"Hey sinners! Yeah, you! Repent! You don't have much time left!"
Now, I don't know about you, but for some reason, that doesn't seem like that would be a message that would be all that popular. Yet, that's what our text says John the Baptist's message was, and the people were flocking out to see him. Why? Why would someone want to hear that?
Well, maybe it is because for once they were hearing something that felt true. Deep down, no matter how things appear on the outside, deep down we realize that we need help. And John was acknowledging that. Let's listen, because it's no fun carrying around guilt.
That word "repent" describes a turning, a changing of mind and attitude, a changing of heart and action. And so today, John turns us from our sins and to our Savior.
Now, when you think about it, it shouldn't be very hard to turn us from our sins if we have a lick of sense because all our sins do is cause problems - the envious thoughts cause disappointment and jealousy; the angry heart destroys relationships and joy; the lust destroys any hope of love; the thoughts of revenge do nothing but build higher walls that need to be torn down; the addictions rob you of time and cash and love; and the list goes on. If you're able to think straight, it makes sense to turn away from those sins.
But that's hard. Some of those sins have a pretty firm grip, don't they? We tell ourselves we can carry around this death (that's all sin is really) because it is just too painful to get rid of it and we just try to look past it to see something better. All that sin does is bring us down. We need to get rid of it. So John says, "Repent!"
But that would be impossible for us to do (sin is so much a part of our lives) if it wasn't for the place John turns us in this turning of repentance. Listen to John describe it: "After me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry." He was right. This coming one's feet are too holy, too powerful for me to even touch, because they are God's. But those feet walked my world, they carried my load, they were pierced for my transgressions - and their scars - on his risen and glorified and living body - prove it. Living repentantly - realizing our need - John shows us our Savior - Jesus.
So you see there is reason to repent, because then we see Jesus, and even more, then God sees Jesus. You see, when God looks at us with our repentant hearts, when we're not holding up all "my accomplishments", and instead relying on his - that's what God sees.
He sees the perfect life of that one John pointed toward. He sees our relationships healed through the bond of Christian love. He sees us without the guilt we had been carrying around. He sees us connected to him through the cross. In us, he sees Jesus.
And since, as John says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is near," and since I'll never have enough time to make up for even one sin in God's eyes, and since that judgment is coming soon, I'd much rather be seen with my Savior's record than mine. So why don't we all throw our past out the window and look at the present God has given us in Jesus. John's message isn't so bad after all. Repent, you'll see Jesus.