“From that time on Jesus began to preach ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’”
Matthew 4:17 is perhaps the most important verse in the entire Bible because it is the announcement of the gentle rule and reign of God in Jesus. Something profoundly new is happening in Jesus. The kingdom of God is now available to all people through Jesus. God has always been king and will always be king. However, the availability of the direct rule and reign in an individual human life had never been available in this way until the coming of Jesus. The presence and power of God in our lives is available now through Christ. This is not something we earn; rather it is a gift of grace. Jesus made the kingdom available to all people who have faith or trust in him.
Notice the in the first part of Matthew 4:17 it says that “from that time on”. Jesus didn’t preach the availability of the kingdom once; it is something that he continued to preach. The kingdom of God is Jesus’ teaching. Without properly understanding the basic message of Jesus we will miss the heart of Jesus life and teaching. The kingdom of God is not something oppressive or harsh. The kingdom is based on love, mercy and forgiveness. Kingdom availability is not based on knowledge, power, status or wealth. Quite the opposite is true; the kingdom is available to all and all who live in the kingdom are blessed. In fact to live a blessed life is to live in the kingdom, under God’s gentle rule and reign .Those who live in the kingdom don’t live by their own power or resourcing, they are resourced by the king.
To repent is to rethink our lives in light of the fact that Jesus has made this kingdom available. Do we want to continue to live as we always have? Do we want to live with our own resources? Do we long for freedom, forgiveness, joy and mercy? Do we long to be loved and love? These are kingdom questions. Jesus has made the kingdom available to all. We simply turn to Christ and trust him. The rest of life is learning to live in the kingdom.