Jesus compares the three cities where He spent most of His time and performed His most noteworthy miracles, against three Gentile cities most noted for their depth of heathen depravity.
Sodom was destroyed in the massive volcanic explosion that superheated the local salt crystals and turned them into a rain of fire. Tyre was destroyed by Alexander the Great building a great stone causeway out to the island fortress. Sidon was humbled repeatedly by a string of invading armies. Nothing of the former glory of those three exists today. So it is with those three cities where Jesus had invested so very much, having spent the bulk of His ministry living in those cities. Capernaum was eventually destroyed. Today it is a tiny village surviving only because Medieval churches kept track of the place, while both Bethsaida and Chorazin are buried ruins.
In our Western culture, we struggle with the idea that a whole city could be punished like this. What kind of moral failure would justify such an extreme measure? Jesus explains quite plainly. He fed the 5000 at the isolated fishing village of Bethsaida; three of His disciples came from there (Peter, Andrew and Philip). He lived in Caprunaum; it was His home for most of three years. He visited or passed through Chorazin countless times, just a few kilometers north of Capernaum. The three towns were magnets for huge crowds traveling to receive His teachings and miracles. The bulk of the inhabitants never considered Him the Messiah. They couldn’t even be bothered to accept the simpler of His teachings about the meaning of the Covenant. Their hearts were closed to Him.
They could even gather a committee to ask Jesus to heal the Centurion’s servant because he paid for the building of their synagogue in Capernaum, but they couldn’t embrace Him as the Messiah. How had they become so jaded? Had he performed any of those miracles at Sodom, Tyre or Sidon, they would have understood immediately what such power meant, and would have embrace Him as some kind of deity. And they would have repented and accepted whatever covenant He proposed.
In each case, we can be sure it was the towns’ leadership that balked at giving Him due respect. They had a vested interest in maintaining the system as it was. Who is going to listen to His message? Jesus rejoiced that it was the nobodies of His day. It was people who had everything to gain and nothing to lose. They were the ones who received the teachings of Jesus — the marginalized “poor” received the gospel message.
At this point, Jesus reaffirms the teaching that He was one with the Father, that He was the Son and Heir to the Kingdom of Heaven. Nobody understood the Father like the Son did. He called for the world of oppressed and outcast folks to come to Him for recognition and redemption. This was His future Kingdom, and unlike every ruler they had seen for several centuries, He promised to restore the promises of the Covenant. Anyone can read Moses and discern what low taxes and regulation they had to live with, the depth of personal warmth from their Lord, and what grand promises were attached to the Law of Moses. The burden of serving in His Kingdom would be the best life anyone could imagine.