by, Isam Itson III
Matthew 4:17 – From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The Gospel of Matthew opens with stories that affirm the status of Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah, God born into the world, who will pay the price for our sin and bring an end to wickedness, injustice, oppression, and violence throughout the entire world.
Before Jesus began his public ministry he faced the same temptation that Adam and Eve faced in the garden in Eden. The Devil tempted Jesus to secure his own life and rule the world on his own rather than submitting to God’s plan for his life. Long story short, Jesus did not give in to the temptation. He chose to honor God’s desire to restore and recover the life of his children in fulfillment of his purpose for all Creation.
Jesus revealed that a righteous ruler pays the price for the well being of those under their care. A righteous ruler is defined by the loyal love of God rather than their desire for personal satisfaction, material comfort, and public praise. A righteous ruler takes responsibility for the well being of others in obedience to God, at his or her own cost. Even if it costs them their life. Because God, the supreme ruler over all Creation takes responsibility for the well being of his children, at his own expense.
John 3:16-17 – For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
This is the heart of Jesus’ call to repentance in Matthew 4:17. To repent means to stop walking away from God and to start walking back toward God. Repentance is a call to humble ourselves and admit the truth. We cannot be just, righteous, good, and loving people unless we entrust our lives to our just, righteous, good, and loving Creator. Jesus calls us to follow our God and Father, the King of Heaven and Earth. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Loving others no matter what it costs us is at the center of Jesus’ teaching to turn away from following our own way of life and to begin living in light of God’s authority as our Creator.
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary?, Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This is the heart of the entire Bible. God loves us no matter what it costs him, and God calls us to honor his love for one another, no matter what it costs us. God is faithful to his love and promise to us even when we are faithless in response to him. We do not define God by our response to him. We are defined by God’s love for us. He is our Father. We are his children. He made us to honor his love for one another.
When we broke faith with God in the garden in Eden, we broke faith with each other. When God reached out to us in the garden and came to us in Jesus Christ, he showed us that we could still trust his love for us. We just have to be willing to honor the truth that God is our king. We live for his good pleasure and not our own. And God provides everything we need to do so.
We are free to live for God and to honor his love for one another, no matter what it costs us, because God always provides everything we need, everyday, at his own expense. God is our faithful, just, and righteous king and Father. And we are his royal children who rule the earth under his overarching authority. So in imitation of God, we commit the whole of the life that God has given us to bless others in God’s name. Because that is what legitimate rulers do. This is how we join with God in his defeat of wickedness, injustice, oppression, and violence. We give our lives to God so that he can use our lives as instruments of his loyal love to others. That is what Jesus teaches us.
1. Have you asked God how he wants to use the life that he has given you for the good of others? If yes, what has God told you? If not, why not?
2. How do you regularly give yourself to God for the good of others beyond your friends and immediate family members?