I MUST ADMIT I USED TO CRINGE EVERY TIME I READ IT: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). I'd always taken Jesus' command to repent as a message of condemnation. Is Jesus saying that we are all insufficient, I wondered, and that unless we do everything perfectly, we will be punished?
Then I learned what the Greek word translated as "repent" actually means. First and foremost a mental transformation, repentance speaks to a reconsideration—in other words, to a change of mind. Only as a result of a change in thought, then, does one's attitude or behavior change as a natural consequence. What a relief. No more need to feel guilty or afraid.
The "Repent" command, found in the Gospels of Matthew (4:17) and Mark (1:15), launched Jesus' ministry. It would be difficult to argue that there could have been any better way for Jesus to begin his ministry of spiritual healing, in which a mental shift always preceded the physical outcome.