tyre and Sidon, for if the works He had done for them (Chorazin and Bethsaida) had been done for Tyre and Sidon, Tyre and Sidon would have repented, with the clear implication being that Tyre and Sidon did not repent and that the works done for Chorazin and Bethsaida could have been done for Tyre and Sidon and were not (more on that shortly). (vv. 21-22)
He then, in a form of parallelism, pronounces a judgment upon Capernaum in the same manner, stating it will be better on the day of judgment for Sodom than it will for Capernaum. This is not to say things will be good for Sodom – just that they will be worse for Capernaum than for Sodom. Why? Because if the works done in Sodom were done in Capernaum, Sodom would not have been destroyed (vv. 23-24).
Here’s the “more on that shortly” point: God sovereignly withheld these things from Tyre, Sidon and Sodom. He could have revealed Himself in the same way He revealed Himself through His Son – but He chose to not do so. Jesus, of course, knows this, and prays to His Father a prayer of thanksgiving. Quite a prayer of thanksgiving, as we see in Matthew 11:25-26:
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Jesus thanks the father for hiding “these things” – the “things” of vv. 21-24 – from certain people. He thanks God for certain people not having truth revealed to them, resulting in those people perishing, as the people of Sodom did. He thanks the Father for that being His will – His will which hid “these things” from some and revealed them to others.
Then He immediately goes into those most comforting words, calling people to Himself in vv. 27-30.
Shocking, indeed. But only shocking if we come to the passage with a preconceived notion of how Jesus is to behave and who God is to be. Revelation will tell us that – not carnal presuppositions.