Week of the Sunday after New Year
– Sunday –
Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 3:2.
When Jesus entered upon His thirtieth year, John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Jesus has come! Realize your sinful ruin, and believe in Him, your Savior, – that was His meaning. There was a great commotion among the people. All flocked to see John. They confessed their sins and were baptized by John for “the remission of [their] sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3) for Jesus’ sake, who now had appeared. John then taught them how to serve God with the simple works of faith which their calling and station required of them (Luke 3:10-14). But when he saw many self-righteous Pharisees and wicked Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into His garner, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:7-12). John’s call to “repent” (Matthew 3:2) was not only directed to the people of his day, but to each of us today; this repentance is to be continuous, a continuous regret and shame over our sins, and a continuous trust and confidence in God’s full forgiveness for our sins on account of Jesus’ perfect work in our behalf: His flawless obedience of God’s Law in our stead, and His holy suffering and death as the ransom to God for our sins. The kingdom of heaven, God’s kingdom of grace and mercy for Jesus’ sake (in contrast to the kingdoms of this world – John 18:36) is near, very near, at hand; it is as close as the precious “Gospel of Christ, for it [this Gospel] is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans 1:16). All who believe in this saving Gospel are attached, as “branches,” to “the Vine” (John 15:5a), Christ Jesus, and because of this attachment by faith, they will bring “forth much fruit” (v. 5b), showing their on-going love for Him who “first loved [them]” (I John 4:19).
PRAYER – Lord God, heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, my dear and only Savior from what I deserve for my sins, keep me truly penitent during all my remaining days in this world, that is, help me always to see and be ashamed of my many failures to perfectly obey Thy holy Law, and then also help me always to receive and comfort myself with Thy pardon of my sins and the sins of the whole “world” (II Corinthians 5:19). Oh, hear me and continue to be my merciful Helper, as I pray confidently in the name of Christ Jesus, my “Passover” (I Corinthians 5:7b). Amen.
With broken heart and contrite sigh,
a trembling sinner, Lord, I cry;
Thy pard’ning grace is rich and free;
O God, be merciful to me.
Hymn 323, 1 (TLH)
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19, Matthew 2:13-23
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