“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” ‘For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’ " (Matthew 9:11-13).
What is repentance? Repentance has been defined as a change of heart, brought about by godly sorrow, resulting in a change of life (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10). How do I feel about talking about my need to repent? Is it a negative subject or do you view it as a positive subject to discuss?
Jesus came to save sinners as He said: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). God’s motive for sending His Son was His love for the world (John 3:16). Paul understood this as he wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
However, as indicated in the opening verses above, in order to save us from our sins Christ came to call us to repentance (Matthew 9:13). In the context of this verse, Jesus had been eating with some tax collectors which many viewed as the worst of all sinners (Matthew 9:9-11). However, Jesus makes the point that all of us have the same need to repent of our sins. Before God can save us, we have to understand we are sinners and are lost in sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23). We have to have a heart that wants to change! When we understand that Christ had to die because of our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19), we should want to quit the sinning business. In fact, knowing how much God loves us should motivate us to turn from a life of sin. Paul questioned those who failed to remember how God’s goodness should affect their lives: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Christ himself had rebuked the people who failed to repent in those cities in which he had preached and carried out his ministry. Matthew records, “Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you’ " (Matthew 11:20-24).
Jesus still offers us His compassionate call for all men to come to Him: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). I rejoice that I had the opportunity to heed that call by obeying the gospel (Mark 16:15-16). These verses remind me that part of the gospel of Christ is my need to repent of my sins. This is not a negative thing, but a positive thing as I choose to allow God to work on my heart, turning me from a desire to let sin rule and reign in my life to remembering His great goodness in saving me from my sin and motivating me to serve Him (Romans 6:11-14)!
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).