“… Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Thirty years after His birth, Jesus began His ministry calling for Israel to repent. Christ was ready to usher in the Kingdom of God Israel supposedly longed for, but repentance had to come first. The thought of repentance had been a challenge for Israel for quite a while. Going back centuries, it was their refusal to repent which led to the Assyrian (2 Kings 17:13-23) and Babylonian (2 Kings 23:26-27) captivities.
Luke 4:18-19, 21
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
“And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Jesus spoke of His anointing by God. It is to preach the gospel … the good news … to all who needed to hear it. All who needed it, heard it, and abide in it will be delivered from that which held them captive … sin and death. The acceptable year of the Lord is a reference to the year of Jubilee when debts were forgiven, and slaves were set free. There’s bit more to it, but generally it is a year of forgiveness, a topic which featured prominently in Christ’s messages. God stands ready to forgive upon repentance.
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
This is more than providing the right direction to a physical destination. “Lost” means going the wrong way … away from God and eternal life. Christ came to provide the right spiritual direction to an eternal destination and life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The kingdom of God is not just for the Jews; it is for everyone. God’s love extends beyond the Jews, and to demonstrate His love God sacrificed His Son, Christ Jesus, so that all who believes may inherit everlasting life with Him. It covers all mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike. The prophet Isaiah repeatedly said as much about the inclusion of the Gentiles in Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, and 60:3.
“Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.”
The question of who Jesus was became a big issue among the Sanhedrin (Jewish governing council). They witnessed some of Christ’s miracles and heard about many more. No doubt, following their discussion with Jesus in John 8:19, they still didn’t get it. The many miracles Jesus performed were not to show off, but to show that He was the Son of God and the promised Messiah.
Jesus would perform what many consider to be His greatest miracle up to that point … raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). Jesus stressed belief (believe). It was paramount to one’s faith that he or she believe in what Jesus said and in His works. He stressed that word, “believe”, to His disciples on the way to Lazarus’ gravesite (John 11:15), twice to Martha, the sister of Lazarus at their home (John 11:26) and once again at the gravesite (John 11:40), and finally to all those assembled at the gravesite in His prayer to God the Father (John 11:42). The message should have been clear … only Jesus can bring life from death.
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
Christ’s miracles should have been an indication to both the Jewish leadership and people that there was something different about Him. Chorazin and Bethsaida are Jewish cities wherein Christ performed many miracles. However, they did not repent. Christ pronounced a woe upon these cities because if the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon had witnessed Christ miracles, they would have repented. Jesus, the Son of God, would know that to be true. The people of Nineveh repented after being given a 40-day warning by the prophet Jonah (Jonah 4). Nineveh, a capital city within the Assyrian Empire, knew about the God of Israel and were smart enough to repent without the benefit of miracles. Yet, the Jewish cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida ignored Christ despite His miracles. Had they listened, no woe would have been pronounced and they would enjoy the benefit of fellowship and eternal life that Christ offered.
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
Jesus performed many miracles to demonstrate who He was (John 20:30-31, John 21:25). Though many miracles were not recorded, what was written was for us that we might believe! The truly repentant believed and responded positively to Jesus’ miracles. However, the Pharisees and people did not repent and rejected Him.
The simple fact is that the Pharisees, who strictly adhered to the letter of the Mosaic Law, refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God no matter what He did, a point Jesus brought out during His trial (Luke 22:67).
Next: HIS DEATH