Read Matthew 3:1-17
Envision a most rejuvenating and replenishing setting. Did you just imagine John the Baptist preaching repentance? For sure, no. Me, neither.
In our passage today, John the Baptist comes to life as the rebuker of sin and preacher of repentance. Based on his interest in awkward clothing and a bland, unappetizing diet, I personally wouldn’t have been initially attracted to him. He definitely lacked that warm, fuzzy ambiance which lends itself to the captivating charm I look for in a friend. It’s safe to say JB would have have required a professional, social-media manager to spruce up the appeal of his marketing platform if he were trying to build his following today.
Yet, with some inquisitive digging, we realize his mission was not one of unattractive rigidity. He beckoned the listeners to prepare the way that brought men’s minds into a tender state toward the Messiah’s invitation which would soon gently beckon the crowd …
Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. — Jesus (Matthew 11:28)
Hold up. Wait a minute. And, all you bygone cheerleaders just finished my thought with put a little boom (or something like that) in it.
Okay, bring it back in, cheer squad. This changes things. I like that “rest” part.
We keep searching and find camel-wearing, bug-eating JB wasn’t the only one who placed a priority on repentance.
“Now after John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” (Mark 1:14-15)
Go read the Old Testament. See a theme? Yes. Now can we get a definition, please, Jesus or even from you, JB? Sorry, but no. According to scholars and historians, and by reading works written by Rabbis, this was a familiar term to the Jews. It required no explanation. They knew exactly what it meant. Repentance was recognized as at the center of Jewish life.
We find repent in the Greek verb “metanoeo”. Vine’s Expository Dictionary explains that it signifies a changing of one’s mind or purpose and involves a change for the better.
The Hebrew word for repentance as we understand repentance is the word teshuvah which is the major theme of the Jewish High Holidays and contains shuv which means a turning back to God (away from sin). Shuv is also used to describe a turning away from something and facing toward something new and different. According to Rabbi Nissan D. Dubov , “Technically, whenever one sins, one is mandated to do Teshuvah.”
Most of us are familiar with the concept of turning away, as well as 2 Corinthians 7:10a which explains that Godly sorrow works or brings repentance.
Yet, there is a jewel of truth which has lost its luster in the eyes of many believers.
Don’t miss this.
“Teshuvah (repentance) must be done with great simchah—enthusiastically and with joy and feeling.” — Rabbi Nissan D. Dubov
Simchah translates as happiness or joy and comes from the Hebrew root samech-mem-chet which means to rejoice or to be glad.
The belief of Jews is that even studying the Torah must accompanied by a positive mindset. A sense of joy was and is a principal Jewish expectation in the journey.
Orthodox Jews still teach that feelings of regret about the past must not be allowed to lead to dejection or depression, “for all aspects of serving God must be done with feelings of joy and happiness — including teshuvah … [which] should be done only with simchah. The very fact that God has given us this wonderful gift, the ability to wipe the slate clean and begin anew, is in itself a reason for great joy.” — Slonimer Rebbe Zy”a
The intimate, often overlooked, companion of repentance is rejoicing.
There is genuine gladness over this gift of God’s grace and mercy for, as explained by Paul, “If God perhaps will grant them repentance … they may know the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25b)
A marvelous, rich, refreshing, Truth-transmitting GIFT.
According to Johann Bengel, a biblical scholar from the 1700’s, repent “is a lovely word” which carries the idea of putting on a “heavenly, kingly disposition, worthy of the kingdom of heaven.” Bengel gently massages out the obstinate knots in our stiff necks with the revelation that repentance “revives the soul.”
Repentance is not a change to be avoided, delayed nor pushed aside.
Repentance isn’t something I have to do. It’s a choice I’m privileged to do.
By accepting repentance we are being granted a gift from our Lord. This isn’t an honor to routinely nor passively receive. It’s one to be taken with great simchah—joyful enthusiasm.
And, with elated energy, let us share our experience of this liberating Truth with a sin-soaked, ensnared world desperate to lighten their load — bringing us back to that invitation from the Giver of Grace, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
That’s your cue, cheerleaders.
Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar! All for repentance, stand up and holler!
PRAYER: Lord, teach us Your joy that accompanies the privilege of repentance and transform our attitudes to that of those eager to courageously and gracefully share this gift with those around us.