Matthew 4:17He started with that tired old line:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Seriously? This is Jesus' opening sermon? It has to be better than this, not because Jesus was mistaken, oh no. It seems stale because we have heard this phrase so many times, because we do not understand what He means.
Repent is an old-fashioned word. The standard dictionary defines it as sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing. But it is richer and sweeter than that. The Amplified illuminates it: change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins. Another one is: Turn from sin and turn to God.
Repent is turning around, and coming home. It is like getting on the parkway north to go to the beach, and suddenly realizing you need to get off and go southbound. You become fully aware you will never get to where you want to go taking the road you are on currently. It is making a U-turn with your mind, soul, heart and body, and going God's way, in God's direction.
Jesus has come to us. God in a Bod was there on the scene, heaven had come to them. It is about location and relationship. Coming home, coming back.
Today, they came to dinner, my daughter, her boyfriend and my grandson. They came back, and it was so good, even if brief. Sudden clarity came to me, how mothers always want their children to come home, come back. It is the deepest sweetest sleep when you shut the lights and you can see them in bed all under your roof.
I think this is how Jesus felt. He "cried out:" as the Amplified puts it. He came to get us, to bring us home, and His desire is that we all return with Him, that we would all be under His roof. Come back to Me, He says.
It is not just that sin is doing the wrong thing. It is not that He wants to control us. He is God, the creator of the universe and us specifically. He knows what is good and pure and BEST for us. And in the end sin separates us from Him and He wants us with Him.
He wants me with Him. That is why He came. To me, it sounds like Jesus is saying: Come back with Me. I've come all this way to get you and bring you home with Me, to the Paradise I've always intended for you. Leave your dirty, stinky life and come away with Me!
What do I say to this grand and intimate invitation?
Beloved Jesus, I say YES!
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned. ~ Matthew 4:15-16 /Isaiah 9:1-2