In Matthew 3 we learn all about John the Baptist. The thing that struck me this morning was his sermon. He preached three major points. First, he warned his listeners that the Kingdom of heaven was near. It was an exhortation to take his message seriously. The second part of his message was a promise. He said, “After me will come one who is more powerful than me.” He was of course referring to Christ. Thirdly, he gives us the correct response when we take the message seriously and recognize Christ as the coming messiah. It’s stronger than a request; I’d call it a demand. It’s one word: “Repent.” Repent is actually the first word out of John’s mouth. Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3 say, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

When a tower fell in Siloam and killed 18 innocent people. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know why. But Jesus didn’t tell them why. Instead, he told them what their response should be. Surprisingly He said, “I tell you…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” We see many tragedies in our life also. A shooter runs through Westroads and 8 people die. “Why?”, we ask. A hurricane kills thousands in Indonesia. “Why?,” we ask. A suicide bomber kills 10 in Iraq. “Why?” we ask. The answer to the “why” of pain and suffering in the world is the exclusive domain of God. God doesn’t answer our “why” questions. Our hope is that in the next life He will make all that clear to us and involves our willingness to trust Him accordingly. But in this life, Jesus would much rather have us deal with the “what.” What is God saying to us through these things?

I believe He is telling us exactly what he told his disciples when they asked why. He’s telling us exactly what John the Baptist told his listeners. Both Jesus and John called for repentance. John made it clear that repentance should be immediate because of the imminence of the Kingdom of God. In other words we should repent now because as someone said, “you can’t repent too soon, for you know not how soon it may be too late.”

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2)