Pastor Steve Ellison
John the Baptizer, the forerunner, the voice crying in the wilderness, the one making ready the way of the Lord, the one making the Lord’s paths straight, started his ministry this way: Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2, NASU) Jesus, the Promised One, the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One of God, when He heard that John the Baptizer was imprisoned, started His ministry this way: From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 NASU) Surely you see the common theme.
As Jesus ministered in Galilee, He denounced the cities where no repentance occurred. He declared an extremely unfavorable outcome for them in the judgment to come. Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in pairs to minister in His name. Mark 6:12 records their ministry, They went out and preached that men should repent. (NASU) In the Pentecost sermon of Peter, the first from the disciples following the Ascension of Jesus, Peter declared the hearers of the sermon to be guilty of crucifying Jesus. Acts 2:37-38 records the dialogue that followed: Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (NASU) Surely you see the common theme continuing.
In the middle of a long series of teachings on diverse topics, in Luke 12-13, Jesus emphasized this theme of repentance in a way that I think speaks directly to me and the confused, chaotic culture around me. Luke 13:1-5 states, Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (NASU)
In a few short lines, the Creator of the Universe and Master Teacher said twice, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” If you do not believe that repentance is important, I am not sure how to convince you. Jesus referred to two well-known incidents: some Galileans killed by Pilate while offering sacrifices and innocent bystanders killed in an accident. His point seems to be that those who are seemingly innocent still die and those who are seemingly righteous still die. He then pointed out the obvious: death was coming for His hearers and by implication death is coming for me and you. Just as important, if I die without having repented of my sin and placing my faith in Christ alone for salvation, I will face eternity receiving justice. I am so glad that as a free gift, God has taken justice from me and given me the gift of repentance. The ability to repent is a blessed gift from God. God has replaced justice with forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Will you turn away from your sin and thus at the same time turn toward God (repent)? Will you trust in God, accepting His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and Lordship? Otherwise you will perish and take of all eternity to do so.