“Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”Matthew 4:17
Have you ever had your mind changed about something before? You believed something for so long but then gathered new information and it radically changed the way you see it? I remember the day that I changed my mind about where I was going to attend college.
I had everything set to attend the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor at the end of my senior year of high school, but because I still had one excusable absence in my calendar, I decided to take a day off at the end of my last semester to come to Dallas for the day and revisit Dallas Baptist University. They told me about a new accelerated program they were starting for ministry students, and I was sold. New information can alter our trajectory.
This was especially true when Jesus began His ministry. Emerging from the desert after His temptation by Satan, Jesus began preaching a powerful message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We often look at this word “repent” and say it simply means to change one’s mind, but it’s so much stronger. A better translation would be something along the lines of: “Listen, I’m about to tell you something that is going to totally transform the way you think about something, and when I say it, you must respond.”
What was the radical, transformative information Jesus was giving the crowds? The kingdom of heaven was at hand. This would have immediately resonated with His audience. In their minds, it would have taken them back to the Garden of Eden and the relationship God had with His creation. God’s space and our space were ones and the same. Jesus was preaching the reality that through Him, God’s space and our space were one and the same again.
Jesus came to make humanity whole again and restore our relationship with the Father in His life, death, and resurrection. This is good news, and it was new information for the people He shared it with. They needed to repent—to hear His message, understand its implications, and then respond accordingly. They had to grasp their desire to rule their own kingdom, to rebel against God, and live life the way they wanted and then surrender it over to God and follow after Jesus.
The same is true for us. Jesus has invited us to encounter the Father in His name through the power of the Holy Spirit, but we can only accept this invitation by repentance. The relationship between God and humanity that existed in the Garden can be a reality for us in Christ. The intimate closeness of the God who loves us is possible through Jesus’ sacrifice and our ability to repent from ruling over our own kingdom by surrendering ourselves into the kingdom of heaven. So the question that remains for us now is this: “Will we repent?”