Matthew 4:12-17 (KJV)
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
This passage of Scripture describes the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Right after John the Baptist was cast into prison Jesus left Nazareth and dwelt in Capernaum, which was located along the coast of the Sea of Galilee on the border of the tribal lands of Zebulon and Naphtali. This action was a fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah (9:1-2). The people in Zebulon and Naphtali would see a great light. Notice how the people are described. They are sitting in darkness and in the region and shadow of death. This is an apt description not only of the Jews of Zebulon and Naphtali but of all mankind. Because of sin we live in a kind of darkness and are living under the constant threat or shadow of death. Jesus is the light that came. Verse 17 of Matthew then tells us what Jesus' ministry and message were about. Jesus preached the need for repentance. The reason for that repentance is that the kingdom of heaven was coming and was near.
What exactly is repentance? We often think of it as "needing to say we're sorry". But how often does someone say he or she is sorry and then repeats the offense? This is not what true repentance is.
Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language gives the following definitions:
The repentance that Jesus was speaking about is a sorrow for sin that results in a change of mind and a change of action. With true repentance the offender turns away from his or her sin and turns to God. This type of change in mind and behavior further results in salvation, the reconciliation between God and the sinner.
Now, if you are a church attender, do you hear the message of repentance in your church? If repentance is Jesus' message shouldn't the church's message be the same? And if salvation is dependent on repentance how can a person be saved without it? Many of our churches today have lost sight of the message of Jesus and are not preaching repentance, but rather some watered down "feel good" message that doesn't have the power to effect much of anything. We need to remind our pastors and teachers that we need and want to hear about repentance. We need to stand for the hard truths about a sinful mankind and the only way to become right with God, and that is through repentance.
Next: Part 2