Repentance – Good News!

Daniel’s books are very consistent, and certain themes recur; the two books which are perhaps the most typical are this and Becoming a Disciple, so these are the two I might recommend first. They would make good text books.

Repentance —Good News!  is of course intensely Biblical but also draws on some patristic texts. The starting point is to show the centrality of repentance, “Repent!” being the first word in the preaching of both Jesus and John the Baptist. This leads into a discussion of what was meant by these two men, including a look at the etymology of the word and contrasts with the Old Testament. In summary, the huge difference is that John was preaching repentance in light of judgment, ‘repent because of the wrath to come,’ while Jesus was saying ‘God loves you, so repent.’ The difference between the two men is pursued to a wonderful climax. First, we see what repentance means individually, then the way it relates to corporate sin, but then finally  what it means to repent for ‘the sin of the whole world’. This is what Jesus did at his baptism, and Daniel shows us the radical change in attitude from John as he comes to understand that Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’, a change he refers to as John’s conversion.

Along the way we also look closely at the difference between repentance, as exemplified in Peter, and remorse, which is the experience of Judas. Peter’s repentance leads on to his preaching; although all the disciples were charged with preaching repentance and undoubtedly did so, it is only Peter with his unique experience that we see doing so close up. Judas’ tragedy is that he set out on the way of repentance but was betrayed by the Sanhedrin; God and man work together to bring repentance to fruition.

In a sense the best, the most remarkable is left to last — the repentance of God. Although there are two Old Testament passages that say God does not repent, there are numerous places where he plainly does, notably with Noah, Moses and Jeremiah. Nowhere in the OT is man required to repent, but God does, opening his heart to his people, as Daniel traces in some detail; as he concludes, ‘How could one not be reconciled to such a God?’


To repent, as we have seen, means changing the way we look at ourselves following some word which touches us and reveals our sin; this is what we hear in the mouth of John the Baptist. With Jesus things are altogether different; the word which impels us towards repentance is not the revelation of our sin but the revelation of God’s love and his thirst for intimacy. The word of Christ doesn’t so much invite us to change our view of ourselves as to change the way we see God. Jesus shows us God’s heart, and it is faced with this revelation that we are drawn to repentance. God’s love is so great that we are shaken to the depths of our beings; so great that tears of compunction start from our eyes. Our great pain is to discover ourselves incapable of loving such a God back . . . There is inexpressible suffering in God, wounded and abandoned by man . . . There is no ritual foreseen in the Law of the Old Testament for the expiation of the sin of the world because no ritual could heal God’s wound! . . . Only the Son made man could ask forgiveness of the Father since he alone is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18) and so alone knows his pain. He alone can ask pardon, with tears of compassion and compunction . . . It would have been easy for God to justify himself before his people . . . to demonstrate that it was in love he had punished them. Is it not the case that “he who loves well, chastises well”? Instead . . . he neither argues nor justifies himself; he pursues a way which reveals his extraordinary humility: “I repent of the evil which I have inflicted upon you. .” The humility of God is to be measured by his love; it is without limit! . . . How could one not be reconciled to such a God?

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