From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
As I write these words, I’m reflecting on one of the greatest experiences of my life. Just a few days ago, I was sitting in the remains of the Jewish synagogue in the city of Capernaum, in the northern part of Israel. Historians and biblical scholars agree that Jesus taught in that very synagogue (see Mark 1:21).
To be sure, there’s nothing supernatural about standing where Jesus stood. One need not to go to a physical location to encounter the risen Christ. God has graciously revealed His Son in the pages of His Word—and that’s sufficient for our salvation and sanctification.
But I must admit there’s a sense of gravity to reading a passage from the Bible where the actual events took place. I’m looking forward to processing what I learned on my journey to the Holy Land over the next several weeks, months, and even years.
One thing was clear from my trip to Israel and from today’s readings: Jesus intensely focused on the eternal realities every human being must face.
Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and fed the hungry, yet He did these things as evidence of the message He preached. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe knew full well that crippled people could walk again simply at the command of His voice. He knew He could multiply meager portions of food to feed thousands, and yet His ultimate concern centered on the eternal destiny of His hearers.
In each of our verses today, note that Jesus taught the people. But pay special attention to the Matthew and Mark references. Note the progression: warning followed by an appeal to believe.
Jesus warned His hearers that God’s judgment on the earth was looming and that the time to repent and believe the Good News was upon them. Some heeded His warnings, and sadly some didn’t.
I wonder how often we’re guilty of scoffing at street preachers who warn people of God’s impending judgment on this world? No, I’m not talking about the hate-filled people who picket soldier’s funerals and the like. I’m referring to Bible-believing people who feel convicted to preach in open-air environments to whoever will listen.
Sure, this may not be our preferred method of evangelism, and in our post-Christian culture may not be the most effective, but as one famous Christian leader put it, “I like my way of doing evangelism better than your way of not doing it.” There’s some truth to that pithy remark.
Of course, the intent of these passages isn’t to turn us all into street preachers, but it should cause us to pause and reflect on the urgency of the message. The Son of God, who has greater care and compassion for people than you or I ever could, saw fit to urgently warn people that God’s kingdom was imminent.
Let’s not be like the scoffers mentioned in 2 Peter 3:1-15. Rather, let’s expectantly wait for the coming of the Lord. And, in the meantime, let’s urgently call people to belief and trust in that same Lord.
- No doubt you have friendships with unbelievers. How often do you discuss spiritual things with them? Have you considered that God may have put you in their lives to share the gospel verbally and not just in the way you live?
- When you share the gospel with people, do you tend to neglect the weightier matters of judgment? Why, if Jesus warned of judgment, are we so afraid to talk about it?
- Are there situations in your life that warrant God’s judgment? Of course, we could all answer “yes.” But for those of us who have trusted in Christ, take this time to thank Him for absorbing the wrath of God on your behalf and securing your eternal fellowship with God.