“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar — when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene — during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:1–3, NIV84)
Once again Luke provided us a tremendous amount of historical information so that John’s ministry could be solidly placed in history. But most important he provided us a description of John’s ministry. John’s ministry was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John was telling everyone who would listen that they needed to repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness that God alone could give in the coming Messiah. The surprising nature of John’s message was that no one was exempt. Not even himself. He was telling religious leaders, prostitutes, tax collectors and Roman soldiers that they needed to repent of their sins because God’s Messiah was coming soon. The only way to be ready for the Messiah was to have a heart of contrition and repentance.
John’s message remains true today. None of us is exempt. None of us is spiritually righteous enough. We must all repent of our sins so that we might receive God’s forgiveness. It is vital for us to understand that repentance, though painful, is a necessary process to endure in order to receive the sweet forgiveness offered in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Repentance is not a once in a lifetime event. We must continually evaluate our lives in comparison to God’s Word and be ready to confess of anything in us that is contrary to God’s Word.
May the old message of repentance always be a vibrant contemporary practice in our daily lives.