Matthew 3:1-12 (ESV)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
“Repent!” (Matthew 3:2).
John the Baptist was Israel’s biggest hit since Elijah, the prophet who called down fire from heaven in centuries earlier. What drew crowds to this finger-pointing hermit dressed in animal skins? Believe it or not, it was his call for repentance.
When John told his listeners to turn away from sin, he also offered them promises of restoration. God wanted to do more than just pardon their offenses. He wanted to open the floodgates of heaven and shower them with his love, bringing them into a new level of healing, reconciliation, and peace.
Advent is meant to be a time when we too can hear John’s words and prepare our own hearts for Jesus. Each and every day, Jesus invites us to draw near to him so that we can develop an intimate friendship with him and share even more deeply in his holiness. What can hinder this intimacy? Sin, fear, indifference to God, lack of compassion for others – these are some of the bigger obstacles. And this is why John’s call to repentance is so important.
God wants to free us from everything that holds us back from surrendering to his love and his will. And he wants to do it through the gift of repentance. He wants to lead us out of guilt, alienation, and shame, into joy and freedom. He is always standing ready to wash us clean and anoint us with his Spirit. He is always ready to refresh us with his mercy and power and to make us pure and spotless, ready to see Jesus when comes again in glory. Every time we turn to him and repent, he comes to lift us up to heaven and give us another glimpse of his kingdom – a vision that fills us with hope and joy.
This Advent, take some time to examine your life in the light of God’s truth and love. Then embrace all the grace and power God has for you in repentance.
Father, you mercy is without end. I praise you for sending your Son to redeem me and set me free. Amen.