In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1-2
Now, we move ahead to the time of Jesus’ adulthood. “In those days” was how, in another book, St. Luke begins his account of the Nativity. In this book, it is the transition Luke’s contemporary, Matthew, uses to subtly advance our thinking from talking about genealogy, wise men, and obscure towns in Galilee to the ‘here and now’ that is the rest of Jesus’ ministry.
“In those days” could be now because the here and now of Jesus’ ministry didn’t simply end when He ascended back to heaven. It continues today, here and now. It goes on and on and will until He returns…
…Just like the words John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, said before Jesus went public: “repent, for the kingdom of heaven as come near.” John said these words to the throngs of people who walked out into the Judean desert to hear his preaching. One of the things I like about the Baptizer is that he was the same with everyone. He told everyone to repent, from unknown street people to the leaders of the Jewish faith who saw him as a threat.
John didn’t simply say these things on his own. The Lord inspired him. He was foretold by Isaiah and Malachi, and was an older maternal cousin of Jesus. His entire life, like his cousin’s, was a preparation for the time when the Spirit would inspire him to say and do things that mattered, that would move the world.
John didn’t stand in the Temple courts, telling people to turn from their dangerous ways. He lived in the desert, in the desolate country to the southeast of Jerusalem, near the Jordan River, which empties into the Dead Sea. It was close to Jerusalem, and was an area where zealots, religious challengers, and first-century Jewish activists often found refuge. Being close in proximity to the center of Jewish worship, it’s understandable that many people, dissatisfied with the mainstream faith or hungry for fresh interpretations of God’s word, would have found their way out to visit the enthusiastic preacher in the wilderness.
In those days.
And, again, in our own. You and I: we hunger to hear others preaching the words of Jesus, preparing us for the time in our lives when He will make us new. That time is today, though. Sure, there will come a time when Jesus returns and all things will change. But why wait until then? Eternity matters most now. Why not heed John’s call and turn from our dangerous ways today, here and now? John’s call matters today, and Jesus’ words are forever. His Kingdom of Heaven has come near.
For more reading: Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, Malachi 4:5, Luke 1:13-17, Luke 1:57-66, Luke 3:2-19, John 3:3-5, Acts 19:3-4, Matthew 3:3
Lord Jesus, I repent of my sinful ways and turn now to You, today.