“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near!”
The message of John the Baptist really is good news. Of course, there are millions of Christians, like the owner of the bus pictured above, who wouldn’t know good news if it his them in the face, but the fact of the matter is that repentance and the Kingdom are both really good things. I’ll deal more with the Kingdom of Heaven in the days to come, but for today, I’d like to spend a minute on repentance.
As most of you know, the Greek word for repentance is metanoia literally, to change one’s mind. Contrary to popular opinion, repentance isn’t about feeling guilty about what you’ve done. It isn’t about saying you’re sorry. It is about choosing the Kingdom of God over and above the Kingdom of me. Life is so much better when I’m living for someone other than myself.
I try to repent every morning. I know that my first instinct is to live for me and my base needs everyday. Thankfully, I have a wife and two great kids who remind me that life isn’t about me. By God’s grace, I have a great vocation that forces me to focus less on myself and more on me. Thanks be to God, I have a role model in Jesus who lived the way of the Kingdom, lived self-giving love, lived a life of self-sacrifice. I try to repent every morning. It doesn’t always work, but I try. Thankfully, the one who came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire is really, really patient.
For the nerds out there, this Robertson Word Picture is really helpful.
Mat 3:2 – Repent (metanoeite). Broadus used to say that this is the worst translation in the New Testament. The trouble is that the English word “repent” means “to be sorry again” from the Latin repoenitet (impersonal). John did not call on the people to be sorry, but to change (think afterwards) their mental attitudes (metanoeite) and conduct. The Vulgate has it “do penance” and Wycliff has followed that. The Old Syriac has it better: “Turn ye.” The French (Geneva) has it “Amendez vous.” This is John’s great word (Bruce) and it has been hopelessly mistranslated. The tragedy of it is that we have no one English word that reproduces exactly the meaning and atmosphere of the Greek word. The Greek has a word meaning to be sorry (metamelomai) which is exactly our English word repent and it is used of Judas (Mt 27:3). John was a new prophet with the call of the old prophets: “Turn ye” (Joe 2:12; Isa. 55:7; Eze 33:11,15).