Summary: In this series on ‘Repentance’ I intend to categorize the subject into II parts. I) Repentance of Sinners & strange as it seems II) Repentance of Saints.
CLARION CALL FOR REPENTANCE – SERIES-PART I
“This is one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind.” These epochal words spoken by Neil Armstrong immediately after laying his foot on the crusty moon surface still echo in our minds, for they represent a special moment not only in space history but also in the history of mankind itself. Honestly some centuries ago, who would have imagined a finite man taking off from earth surface and setting his foot on a celestial object, which was revered to the point of even worship, by some folks? While, it is in order to attach so much of importance to the first words spoken on the lunar surface by the commander of Apollo 11 mission, for they truly represent “making of a history”, have we ever seriously pondered over with similar awe over the first words of a Visitor from “outer space” (read third heaven) to our planet, even as He was “launching” a far more significant mission “Save mankind from sin”?
The words with which our Lord launched His ministry ought to be of great import to us…. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. (Matt 4:17/Mark: 1:14), for they represent beginning of a journey in His ministry, which would lead to the “orbit” of the Calvary cross, culminating in a glorious resurrection, in effect paving the way for man to lay his foot not on any object of ordinary “second heaven” (space) but on that of extra-ordinary “third heaven itself” (II Cor 12:2). Incidentally, “first heaven” in Biblical parlance means blue sky, which we daily behold.
Since the subject is broad, I propose to expound the significance of these highly significant path-breaking words, step by step in a series of sermons starting with the word ‘Repent’.
While the Oxford dictionary would give the meaning of the word ‘Repent’ as ‘feeling deep sorrow about one’s wrongful action & resolving, at the same time, not to continue the same’, I particularly like a very creative definition of a Biblical scholar about repentance, which sums it up aptly; Repentance is a state where one becomes allergic to what, he has been addicted to and becomes addicted to what, he has been allergic too. The ministry of Jesus elicited response from some people, which was all of the above & more. In other words, it brought about a right about turn in their lives.
Take the case of Zacchaeus, about whom Jesus said ‘I have come to search & save souls such as his (Luke 19:9-10). From an avaricious, greedy tax collector, he was transformed into a generous saint (Luke 19:8). Those who had known Zacchaeus before the radical change in his life would have surely pinched their skins hard to re-assure themselves of the fact that they were not in their dreams, for generosity had started flowing conspicuously & copiously from his erstwhile greedy life post his encounter with Jesus.
Now the subject of ‘Repentance’ can broadly be categorized into II Categories.
I) Repentance of Sinners & strange as it seems
II) Repentance of Saints.
In the first part of the series, I propose to dwell on category I.
I) REPENTANCE OF SINNERS
Herein, I would place before you the life of the greatest sinner (Period) of the Old testament times -- the life of King Manasseh, as recorded in II Chronicles 33rd Chapter (1-20). Now, if I were to state at this point, a bit jocularly, that there is a similarity between this Sinner and Nadia Comaneci the champion gymnast of 1976 Olympics, credited with the feat of scoring the first-ever perfect 10 in any event (in her case the uneven bars) of Gymnastics history many eyebrows would be raised. What I mean is if at any juncture, sin were rated on a 1-10 scale, King Mannaseh would do a Nadia…meaning score a perfect 10. Born to a godly King Hezekiah, he was anything but godly to start with. In fact, he was the very antithesis of his God-fearing father. So much for the theory that the offspring of devout parents are also devout! In fact, this story, at least in its initial phase, conveys a message within the main message - the repentance of sinners - that every soul worth its salt, has to work out its own salvation by seeking the Almighty on its own. Godly heritage can take one only so far…& no further in the pursuit of salvation.
Now back to King Manasseh…consider the following sinful acts of his in the ascending order (note all sins are dangerous. I am using figurative speech to merely convey a point) of their gravity & a crooked picture of “an ultimate sinner” would emerge in one’s mind. In fact the Prodigal son of the “Lost and found” parables (Luke 15) would seem like a saint in comparison to this Jewish Potentate, who “ate, drank and breathed” sin.