John the Baptist heralds the arrival of the long-awaited King Jesus, and his kingdom, calling his listeners to repent and follow him.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
It must have been an incredible time. Momentous. Perhaps many didn’t yet recognise the gravity of the events and people surrounding them… yet, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a first century Israelite, hearing this faithful, counter-cultural, wild man preaching, baptising and crying out in the Middle-Eastern wilderness to repent and believe.
And what a message. The kingdom of heaven has come near! The anticipated promise of God’s kingdom; awaited by Israel for centuries, heralded by the prophets. God’s kingdom, and the promise of hope and salvation, and his presence with his people, has drawn near. And not only a kingdom, but a King. The King. The long-awaited One.
Something I love about Matthew’s Gospel is his shining vision of Jesus as the one anticipated in the Old Testament; the fulfilment of Old Testament hope. Matthew refers to the Old Testament constantly, showing that Jesus is the promised Messiah; King, Lord, the Son of David. It makes the already-profound events of Jesus’ life and ministry even richer and more powerful, as we realise that this is the man all history has been awaiting.
John’s words are thrilling. The kingdom of heaven draws near. How should his listeners respond to this breathtaking news? John tells them: Repent.
Repent. Not even rejoice – although that will surely come. Repent. To repent is to turn the other way. It is to change our minds, and change our direction. It is to see our sin for what it is, and see Jesus for who he is, in his holiness and grace, and the forgiveness he offers through the cross; to turn away from our sin, and turn to Jesus in faith.
Just as John called his listeners to repent, so his words also call us to repentance. We don’t repent only when we first trust in Jesus; the ongoing Christian life is one of repentance. Of mournfully seeing our sin and our straying hearts, and to turn around again; to change our minds and our hearts, and gratefully turn to Jesus again. Trusting in his grace and forgiveness, again. And again.
Head: Here is an article to read and reflect more about repentance and what it looks like: https://australia.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-struggle-to-repent
Heart: What is pulling at your heart at the moment? Where is your heart tempted to stray? Remember Jesus and the love and forgiveness of his death and resurrection, and turn back to him in repentance.
Hands: What would repentance look like in your actions? How can you turn back to Jesus in your attitude, what you do and say, how you serve others, how you pray?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you alone know the depths of my heart, which is so prone to wander and to leave the God I love. Forgive me, Lord. Thank you for Jesus, and for the cross. By your Spirit, point me once again to my Saviour, and teach me repentance, even as I rest in your arms of grace. Amen.
A song to listen to: Shine into our Night https://open.spotify.com/track/4DP85J52lN1CfcaOQ0nqtp
This Grow Daily was originally posted as part of the God With Us – Matthew series. During the School Holidays we take the opportunity to look back at the Grow Dailys over the years.