Matthew 11:20-24 — Can’t believe? Or won’t?

There are a lot of people that say, “I just can’t believe in God.”

And they’ll go on to list all the reasons for their unbelief.  But for the vast majority of such people, it’s not really a matter of “can’t believe,” but “won’t believe.”  They can see all the evidence for God in nature, in the lives of others, and at times, even in their own lives, but they don’t want to believe.  Why not?  Because it means that their lives are no longer their own. That they can’t just live the way they want to anymore.  That they are answerable to someone else besides themselves.

As a result, they keep asking for more evidence.  And if it’s given to them, they’ll keep asking for more.  But one gets the impression that even if God himself were to appear to them, they would do their best to convince themselves it was just a hallucination or the result of drinking too much beer the night before.

That’s how the people in Israel were during the time of Jesus.  Though Jesus performed many miracles, though he healed the sick, and though he even raised the dead, still people would not believe.  Instead they kept asking for more miracles and signs to the point where Jesus told them flat out, “I won’t do it.”  (Mark 8:12).

But more than that, Jesus passed judgment on those who refused to believe, saying,

Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens?  No, you will go down to Hades.  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  (Matthew 11:21-24)

What is Jesus saying here?  Basically he’s saying that the more God shows you, the more God speaks to you, the more responsible you will be held if you continue to reject him.

In short, it’s dangerous to keep asking for more signs from God, if all you’re going to do is reject him regardless.  And of course it’s just as dangerous to reject God despite all you’ve been given already.

The day will come when we will all stand before God.  And on that day, he will strip away all our excuses for not believing him and reveal them for what they are.  Not an inability to believe.  But an unwillingness.  And when all is laid bare, judgment will come.

So lay aside your excuses.  Lay aside your pride.  Submit to Jesus as your Lord, and you will find blessing.  In this life, and in the life to come.  As Peter said,

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  (I Peter 5:6)

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About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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