“The Message of the King” – Matthew 3:1-2
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2)
John’s message was clear. The Kingdom of God was coming. Which meant so was its King. Either submit to His Lordship and His rule or resist His coming by insisting on living according to your own understanding and on your own merit. Choose the first and repent and be baptized. The Kingdom of God is defined by one characteristic. Righteousness. All who are in His kingdom possess a type of Holiness. A distinction among other peoples. The people of the Kingdom of God, from Abraham to this day, can only receive righteousness one of two ways:
Earning it on their own by perfectly fulfilling the law.
Having faith in the plan of God for the atonement of sin.
Scripture goes through great lengths to make it clear to us that door number one is IMPOSSIBLE for man. In the Old Testament, the law demonstrates our desperate need for a savior, a representative, a champion, who could stand in our place and fulfill the law by living a life of righteousness that we could not live. The sacrifices of the day were payment for sin committed but they were temporary! They had to be made repetitively to account for transgressions despite mans best efforts to keep the law. Men and women of faith knew that believing in the plan of God is what credited them with righteousness, not their perfect performance. However, there were those to whom John the Baptist was speaking who put more faith in their ability to live perfectly according to the law and, thus, in their mind had no need for a savior, their Messiah. They chose door number one and as a result their hearts were filled with obstacles and obstructions that hindered the way of the Lord and the coming of His Kingdom in their hearts. They resisted His coming because it was an insult to their self-righteousness they had worked so diligently to attain.
It was customary among some “eastern monarchs to send a herald before them to clear away obstacles, make causeways, straighten crooked roads and valleys, and level hills” (Macarthur Study Bible notes for Isaiah 40:3-4) in order to make the Kings mission and travel as smooth as possible. John’s calling from birth was to announce the coming of the Lord and make his way smooth and his path flat by calling people to turn away from their self righteousness, self sufficiency, and independence and instead surrender to their neediness, dependence, and rebellious heart. John declared the coming of the King and His kingdom of which the prerequisite for citizenship was the acknowledgement that no one deserved to be one. Those who walked by faith understood and hungered for the righteousness that would only come through a relationship with the King through faith in His plan for their forgiveness and ultimate salvation.
Repentance is a posture of your heart before the Lord. A willingness to bend your knee and bow your head before Christ. Confessing to the fact that your ways are not His ways. Often, our ways are even in direct opposition to His ways. The repentant heart is a heart that is not afraid to acknowledge its own neediness. It isn’t afraid to receive what is being so graciously offered. A baptism of repentance through faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who lovingly gives the righteousness He earned to you. All you have to be willing to do is admit that you desperately need it.
Shad Berry is Downline’s COO & Director of Alumni. He is married to Veronica Berry and they have four children, all boys except 3 girls. You can follow him on Twitter.