Five Cities: Red versus Blue


Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390
Mt 11:20-24

     In Jesus reprimand of three cities of Israel, he mentions Five different cities. Of these five cities, why did Jesus give such a harsh scolding to three of them? In answering that it helps to have a little background on these cities. Here is a brief synopsis on the five:

  1. Bethsaida (“house of the fishermen”) is mentioned frequently in the Gospels. Here Jesus cured the blind man in Mark’s gospel. According to Luke, it was the place of the feeding of the five thousand. according to John Bethsaida was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip . It probably also was home to James and John who were partners in the fishing business with Peter and was a major occupation of the people of this town. It was situated by the Jordan River on the Sea of Galilee. Its population was predominately Jewish, although there also was a Greek influence.This village was raised to the rank of city by Tetrarch Herod Philip. Its name was changed to Julias in honor of Augustus’s daughter.  Jesus and his disciples were very familiar with Bethsaida as were  the people of this town familiar with him. They have heard Jesus message and rejected it.
  2. Capernaum was a large Galilean fishing village and bustling center.. It stood on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee . Capernaum lies  on the great Via Maris highway between Damascus ,Syria and Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea, and between Tyre and Egypt.This village prospered in the Roman periods. Capernaum’s citizens were mainly fishermen (like most of Jesus apostles), farmers, and people that provided services to the Roman road . Customs taxes were collected from travelers at this crossroads . Here Jesus befriends the tax collector Matthew and is challenged by the Pharisees.Some of the Miracles that took place at Capernaum were:Dead daughter of Jairus raised,Paralyzed man let down through the roof and healed, the miraculous catch of fish(Lk 5:1-11),Through a fish, Jesus supplied tribute tax money needed by Peter ,Healing of the centurion’s servant afflicted with palsy. Despite these miraculous events and the time Jesus and his disciples devoted to this area the people of Capernaum remained disbelievers of his Gospel message. Jesus was rejected here.
  3. Chorazin was a city in Galilee which was located about 2 miles / 3 kilometers north of Capernaum, the city on the Sea Of Galilee where Jesus Christ went to live after He left Nazareth. Chorazin was praised as an area famous for its very early harvest of grain.Like Bethsaida, its population was predominately Jewish, but there were many Gentiles surrounding the Sea of Galilee.Gentiles were so numerous that Isaiah referred to the region as “Galilee of the Gentiles”
  4. Tyre  is an ancient Phoenician city in southern Lebanon, jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea.The commerce of the ancient world was gathered into the warehouses of Tyre. It was the most important city of the Phoenicians, amassing great wealth and power from the export of rare and extraordinarily expensive purple dye.This color was, in many cultures of ancient times, reserved for the use of royalty.Here in Tyre Jesus healed a woman after she gave him a witty reply about breadcrumbs falling from a table:“Lord,” even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Like in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida; Jesus reluctantly preached in Tyre (MT 15:21); And Jesus went away  from there(Galilee) and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. …. Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon…
  5. Sidon was one the most important ancient Phoenician cities. It was situated in the narrow fertile plain between the mountains of Lebanon and Mediterranean 25 miles north of Tyre.It was the first Phoenician city to send ships into the open sea.Sidon was also a wealthy  commercial city, famous for their gold and silver and their manufactures of embroidery, dies, metals, but especially glass. They found many commercial colonies along the shores of the Mediterranean. Though it was just within the limits of the promised land, it was never under the possession of the Israelites. It belonged to the tribe of Asher yet they would not confront these wealthy neighbors. Israel was oppressed by Sidon during the book of Judges. Prophets spoke against this city. King Ahab(of Israel) married his Phoenician wife Jezebel who was the daughter of the King of Sidon. Like in Tyre Jesus preached in this Phoenician city

Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida formed what is called the “Evangelical Triangle,” the small area where most of Jesus’ miracles were displayed . In these three cities where Jesus spent much time he was rejected. It was in these cities that he brought his gospel message to his own people.It was at these three largely Jewish cities, home of many of his Apostles and disciples,”Fishing Villages” that His gospel was rejected. Jesus then ventures into the lands of the Phoenicians, wishing to draw little attention. The surprise is that here in these wealthy pagan capital cities he is sought out and his message is embraced. Though he was to preach to the “lost sheep of Israel”, and did preach extensively, that mission resulted in rejection. As the the woman of Tyre implicitly exclaimed they, the citizens of the evangelical triangle, Jesus own people, were offered to feast at the banquet of the table, yet they refused.The people of Her region, ironically wealthy pagan capitals, begged only for a crumb from that feast, How could Jesus refuse?

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