Matthew 4:17 – “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.'”
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to meditate upon a short passage of Scripture. These last several weeks have been crazy with a lot of life transition. As most of you know, I will begin a new phase of life on June 1, when I become the Senior Pastor of Woodbury Community Church. I can’t tell you how excited I am to begin this new role. For the past several weeks my devotional time has consisted of taking turns reading the Bible with my two youngest sons (who are trying to read through the Bible in a year), reading sections of several books (I’ve become a fan of David Nasser’s book A Call To Die, and occasionally reading the Bible on my own.
Today, I decided to try to get back in the habit of blogging on what God is teaching me as I read His word. It was a couple months back that I finished the Psalm 119 experiment, where I blogged on a verse a day for 176 days through Psalm 119. It changed me. My appreciation for the Word of God, and the law of God increased. I think it wore me out on blogging for a while though. I wrote at the time that I was going to try to blog through the words of Christ that are written in the Gospels. I was going to try to go through them from Matthew-John, which meant repeating many of the words and not necessarily blogging in chronological order. Instead, I’m just going to focus on the words of Christ as spoken in the book of Matthew.
So, I’m back. And, this is where I left off last month.
In Matthew 4:17 Jesus began to preach. Did you catch those words? If not let me type them real slow for you: Jesus began to preach!
What HUGE news!
I’m a preacher. As a preacher, I love listening to good preaching. I can sit in front of a television set fascinated by Billy Graham’s preaching. I have a few preachers that I love to listen to on the Internet. I love when you can tell that the Holy Spirit takes over when a human being is preaching. There is something powerful about seeing God move through a man or woman to accomplish His purposes. But, this verse is talking about God preaching.
Picture it with me. . . Our speaker this Sunday is. . . God!
Now, that would be something. Which is why when Jesus, God in the flesh, preached, people responded. And I imagine they said things like:
“No one ever spoke the way this man does!” (See John 7:46) all of the time!
Wouldn’t you love to have God as the preacher every week?
So, what did Jesus preach about? Matthew 4:17 tells us that the first big idea that Jesus communicated was to, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Those words follow an ancient prophecy from Isaiah 9:1-2.
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, along the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
Jesus was in Capernaum when he began to preach his message of repentance. Capermaum was located by Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus’ first sermon fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. He came to be the light for people who were living in darkness.
Jesus Christ, and the sermons that he preached continue to offer light to the world today. Many of my friends who are opposed to Christianity say that they dislike all of the talk about repentance. They don’t like the idea that Christians judge others.
I don’t like judgmental Christians either! Christians aren’t called to judge, nor are we called to be the judge. Jesus is. Jesus Christ, our God who taught as no other because of His authority, called people to repentance. We need to heed His message. We need to find out what it is that He wants us to repent from. We do know that when he called people to repent, He also called them to live in His Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is better than anything that this world has to offer. Jesus says that that Kingdom is for today. As people who have been forgiven by Him, we who are Christ-followers have a mandate to live for Christ and to reflect His kingdom to the world around us. May it be so. And, when we are in sin, may we be quick to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
You have blessed us beyond measure. You taught and Your word continues to teach us today as no one or nothing else can. Help us to reflect You and Your kingdom as You would have it look to the world around us.
In Jesus’ name,