Today, I’m thinking about the message of repentance in the gospels. In Matthew’s gospel, John the Baptist is quoted as saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 3:2). In Mark’s gospel, we have the following: “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4). Luke had a similar message: “He [John] went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3: 3). In John’s gospel, John the Baptist said of himself: “I am ‘the voice of the one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord …”’ (John 1: 23). A little while later, Jesus also got in on the act: “From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” (Matt 4: 17). And, in Mark's gospel: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
It would seem that the people in region of the Jordan River in Judea were in serious need of repentance back in the year 30 A.D.! John even called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers.” (Matt 3: 7). And John was successful in his mission: “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” (Mark 1:5). Jesus, too, was drawing crowds and they listened to Him: “And all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth.” (Luke 4: 22). But, as you know, eventually the crowds turned against and caused his death. In the end, however, He triumphed. He rose from the dead.
Okay, but what about today, 2017 A.D. Well, I’m afraid that we are still in need of serious repentance. The words of John and Jesus regarding repentance are just as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago! We are a brood of vipers just like the Judeans. Even though we may be baptized and even though we may acknowledge our sins, we sin again and again become in need of serious repentance. Just like the Judeans in the time of Our Lord, we turn against God and crucify his Son all over again. It is part of the human condition, our fallen nature.
How do we escape from this cycle of sin, repentance, forgiveness, sin, repentance, forgiveness … ? How is it that we will, one day, rise from the dead and enjoy eternal life in heaven? My thought is that we need to get much more serious about this, our eternal destiny. In times of temptation, we need to turn to prayer. We need to acknowledge our Redeemer as the Savior of the human race and pledge to sin no more. We need to become holy. It is hard in this world of 2017, but if we seek Jesus and his message, He will assist us. Of that I’m am totally convinced. What we will have as our eternal home depends on it. Amen