In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” . . . People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
A Judge Who Acquits the Repentant
Confessing a crime to a judge does not mean you won’t be punished for that crime. By confessing, you are admitting that you did something worthy of punishment. The judge may take your confession into account when he hands down your sentence. But a less severe punishment is still a punishment. Confession normally does not lead to acquittal.
Yet, for the people who went out from Jerusalem to hear John the Baptist preach, confession did lead to acquittal. As they listened to John the Baptist preach, God convicted them of the many sins that they had committed against him. He worked in them a godly sorrow over their sins that led them to confess their sins to John. In response, John, on God’s behalf, did something remarkable. He told the people that they were forgiven. They were acquitted. They would not suffer the punishment they deserved for their sins.
How could John do that? Even more, how could God do that? Doesn’t a judge have to punish the guilty? So how could God acquit these people who had admitted that they were guilty?
He could do it because, as John proclaimed, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Jesus, God’s Son, had come. Jesus was the one whom God had chosen to suffer the punishment for the sins of all people. That was why he had come. And that is what he would accomplish through his perfect life and his innocent death on the cross.
The work Jesus did for the acquittal of the people who confessed their sins to John, he also did for us. Yes, Jesus came as a judge. But he is a judge who, by his own work on our behalf, has won acquittal for all our sins. Hear God’s call to repentance through John. Confess your sins. Trust in Jesus. Know that in him, you have been acquitted.
Lord Jesus, I praise you that in you I stand acquitted. Amen.
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