He did his preaching out in the desert, instead of going into the city, so people had to make an effort to come out and hear him.
But when John announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was near, people were electrified.
This was the message they had been waiting for, for a thousand years and more, so we read that
From Jerusalem and all Judea and from the Jordan River Valley crowds of people went to John.They came out in droves, evidently, from all over the country-side, to listen. But John was also saying that even Jews needed to repent, which gave the Jews some hesitation.
When Gentiles wanted to convert to Judaism, first they were symbolically washed clean by baptism. Jews were familiar with baptizin Gentile converts. But John was a Jew baptizing Jews! This was something entirely new
John’s call to repent was God’s call to His people to return to Him. In scripture, repentance means to "undergo a change of one's mind" which results in a change of the entire direction of a person's life. Biblical repentance is a radical turning away from sin and to Christ.
By submitting to this symbolic rite of water baptism, John was providing for every Jew a public declaration of their confession of their sins, and a commitment to live a holy life, making the roads straight, in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, Who was the King of Heaven’s kingdom.
There can be no genuine turning to Christ without an accompanying repudiation of sin. The picture of repentance is a significant change of perception, a paradigm shift; joined with an emotional response, sorrow and grief for having acted in a certain way; which results in a change of behavior.
But genuine repentance is not something you and I can do on our own. Scripture makes it clear that God must be in it. God makes a person spiritually alive when they were dead in their sins so that they will be able to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus.
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