Read Matthew 4:12-17
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In this short sentence we have the summary of Jesus’ preaching and teaching. Here is both the law and its judgement (“repent”) as well as the soothing and forgiving words of the gospel (“the kingdom of heaven is at hand”). There is both harshness and healing in these words of our Lord.
In these words is Jesus’ invitation to come into the promise of God’s mercy and out of the darkness of sin, death and the devil. This is indeed Good news! The kingdom of heaven is near!
But there is this matter of repentance – the turning away from all that opposes the kingdom of heaven. Repentance is not without its struggle and sorrow, but it is the power of the good news that Christ declares which leads one to repentance.
To hear the word of Christ’s forgiveness, new life and salvation for you is like standing in the presence of a great light. It is nearly impossible to dwell in darkness when the light of Christ shines upon us. It is awfully hard to believe lies when the truth is walking with you. Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it: “A lie cannot live.”
If the kingdom of heaven in Christ is near, then there are certain behaviors that just don’t make sense anymore. In Christ, idolatry, greed, violence, racism and other forms of sin are all exposed for the lie that they are. Repentance (“to change or turn around”) is the only Spirit-born and faith-inspired response to the overwhelming power of God’s love and mercy in Christ.
God’s kingdom is near whether we want it to be or not. Jesus’ voice continues to call out to you: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” May the Holy Spirit take that word, plant it deep in your heart and lead you away from your darkness and into the marvelous light of Christ’s forgiveness, life and salvation.
God of light, reveal your brilliance to us in Christ so clearly that we have no choice but to live into that peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.