Sunset in Colington Harbour brings all of the boats back into port. Stately masted sailboats and little junkie pontoons all turn away from their day-trippy cruises and head back for the safety of secure slips and backyard docks. The ones who try to last out on the sound until the very last vestige of sunlight has slipped over the horizon have to return by the illumination of their boat’s running lights.
Running lights are regulated and have to comply with local guidelines. For example, port sidelights are red, starboard sidelights are green, and both shine from dead ahead to 112.5° aft on either side. Stern lights are white and shine aft and 67.5° forward on each side. This means that stern lights and sidelights form a complete circle of light around the bottom of the boat.
Running lights help us find our way home in the dark. So does Jesus.
Jesus Begins to Preach Matthew 4 New International Version
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The people living in darkness have seen a great light. This prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled by Jesus’ birth. In this passage, he has just left the desert where Satan has tempted him three times, and he is now beginning his ministry on earth.
There is a connection between the “great light” reference and vs. 17: the great light we are invited to see is the kingdom of God that Christ is ushering in. He brings the kingdom of God to earth with his incarnation, and the shadow of death is forever gone.
But don’t miss the point. Repentance is the point. Jesus’ first-ever sermon was a call to repentance. It wasn’t about forgiveness. It wasn’t about love. It wasn’t about eternity, or how to treat people, or giving to the poor. It was about repentance.
How often we would prefer to skip that step! Repentance is hard, because it means a complete turning away from the sin you have been committing. It is not just being sorry, but a total reversal of that behavior or practice that has broken you away from God and others. If you go back and repeat that behavior again, you didn’t really repent. You may have felt bad, but you didn’t repent.
Christ calls us to true repentance so that we can be cleansed and made new. With true repentance, we are freed of the chains of our sinful behavior and can walk unencumbered toward the cross. When we confess and repent, a new creation is born in us and our slate is wiped clean.
Where is God calling you to repent today? What horrible thing have you been carrying around like a millstone on your neck for way too long? It is time to be set free. It is time to be ransomed. Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near. It is time to come home from the dark.
Colington at sunset.