Key Verses: Matthew 3:1-2 “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
I was recenlt reading a TED article called ‘20 words that once meant something very different’ (http://ideas.ted.com/20-words-that-once-meant-something-very-different/) It is quite amazing how words can change their meaning over time. Let just look at a few example:
- Nice: It used to mean “silly, foolish, simple.”
- Silly: In its earliest uses, it referred to things worthy or blessed.
- Naughty: Used to mean you had naught or nothing.
- Awful: Awful things used to be “worthy of awe.”
Another word that has clearly lost it’s meaning in 2017 is the word repentance. Today people ‘repent’ of choosing the tuna for dinner or ‘repent’ buy a certain pair of shoes. More often than not, to repent of something today means nothing more than regret.
Matthew 3:1-2 says. “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” John message was a call to true biblical repentance. John challenged the king, the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Romans, the rich and the poor to repent.
John Baptist was an unusual kind of preacher if you compare him to our preachers today. Modern day preachers wear suits, John the Baptist wore camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locust and honey. He didn’t preach from behind a pulpit. He walked around the Jordan River shouting out his message. He preached in a remote place where few went unless they were looking for Him. Preacher today are taught to tell stories to make the audience feel comfortable and speak for at least 20 minutes. John didn’t tell any stories and he didn’t speak more than few minutes, but it was hard hitting. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The wilderness represented a hostile place. It is a place of hunger, thirst, death, bandits, and demons. It is home to scorpions and snakes. The wilderness was considered by the Jew an area cursed by God. John the Baptist went into this dark region to preach repentance. Where is the wilderness today?
For some, it may be found in the board rooms of companies where making a profit is more important than the moral or human cost. For others, it may be in school where there is great pressure to conform and become someone they never wanted to be. For some, the wilderness may be found online. Others may be lost in the wilderness of materialism where money is king and perhaps others find their wilderness to be in the feeding of their lusts and desires, where they find themselves lost and unsatisfied, but so addicted that they crave more and more of the same. Where do you find your relationship with Jesus Christ to be most vulnerable?
When John the Baptist shows up in the “wilderness of Judea”, he came with a simple message – “REPENT.”
Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia which means a decisive turning, change of mind, to change one’s mind completely. It is far more that regret or even shame. John’s message to “Repent” is a message of hope! The message of repentance promises us that we don’t have to remain like we are! We don’t have to remain in our wilderness of sin! We don’t have to be held prisoner by our failures, our past, our inadequacies, our temptations, our sins, our fears! We can repent and start over!