Repentance Is Both Vertical and Horizontal

Our hearts aren’t prepared for the Lord until they are ready to love others.

The Book of Luke, more than any of the other Gospels, presents a sweeping look at Jesus’ teachings on ethics. Over half the parables we have from Jesus are unique to Luke. They cover topics like how to steward money and how Jesus sees people the world overlooks, such as the poor, the disabled, and women.

At the foundation of it all is Jesus and his preaching about the kingdom of God.

I have spent more than 40 years of my professional academic life in Christian vocational service and in the study of Luke’s gospel. Key texts in it have opened my eyes to the scope of Jesus’ mission in ways I rarely heard about as a younger Christian.

The first such passage is in Luke’s first chapter. Gabriel foretells the birth and calling of John the Baptist to his father, Zechariah, saying John will prepare the way for the Messiah.

He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go as forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him. (vv. 16–17, NET throughout)

One of the things I have learned about reading Scripture is to define its terms by asking questions of the text. Here the question arises, “What does it mean to be a people prepared for the coming of the Lord?” This text gives a two-part answer.

First, the expected part: John will turn people back to God. This reflects quite rightly what prophets are supposed to do.

The second component—which is also part of John’s call and what God seeks from people ready for deliverance—is what had eluded me in the past. Gabriel announces that John …

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