Scripture – “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2 & 4:17 ESV)
Observation – Matthew opens his gospel to his Jewish audience with an explosive thrust. Every sentence, passage and chapter shouts, “behold, your Messiah!” I find myself trying to think from a Jewish perspective to fully appreciate what Matthew is communicating.
In these first four chapters, Matthew makes at least twelve references to Old Testament scriptures. With unwavering confidence, Matthew is showing the Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah; the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is Immanuel, God with us and because He is the promise fulfilled, the people are called to respond. The only appropriate response is repentance. They are God’s chosen people and they must turn back to God in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Application – This word, “repent!” (metanoia in the Greek) often gets a bad rap. It sounds threatening. It tends to evoke images of the wild-eyed evangelist, shouting from under the big top, “repent you sinners!”
Maybe the words spoken by both John the Baptist and Jesus are less of a threat and more of a gentle invitation to come back to Him, the source of their (and our) salvation and abundant life. As a believer that is the way I hear the word today, not as a shout, but as a gentle reminder to turn away from all the distractions and turn back to God, the source of all truth, the giver of all life, my hope and my salvation.
Because I am so prone to wander, so easily distracted by worldly worries and so inclined to dig in my heels in stubbornness – repentance, or turning back to God in humility, ought to be a regular part of my journey with God. Repentance pulls me away from my own path and draws me back into the heart of God. Repentance lowers my anxiety and increases my joy. In repentance, I feel the rebelliousness of my heart recede allowing love and humility to take its place. Repentance ushers me back into the ever-growing movement of the Kingdom of Heaven in this present world.
Prayer – Lord, thank you for your incredible patience and your incomparable lovingkindness. You came in the flesh just as the prophets predicted. You gently invited your chosen ones to join Your Kingdom movement. Many repented and came to you humbly, while others continued to stiffen their necks in rebellion. Lord I humbly submit to you today. I submit to Your authority, Your Lordship, Your words and teaching. Please help me to know what that looks like and what you require of me. Amen.