The Theme of Christ’s Ministry
Sermon 06:: Repentance
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in
the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region
and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is
at hand. KJV
You notice in the text that these events seem to follow closely upon the wilderness temptation.
In actuality there was some period of time between the baptism/temptation and the arrest of
John, which prompted the withdrawal of Jesus into Galilee. One of the commentators
suggests that there should have been a chapter break here since the events do not flow one
During the time between the temptation and the departure to Galilee, Jesus and John had
parallel ministries in Judea. You will recall that the area we discuss in Jesus’ ministry is
basically present day Israel divided into three regions. In the south, around Jerusalem and
south into the desert, was Judea. In the north, around the Sea of Galilee and westward to the
Mediterranean, was the province of Galilee and, between them, was the country of Samaria
which was avoided completely by the Orthodox Jews.
While in Judea Jesus had driven the money changers from the temple the first time. (You
recall that He did it twice.) He had spoken with Nicodemus in that famous text in John 3 and
had even baptized in the vicinity of a place where John was baptizing and ministering. This
first Judean ministry is recorded only by John the apostle.
Two things happened in close proximity to one another. The Pharisees had realized that
Jesus’ ministry was surpassing that of John and Herod had been rebuked by John for an
adulterous marriage to Herod’s brother’s wife. Those two things prompted Jesus to withdraw
to Galilee where He had a very profitable ministry. However, He did not avoid Samaria as
most of the Jews did but went through it on a mission to meet the woman at the well and begin
a work of the gospel among the Samaritans.
I. From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand.’
It is easy to read Matthew as if he is saying that Jesus has not been preaching repentance until
now, that this time between His baptism and this Galilean ministry has been spent teaching
something else. But it does not seem reasonable that Jesus would change message
immediately after beginning His ministry.
The short record that we have of the first Judean ministry has Jesus rebuking the money
changers for their sins in corrupting the house of God. Was this not a call for them to repent
of their wickedness?
And what of His words to Nicodemus?
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is
condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest
his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made
manifest, that they are wrought in God. KJV
Is this not an explanation that he who experiences the New Birth turns from darkness and
comes to the light? Does he not repent of his evil deeds (v.19) and do things that are
approved by God (v.21)?
What, I believe, we should hear Matthew saying is that from this time, Jesus began to preach in
The message of Jesus never was anything but repentance. It began with repentance and the
last words we have from Him in scripture deal with repentance.
Through John Jesus admonished the churches of the First Century to repent with words like
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first
works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out
of his place, except thou repent. KJV
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the
sword of my mouth. KJV
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that
woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my
servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into
great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. KJV
And, before He is done, He has John write again.
12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man
according as his work shall be.
13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the
tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and
idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. KJV
From the very last pages of the New Testament, Jesus speaks, warning the unrepentant that if
they continue in their sins they will not inherit the kingdom of God.
First, Last, and Always the message of Jesus Christ is ‘repent.’
II. That being established, what is He talking about?
What is this thing, what does it mean, and how does a person come to do it?
First of all, let us look at the words. In the OT, where the concept of repentance was first
established, there are two words used. One of them literally means ‘to sigh,’ meaning that a
person had made a decision or chosen a course of action and now has regrets. He ‘sighs’ that
he made a wrong decision. The other word means ‘to turn back,’ meaning that a person has
changed course and turned around from a particular course of action or has retreated in battle.
In the NT, the word used primarily is a word that means ‘to think differently’ or ‘to change
one’s’ mind. Obviously, the meaning that is attached to these words concerning spiritual
things is much different than the way we encounter them in daily life.
We buy things, for example, but then, when we get them home, we ‘sigh,’ that we have bought
them. They are not exactly what we thought we were getting, don’t do all that we thought
they would, or don’t fit like they did in the store. We ‘repent’ that we have bought them.
We change our minds and return them for a refund or exchange.
We set out on a trip only to find that the route given us by the computer or the GPS device has
led us to a place where the road is being repaired and we much choose an alternate route.
We ‘turn back’ from the way that we were going and take an alternate course.
Then, there are times that we make an important decision and then find out that we have
made a mistake. We did not consider all of the circumstances or find something out that we
did not know before. Or our circumstances change and we cannot do what we at first had
decided to do. We ‘think differently’ or ‘change our mind’ about the situation and cancel our
All of these things bear some similarity to the repentance that is talked about in scripture. But
there are some important differences as well.
Repentance is spoken of figuratively by Isaiah and John the Baptist and likened to a complete
upheaval and rearrangement of the landscape.
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and
the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: KJV
…also Luke 3:5
The valleys and the mountains, the hills, the crooked paths, and the rough places are all images
used to describe the sinful condition of men. This upheaval that makes all level and straight is
the repentance of which John preached. It is obvious that what the writers and preachers had
in mind was far more than buyers regret or a detour around an obstacle.
The stories of repentance that we have in scripture also tell of much more than simply a change
of mind. For example, we are told that those who responded to John’s baptism publicly
confessed their sins. What kind of upheaval would need to occur in your life before you would
publicly acknowledge your sins? We are also told of Peter who, after he had betrayed the
Lord, went out and wept bitterly. We also see him a few days later in such a humbled state
that he would only claim a lesser love for Christ than he knew Jesus deserved. History tells us
that for the rest of his life, any time he hear a rooster crow he would weep. Something
profound happened to the man that day that Jesus was crucified. We are told of
Nebuchadnezzar, that great general who became emperor of Babylon, who publicly confessed
his sin of pride, had Daniel write it down, and then acknowledged the Lord God of Heaven as
the ruler of heaven and earth, a claim that he had once made for himself.
But probably the greatest and most complete image of repentance is that great psalm which
David penned while in the grip of intense remorse for his sins of adultery and murder.
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto
the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou
mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt
make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my
tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God,
thou wilt not despise. KJV
Let us walk through this Psalm together and examine the state of mind that accompanies
First, he knows that what he has done is absolutely abhorrent, vile and wretched. He not only
knows it with his mind, he feels the full impact of it in his soul. He describes his behavior as
‘transgression’ and confesses that he cannot escape the constant awareness that he has sinned
against God. The word he uses for ‘transgression’ is the word ‘rebellion.’
He not only sees clearly that he has committed and offense against God but the awareness of it
causes him to have a sense of being filthy, defiled both in heart and in spirit. At least 8 times,
in one fashion or another, he asks to be cleansed.
He fully owns his transgressions, making no excuses and refusing to shift the blame to someone
else. It wasn’t Uriah’s fault for marrying such a beautiful woman or for living so close to the
palace. It wasn’t Bath-sheba’s fault for taking a bath or even for accepting his advances. It
wasn’t Joab’s fault for actually carrying out the command of his king. And it was not Nathans
fault for having confronted him.
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” David fully and
completely owns, confesses, feels intense shame remorse and regret for his sins.
He also realizes in this psalm that there is no work that he can do, no sacrifice he can offer, that
will blot out the sin. God must blot it out and God only does that in the face of a heart that is
truly broken, contrite and repentant.
III. Repentance is a convulsion of the soul.
One can see, especially in David and Peter, that repentance is a violent reaction of the mind and
the soul against one’s own sin. It is the equivalent to physical regurgitation of something vile
But the question that plagues the discussion of Jesus’ message is ‘how does an unconverted
person repent?’ What does he do to bring himself to that place that God will accept his
repentance and his faith?
The truth is that he cannot repent or believe until God does something first.
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I
will raise him up at the last day. KJV
The problem is that he is dead in trespasses and sins. He is a child of the devil. There is
nothing good about him in God’s eyes. Spiritually dead and a slave of sin, he is totally unable
to do anything in and of himself to resolve his problem. He cannot even properly care that he
has sinned against God because his mind and heart are set to do evil, to rebel against God.
So, how does one come to God in repentance?
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according
to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our
flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the
children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by
grace ye are saved;) KJV
God must give him life. Now the whole issue is far too large for us to fully discuss here, but let
me make an analogy.
Think of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha whom Jesus raised from the dead. He was
really and truly dead. His sisters would never have buried him unless that had been so.
What do you think the first thing that he did when Jesus called his name? He took a deep
breath. Now do human beings have to breath in order to live? Certainly they do! But did
he cause himself to live by breathing or did he breathe because Jesus had given him life? You
know the answer.
Likewise the dead sinner must repent and believe in order to be saved. But can he do that in
his dead condition? Of course not! He repents and believes only when God grants him life.
To explain this thing otherwise creates difficulties that cannot be resolved and which fly in the
face of Orthodox Christian doctrine.
Let’s go back to Lazarus for a moment. Suppose in the preparations for his burial that his
sisters had put something in his mouth that would have a foul taste to any living person.
What do you suppose would have been the second thing he did? Spit out the vile thing.
Such is repentance. The awakened soul suddenly and immediately is aware of an awful odor,
a filthy taste, and a putrid presence. It is his sins and he immediately spits them out and casts
them away. This is the initial repentance of the believing soul.
Suppose he had gone home and his sisters had decided to clean their rooms out and make
more space for themselves. In doing so they had stored all their ‘junk’ in Lazarus’ old room.
What do you think he would have done? He would have set to the task of cleaning out his
space and making is presentable again. This is the ongoing work of repentance in which the
believer constantly searches his life by the word of God and the leadership of the Spirit, digging
out, sweeping away, casting off those things that he discovers which are displeasing to God.
In a few words, I have attempted to describe the most profound event that ever occurs in the
life of any person. Repentance is an earthquake in the soul. In it the mind and heart react
more violently to the presence of sin than the body every reacts to illness. It is a spiritual
convulsion driven by love for and faith in God, the awareness of one’s sins, the aid of the Holy
Spirit, and the absolute hatred of the regenerate soul for iniquity.
Have you ever repented of all your sins?
Have you ever had a visit with God about them like this one that David had or the one that
Do you understand that the Very Son of God declared for his entire ministry that unless you do
you will certainly perish?