In Matthew 3 we encounter a fascinating character: John the Baptist. This wild prophet calls the people to repentance. He quotes from Isaiah and in doing so he locates us as readers in an ongoing story. What God does in Jesus is not disconnected from the rest of the story. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets.
John announces that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Stanley Hauerwas comments on this in his commentary on Matthew saying:
“John was not offering a better way to live, though a better way to live was entailed by the kingdom that he proclaimed was near. But it is the proclamation of the “the kingdom of heaven” that creates the urgency of John’s ministry. Such a kingdom does not come through our trying to be better people. Rather, the kingdom comes, making imperative our repentance. John’s call for Israel to repent is not a prophetic call for those who repent to change the world, but rather he calls for repentance because the world is being and will be changed by the one whom John knows is to come. To live differently, moreover, means that the status quo can be challenged because now a people are the difference.”
(Excerpt from Stanley Hauerwas, SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew (London: SCM, 2006), 46.
So John is announcing the breaking in of God’s kingdom in the life of Jesus. There is nothing we can do to create this kingdom, it is a kingdom brought about by God. The challenge to the Pharisees and Sadducees reminds us of this. We are to orient our lives in terms of the kingdom of God. So as we celebrate Lent we are reminded that this kingdom is God’s work and our response ought to be repentance, to step in line with what God is doing. How humbling…