Focal passage: Matthew 3:1-12
Growing up, I played football in any and every way possible, including the popular Madden video game franchise. I remember the excitement that would build in my heart every year as the late August release date inched closer. However, it was four months away from Christmas! Oh the agony of waiting! But the wait exploded into joy as I received the long-awaited gift on Christmas morning. If a few months felt like forever to a little boy waiting for his favorite game, imagine what four centuries felt like to the people of God during the Intertestamental period of silence.
Imagine the longing to hear God speak through one of His prophets. Then imagine the joy when people realized that John the Baptist’s preaching in the Judean wilderness was the fulfillment of God’s 700 year-old promise in Isaiah 40:2.
God was speaking with His people again – and now through the promised forerunner, Elijah (Malachi 4:5) – the one making way for the King.
Yet God’s message at first glance does not seem to be a gift. His message is that the reign of Messiah is near, therefore people should turn from their sin and trust in the coming King.
Christ Himself would begin His ministry by preaching the same message (Matthew 4:17).
Repentance comes as an unexpected announcement – especially to the most religious (Matthew 3:7-10). But repentance is God’s gift: the call to reject our enslavement to self and submit to the merciful reign of God. It is the call to be transformed by the King Himself such that we display His beauty and experience His joy. This should characterize the lifestyle of those who belong to the King.
We are unworthy to lace His sandals, yet He is willing to wash not only our feet, but also our hearts with His very blood. Such grace and kindness leads us to live a lifestyle of repentance and faith (Romans 2:4).