“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Striding in from the desert one day appeared a man dressed in clothes made of camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist. He went into all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
“This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'” (Matthew 3:3)
John the Baptist’s father Zechariah had prophesied over him at his birth,
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77)
The time had come and, not long afterwards, John would baptise the man called Jesus in the Jordan. He would witness the Spirit of the Lord descending upon Him, with the words, “You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.” Shortly after this John would point Jesus out and declare,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Both the Apostles Paul and John would confirm this purpose of Jesus the Christ,
- “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
- “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.” (1 John 3:5)
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Sin is not merely anti-social behaviour but a rejection of God. It is a rejection of His majesty and authority and, most tragically, of His love. He, of whom the apostle John said ‘God is love’, could have been trusted to be truthful and to give directives that were only for our benefit. Instead our history has been one of exercising our freedom of choice to reject or marginalise Him and to place ourselves at the centre of our lives. The cost in terms of human suffering has been incalculable.
The coming of the Christ was to give humankind another, and possibly final, opportunity to choose – to choose whether to turn from our own way of life to God and His Way. This is repentance – to recognise and turn from what is wrong to that which is true. It is also a recognition and acceptance of the humbling sacrifice that has made it possible.
The season of Lent which begins tomorrow is a time for such reflection – to look into our lives and to see where we may have drifted away from God and, with His help, to come back again.
Lord God, please open my eyes to the truth about You, forgive me for where my focus and life have been wrong, and help me to walk with You in Your ways. Amen.