Skip to main content

This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.

Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23
Text: Matthew 4:17, 23

Sermon prepared by Martin Mobach

Introduction to Scripture reading:

Please turn with me to Matthew 4:12. Before we begin our reading this morning, please note where we are in Matthew’s telling of the life and ministry of Jesus. In chapters 1 and 2 Matthew gives us the genealogy of Jesus, tells of his birth and of the visit of the magi, the escape into Egypt and how Jesus and his parents ended up in Nazareth. In chapter three, we are introduced to John the Baptist who baptizes Jesus, now a grown man. Then in chapter 4 before Jesus begins his public ministry, Matthew records how Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days. Then we come to our scripture reading for this morning. Here we are introduced to Jesus’ preaching ministry. As we read this morning, notice the one line summary that Matthew uses to introduce Jesus’ message.


Dear People loved by God,

What is your reaction to this morning’s scripture reading? How do you react to this passage that says that Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near?” Do you say, “Oh, another sermon on the kingdom of God.” This is the 857th sermon I have heard on the Kingdom of God; and the 283rd sermon I have heard on repentance.  I sure hope that I won’t be put to sleep?”

How do you think you would have reacted if you were among Jesus’ first hearers?

Matthew does not tell us what reaction Jesus got to his preaching here. But when we turn back to chapter three, verse 1 and 2, we notice that John the Baptist’s message was the same, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  And in verse 9 of chapter three we see the reaction of the at least some of the people, the Pharisees and Sadducees.

In a word they were offended by John’s call to repentance.

Can’t you just hear them? [Use a Jewish accent, if possible]

            “Repent? We have Abraham as our Father.”

            “We are good law abiding children of God.”

            “We are God’s covenant people.”

            “Our place in the kingdom of heaven is assured.”

            “When the kingdom of heaven comes we will be first in line for God’s blessings.”

            Who do you think that you are calling to repent?

            We have gone to synagogue our whole lives”

            “Us, Repent?  Maybe the Gentiles, but not us.”

            “Us, change?  Go, talk to some dirty Samaritans. Tell them to repent.”

            “Us, do a 180 degree turn? No, not us!”

If Jesus’ original hearers were deeply offended by John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” Why wouldn’t we be offended?  Do we understand what that call to repentance really is? How should good church-going people hear this call to repentance?

Let’s look more closely at both John the Baptist and Jesus’ call to repentance.

When John the Baptist preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near,” he spoke of the one who would come after him who would come in judgment. We read in Chapter 3 verse 12: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” John pictured the Messiah coming with both salvation and judgment at the same time.

Jesus came preaching the same message, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Now this confused John the Baptist. Like the Old Testament prophets before him, John expected that the Messiah would come bringing salvation and judgment at the same time. In Matthew 11 we read that John the Baptist was so confused by Jesus not bringing in judgment that he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” [Matthew 11:2] John is admitting his confusion. “What about the judgment? Where is the judgment? I thought the Messiah would be bringing judgment.”

Jesus in effect replies by saying that the kingdom is breaking into the reality of people’s lives and that it is a time of grace. This is a period of grace where all are called to repent and enter into the kingdom of God. The day of judgment, that the Messiah brings, is still coming. But by God’s grace, they did not come at the same time.  In the gospel of John we read immediately after John 3:16, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” [John 3:17].

It is for this reason that Matthew says in chapter 4:23 that Jesus “preached the good news of the kingdom.” When you read the whole gospel you will hear parable after parable about the Kingdom of God, or as Matthew likes to call it the kingdom of heaven. Time and time again Jesus said, the Kingdom of heaven is like ...

  • The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. [Mt. 13:24];
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed [Mt. 13:31];
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. [Mt. 13:44];
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a net let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish, which were then sorted. [Mt.13:47]


Jesus taught that it is a kingdom of grace. It is a kingdom of healing and peace. Yes, he also taught that there would be a final judgment but now was the time of grace, a time in which to repent. There is also a future understanding to the kingdom that Jesus preached. There would come a day when evil would be completely destroyed and God’s people would live with him forever. But in Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom there is also a present sense where Christ’s eternal reign begins today.

Now is the time to repent.

Now is the time to accept that Jesus is the king of kings.

Now is the time to acknowledge that Jesus has the authority to say, “Come and follow,” and that we come.

  • When Jesus says, “Fishermen, I will make you fishers of men.”  Then we go fishing.
  • When Jesus says to farmers, “I will send you to plant seeds of grace and good news.” Then we go planting.
  • When Jesus says to those in construction, “I will make you builders of my kingdom.” Then we go building.

Jesus calls us to repent. If repentance is the door into the kingdom of heaven, then we best know what it means.  Repentance is a lot more than just saying you are sorry and then going on with life without any changes. Some have described repentance as doing a 180 degree turn in your life.

    • You do a ‘Jonah.’
    • You stop running away from God and start running to him.
    • You stop living for self and start living for God.
    • You stop seeking all these other things and start seeking first his kingdom.

Many today are living with the mistaken idea that the repentance that Jesus requires is a simple “Forgive me, Jesus.”  Its like many people treat religious beliefs like a buffet, like a smorgasbord where you can pick and choose what you want. [You may want to dramatize this by walking behind the communion table, picking up a plate with your notes on it and then pretend filling your plate while saying the following:]  “Hmm! .... I’ll have some of God’s love for me. But I think that I will pass on loving my neighbor. “.... God’s forgiveness? Give me two scoops, but I’ll forget forgiving that person who hurt me - I will nurse that grudge till the day I die.”... “Oh, look I’ll have a big helping of Jesus as my Savior, but I wont have any of Jesus being my Lord. Nobody is going to tell me what to do.”.... “O, God seeking me when I’m lost sounds good, but seeking first his kingdom sounds too tough for me.”  ... “Look a whole bowl of God’s promises, filler up. I’ll pass however on those passages of the Bible that call me to become more Christ-like.” [Moving away from behind the table].

Sound crazy, when you see it spoken [acted] out like that, doesn’t it? But we all do it don’t we? Be honest. To some degree we all would rather have Jesus be our Savior without him being our Lord. You hear it quite often. For example: “I want Jesus to be the Lord of my home but I don’t want to obey his will when it comes to marrying a Christian mate.” Or “I pray that God will bless me.” But when it comes to giving to the work of the Lord through the church: “This is my money and I worked hard for it so the church isn’t getting the percentage it is asking of me.”  You fill in an example that hits you close to home.

You see, God is not offering a self-serve buffet, where you can pick and choose what to believe. This is no buffet where you can rip Jesus apart and say, “I’ll have him as my Savior but not as my Lord.” God is not offering you that choice. God is offering you his Son, his full and complete Son. God is offering his Son to be your Savior and your Lord. One complete package. Your choice is to take the whole Jesus or leave the whole Jesus.

So when Jesus calls you and I to repent because the kingdom of heaven is near, he is calling for more than just a feeling of being sorry. He is calling to choose:

  • To choose to stop living a life for self and choose to start living for God.
  • To choose to accept Jesus as the one who forgives your sins and choose him as the one to whom you surrender control of your life.
  • To choose to read the Bible not only for the promises you can claim, but seek his will for your daily life.

The kingdom of heaven is for those who accept Jesus as their Savior and their forever king beginning in their lives today.

In ________ number of weeks we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper again. When we prepare for that celebration we are invited to look at our hearts and lives asking two main questions, “Do I know myself to be a sinner who looks only to Jesus as the one who can save me from my sin?” And secondly, “Do I desire to live in obedience to the will of my king, Jesus?”  It is when we accept Jesus as our Savior and King that we may come to his table of grace.

Are there areas in your life where you have left God out of the picture? Places in your life where you have not surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near. Now is the time of grace. Now is the day to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of your whole life.

Do you have some business to do with God today? During the singing of our song of response I invite you to make that right with God. He is waiting for you, today.



Sample Order of Worship




* God’s Greeting

* We greet each other

Songs of Praise: Lord Most High

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Open the Eyes of My Heart


Prayer of Confession  

You are My King

Assurance of God’s Forgiveness

Songs of Thanksgiving                       


When Peace Like a River

God’s Will for Our Lives


Prayer for the Holy Spirit’s leading

Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23

Children’s Message

Sermon “Repentance and the Good News of the Kingdom”


* Song of Response                       

Take Us to the River

Congregational Prayer



* God’s parting blessing

* Song of Praise                                   

Days of Elijah

* Postlude

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post