"From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near".
Whenever we think of the word "preach", there is usually a negative connotation associated with the comment. "Don't preach at me!", we hear from someone who is feeling someone attacked by someone. Or, it is associated with a "fire and brimstone" preacher warning people about going to hell if they don't "repent". What I would like to do in today's blog is to redefine words like "preach" and "repent", because by and large we have lost in many ways the importance of these two words.
First, we need to go back to what the two words REALLY mean! The word "preach" literally means to "announce" or "proclaim". The word "repent" means to "turn around", or have a "change of mind that leads to change of behavior" So when Jesus begins preach saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near", this is an announcement of Good News. This is not bad news as many associate with the words "preach" and "repent". He is announcing that the Good News is that the kingdom of God has come near. As we will learn in the rest of the Gospel, the kingdom has come in His person and works. But in a larger sense kingdom means, God's rule or reign. So we could say God's kingdom was coming in a new way through Jesus.
But he also says, "repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near". Meaning turn around, realize the possibilities that are before you, and make the necessary changes to re-align your life with something which will make an eternal difference. So why have these words taken on such a negative meaning? When Jesus used these words he was issuing an invitation a call to something much bigger than ourselves. Unfortunately many preachers and religious leaders have misused these words and used them as a "club" rather an "invitation". You will notice Jesus never manipulated anyone to follow him. He always issued an invitation to people and allowed them to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So what does this mean for us? Do we announce or preach the opportunity that people have before them in this life? Do people experience Good News through us as we proclaim the kingdom Jesus sought to inaugurate? It is not our job to cause people to "repent", only God can do that. But we must be careful to not to turn Good News into bad news! We need to be careful we are not so busy "preaching" that nobody is "listening"!