Privilege, Responsibility, and Judgment

Matthew 11:20-24; 12:38-42




1.    Two unusual sayings of Jesus are connected by the phrases “more bearable on the day of judgment,” “more tolerable on the day of judgment” and “will rise up at the judgment with this generation.”


a.   Matthew 11:20-24

b.   Matthew 12:38-42


2.    When they are understood, these two statements will be seen to have a very meaningful bearing on our privilege and responsibility where belief and unbelief are concerned.



1.   An Overview of the Texts


a.   Jesus spoke to the people who had the best opportunity to personally observe his person and works – to people who were privileged.

                                         i.    Chorazin (11:21)

                                       ii.    Bethsaida (11:21)

                                     iii.    Capernaum (11:23; cf. 9:1)

                                      iv.    This generation (12:41, 42)


b.   Jesus made reference to those who would not have been expected to believe, or who believed though they had far less advantage.

                                         i.    Tyre and Sidon (11:21, 22) – notorious centers of wickedness

                                       ii.    Sodom (11:23, 24) – infamous case of judgment

                                     iii.    Nineveh (12:41) – hated enemy capitol

                                      iv.    The queen of the South and Solomon (12:42) – foreign woman who went to a lot of effort to come and hear, and was convinced (1 K. 10:1-10)


c.    Jesus argued from the lesser to the greater, making powerful application.

                                         i.    More bearable for Tyre and Sidon than for Chorazin and Bethsaida (11:22)

                                       ii.    More tolerable for Sodom than for Capernaum (11:24)

                                     iii.    Nineveh and the queen of Sheba will rise up against this generation. (12:41, 42)





2.   A Point Runs Through Them


a.   The greatness of Jesus

                                         i.    Greater wisdom than Solomon had (12:42)

                                       ii.    Greater preaching than Jonah’s (12:41)

                                     iii.    More mighty works than any other signs


b.   The obligation of Jesus

                                         i.    Not just a curiosity to observe

                                       ii.    Not merely a help to call upon if necessary

                                     iii.    But the Lord to whom we are obligated


3.    Some of the Lessons for Us to Learn


a.   The greater the privilege, the heavier the responsibility.

McGarvey:” When one man does well, and another, under more favorable circumstances, does ill, the former condemns the latter by showing that he could have done much better if he would.”

b.   Evidence is not intended merely to convince intellectually but to evoke repentance.

McGarvey:  “Miracles, when rightly regarded, lead to repentance.   Their power is not inherent, but depends on the proposition demonstrated by them.  As Jesus preached repentance, his miracles demonstrated his divine authority to demand it.”

c.    At some level unbelief is a moral problem, not a reasoning difficulty.



1.    That’s where the judgment of these passages is to be understood.

a.   Not punishment by someone getting even

b.   Giving to someone what they have shown themselves to be worthy of.


2.    The grace of the Lord may be observed in that he gave such insignificant places and the people who lived there such amazing privileges.