Repent. The word conjures up an image of a sullen man on a street corner, a sign in his hand. Perhaps John the Baptist was quite like that grim-faced street preacher. After hundreds of years of prophetic silence in Israel, John came as a prophet, proclaiming coming judgment.
But the word repent has been interpreted in a narrow way to mean “to be sorry for sin, to turn around, change our ways.” While the call to moral change is certainly included in repentance, the word means much more than that. Jewish historian Josephus was employed by the Roman army to act as a negotiator with potential rebels. Josephus rode to meet a group of zealots, whose plans to overthrow the Roman army were suicidal, and called them to “repent and follow him.” To first-century ears, the word repent meant embracing a whole new agenda rather than just dealing with sin. Christianity is not just a sin-management system, but a call to live in a way that is utterly different, to live for God. John prepared the way for the questioning Christ with his own questions, offered to enlighten and bring transformation.
Ponder: If we view Christianity narrowly as a sin-management system only, what kind of Christianity will result?