Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is Near
These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Advent.
God’s Word for This Week
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near! The forerunner prepares for the coming Christ by preaching repentance that brings renewal of life. The Root of Jesse will come in swift judgment on the unrepentant but in mercy and grace for God’s people. His coming will end the wickedness of the world and usher in a new age restored to the perfection with which God made it.
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, fixes our attention on the need for true preparation for the Lord’s coming. Such preparation means repenting—recognizing how our sins have offended God and trusting him for the forgiveness he gives us in Christ. Jesus, the only Savior, brings peace to a troubled heart.
Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 11:1-10
List examples of how Jesus fulfilled the description in verses 1-5.
Jesus was descended from David whose father was Jesse. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism. Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by wisdom, understanding, power, etc. Jesus knew people’s thoughts and attitudes (see John 2:25). Other answers will vary.
How does the description of peace in verses 6-8 give us comfort?
The animals paired in Isaiah’s description are natural enemies. Because of sin, we have all been born natural enemies of God. But because of the Savior’s work on our behalf, we are now at peace with God. While the peace between these animals is symbolic, it’s comforting to know that the peace between God and us is real and lasting.
Supplemental First Lesson – Daniel 4:19-37
What was the point of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
God had used Nebuchadnezzar as his ax to chop down the unrepentant tree of David. But the king of Babylon failed to heed Daniel’s warning that the ax now sat at the root of his own tree. The prophet told him to repent, for God’s coming judgment was near. Nebuchadnezzar failed to acknowledge God’s sovereign power; he failed to repent and live in newness of life. So God fulfilled the dream: the tree of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was chopped down. God struck his glory and power and left him with neither civility nor sanity.
What lesson does it teach us about repentance?
How true it is: God is able to humble those who walk in pride. The world’s greatest sovereign became like an animal. Yet look at the mercy of God! When Nebuchadnezzar repented and acknowledged and glorified God, the Lord forgave him, renewed him, and restored him.
Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 15:4–13
When Paul wrote this letter, what “Scriptures” did the Christians in Rome have?
Roman believers had only the Old Testament. Think about how much more we have today with the entire Bible!
What is the connection between the peace that Jesus gives and accepting one another? (See 15:7.)
Since Christ has accepted us and made us part of his family through faith, we have peace with God. How could we not accept one another when our God has been so accepting of us?
Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 3:19-26
When God calls on all people to repent, what does he mean?
Repentance is God’s work that results in a change of heart, a change of direction, a change of attitude. First, the Law makes us feel contrition over our sin and guilt. Second, the Gospel’s message of forgiveness in Jesus leads us to trust in God’s grace.
How do you see that in these verses?
God used the miracle of the beggar’s healing to capture the attention of the crowd so that Peter and John could preach a message of repentance to the people. They preached the harsh accusations of the law: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead,” to prepare the hearts of the people to repent. Then they offered the sweetest gospel message that repentance brings renewal by wiping away sins and bringing God’s refreshment through Christ.
Gospel – Matthew 3:1-12
How do you know John the Baptist’s message is aimed at our hearts?
Just as in John’s day, we too need to “repent” (3:2), “confess” our sins (3:6), and “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (3:8). Our heart’s attitude, not our family tree, is what matters before God.
What is John describing with the “ax… at the root of the trees; and burning up of the chaff?”
Jesus calls everyone to repent of his or her sins and promises forgiveness and peace to those who trust in him. However, to those who reject Christ, he threatens eternal punishment, and he means it. These words serve as a loving warning even to the believer. We are truly prepared for Christ’s coming at Christmas when we repent of our sins and look to him for forgiveness.