Jesus had been preaching the kingdom of heaven and so had John the Baptist. Jesus had just explained to the Jews that if they would receive the kingdom (vs. 12-14) then John fulfilled the prophecy concerning Elijah coming before the Lord (Mal 4:5). Hence, he was ready to set up his kingdom then.
However, the Jews were getting ready to turn him down flat. So, he warned them of four benefits that they were about to pass up by rejecting him as their king:
· Wisdom – vs. 16-19
· Justification – vs. 20-24
· Revelation – vs. 25-27
· Rest – vs. 28-30
Wisdom – Jesus told them that they were like a bunch of kids, very fickle. John came neither eating (Matt 3:4) nor drinking (Lk 1:15) and they said he had a devil. To the contrary, he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (Lk 1:15). Jesus came eating and drinking (Lk 7:36; Matt 9:9-11; Lk 15:2; etc.) and they said he was a glutton and a winebibber. So, they couldn’t make up their minds!
Wisdom is justified of her children, like Lk 7:29. Thus, John preached and the wise ones were baptized. Jesus preached and the wise ones received it. The ones who rejected were very unwise because they missed an opportunity to watch him set up his kingdom which would have been far better for them.
Justification – He balled out (upbraided) the cities because they refused to repent when he preached and did the miracles in them. However, Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah and a man greater than Jonah was preaching to them (Jon 3:3-5; Matt 12:41). Thus they were not justified.
Chorazin and Bethsaida, which was the hometown of Philip, Andrew and Peter (Jn 1:44), rejected the preaching of Jesus. So, Jesus compared them to the gentile cities of Tyre and Zidon, on the northern coast of the Mediterranean (Matt 15:21-22, where the woman of Canaan was). These cities will be judged at the judgment of the nations in Matt 25:31-46 and Tyre and Zidon (in spite of Is 23) will fair better.
Capernaum, which became Jesus’ home after he began his ministry (Matt 4:13; 9:1), was compared to Sodom. Jesus said that Sodom would not have been destroyed if he had done the mighty works in it that he had done in Capernaum. But Capernaum rejected Jesus because it was exalted (like the devil in Is 14:13). So, Sodom gets a break because they didn’t know what Capernaum knew (like Lk 12:47-48).
Revelation – The things that Jesus did and said to reveal himself to the Jews were hidden from them because they were wise in their own conceit (1 Cor 1:19, 27; 2:8). So, he revealed them unto babes, because they would believe him (like Matt 18:3-4).
In doing the mighty works and preaching the kingdom, Jesus Christ was presenting his Father to the Jews. He had to do it that way because his Father was the only one who knew him (Jn 6:44-45; Matt 16:17) and he was the only one who knew the Father until he revealed him (Jn 6:46; 1:18). Thus Jesus said, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” (Jn 14:9-10). The question was, “Believest thou?” The answer for most of them was, “No.”
Rest – Ultimately for the Jews, they will have rest with the Lord when they are in their own land in Jesus’ kingdom, which he will set up at his second coming. The rest they will enjoy then is described in Heb 3:17 – 4:9. While in their own land, they will be under God’s rule, which they initially rejected back in 1 Sam 8:7 and ultimately rejected when Jesus was here. They will also be under God’s commands (the yoke Acts 15:10) which will not be grievous (1 Jn 5:3).
They missed all four of these at that time, when they could have had them all by simply receiving Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom.