In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." 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.'" Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-6
You know, I've often wondered how the Baptizer's message might be received today.
Sure, the news media would give him some coverage. They would, for a while, treat him like they would an act from a circus sideshow. Dressed in camel skins, John would be both applauded by the fashion industry and vilified by those who believe animals are people too. Eating locusts and wild honey would bring him both criticism and commendation.
But would anyone listen to his message about repentance?
If you put him on the radio or on TV, I don't think it would take too long before people would turn the channel. Today the preachers who are popular are the ones who never mention original sin, actual sin, or our need to repent. They don't talk about a Savior from sin because they don't like to talk about transgression.
No, most of today's TV preachers wouldn't have John as a guest on their show. They would consider him too unpredictable, too pushy, too strong, too one-cause. The Baptizer's idea of a repentant heart doesn't leave much room for those who think of God as a cosmic Christmas wish book. The Baptizer's belief of the need for contrition wouldn't agree with those who say we're all okay just the way we are.
It doesn't make any difference that corruption is uncontrolled; scandal remains excessive; perversion is prospering; the family is floundering, and things are going from bad to worse. In spite of the facts, in spite of the Bible and our own consciences, humanity still clings to the idea we're doing just fine. Besides, repentance is only for the weak and helpless.
To those who feel this way, Scripture offers this reminder: Jesus didn't come into this world to live for those who were doing just fine on their own. There was no reason for God's innocent Son to suffer beatings for those who were self-sufficient. There was no purpose in Him dying and rising for those who could take care of sin, death and devil on their own and without any assistance from Him.
No, Jesus came to be the Physician for those who were sick, to be the Way for those who were lost, to be the Truth for those who were confused, and to be the Gate for those were shunned.
Jesus came to be the sinful soul's Savior from all that is evil. Jesus came to save sinners, to create new hearts, to clean consciences, and to make a change in our lives.
That is what God's Son does with a heart that is repentant. He forgives sins, moves believing souls from hell to heaven.
He makes changes.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the call to repentance is just as valid today as when John called out in the wilderness. Grant that the people of this world may acknowledge their transgressions and be brought to faith in the Savior, who gave His life for their salvation. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries