Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 4 2013 - Matthew 4:12-25 – The Good News of the Kingdom

Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, partly to avoid the attention of the Jewish authorities (which had resulted in John’s imprisonment), but also in fulfilment of Isaiah 9:1-2. The area around Galilee had frequently been invaded by foreign powers and had a very mixed population (hence the reference to “Galilee of the Gentiles”). It was an area viewed with suspicion by the authorities in Jerusalem – a place of darkness. It is to such a place that Jesus comes with the light of his good news.

And this “good news” concerns the kingdom. Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matthew 4:17). Then, having recruited his first disciples, Matthew records that "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people" (4:23). These are just the first of dozens of references to the kingdom in Matthew's Gospel.

The kingdom has come near because Jesus has come. He is the Messiah, the King. He is the one who fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Jesus’ miracles are signs of the kingdom, a kingdom of justice and righteousness, a government under which the world is put right. They are an assault upon the domain of Satan, sin and the curse. Christ the king will reign over the kingdoms of this world, not by offering worship to the devil (4:9), but by pushing back the boundaries of his domain. The healing of diseases, liberating of people from the power of the devil, feeding the hungry and even raising the dead, these are all anticipations of the day when the kingdom shall come in power, and sickness, pain, crying and death shall be no more. They anticipate a day when God's will shall be done on earth even as it is done in heaven. In Jesus the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.

And the door into the kingdom has now been flung open. This is the good news of the kingdom. It is open to all who will repent and receive the King. Repentance is a change of mind. But it is far more than a reorientation of a few opinions. It involves a radical new understanding of everything: of ourselves in all our brokenness and need; of the world in its brokenness and despair; of Jesus as the one who alone can meet us in our need and mend our brokenness. It involves a radical reorientation of our lives. We are called to follow Jesus and to live the life of the kingdom, a life built upon very different foundations from those of the kingdoms of this world with all their shallow splendour and broken promises. And we are called also to become agents of the kingdom, fishing for people, seeking to draw others to join us in following the King.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you have brought the light of your presence and purpose into the darkness of our world. Help me to follow you in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, not only in the words I speak but in every aspect of my life. By your grace and power, help me to shine with the glory of your presence and to be good news in a broken world.

Jan 4 2019 - Genesis 2:4-25 – The Garden of God

Our grandchildren love playing with plastic toy binoculars we have in our toy box. They look through them one way round and we seem to be far away from them but they can take in the large picture of our surroundings. Then they turn them round the other way and we seem to zoom forward and to be right in front of them. The game amuses them. Perhaps you have played in a similar, if more serious, way with a zoom lens on your camera enabling you to get a close up picture of something interesting.

In Genesis chapter two the zoom lens of Scripture is used to take us from the big perspective to see the fingerwork of God's creation. Man is formed by God from the dust of the earth – made of clay – before God breathes into him the breath of life. We are part of the very stuff of creation, but our life comes from God himself and we live in and through him; he is the source of our life.

But it is not good for the man to be alone. God's creation of all that he has made is an act of his love; we who are made in his image are made to love and be loved, to embrace and be embraced; we were made for relationship.

In the homely language of Genesis 2, all of the animals come to see Adam and he names them. They do not fear him, they trust him and submit to his kingly care – the lion with the lamb; the bear with the young deer. But none of these can offer Adam the heart-companionship he craves.

So Adam is put into a deep sleep and God makes the first woman from one of his ribs. Adam delights in this new gift of God, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. This is one with whom he can share the life God has given and from the embrace of their love new life will be created. Matthew Henry, an old commentator on the Bible wrote, "Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him."

God planted a garden in Eden. It is his garden, the Garden of God (cf. Genesis 13:10; Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8-9), planted for those he has made in his image so that they might enjoy it with him and tend for him. It is filled with fruitful trees, among which is the Tree of Life. It is a place of life and abundance, reflecting the character of its owner.

A river flows through the garden, separating into four streams which flow out of the garden to give life to the surrounding world. God himself is the source of life for all creation – a picture picked up later in Ezekiel's vision of the Temple (Ezekiel 47), Jesus' words about the gift of the Spirit (John 7:38-39), and finally in John's vision of the new creation (Revelation 22).

This is the beautiful picture painted of the world in Genesis two, a picture that fills us with longing for a lost world – a longing for its renewal.

Father God, you are the source of life and love; help me to live in you and love as you love. Thank you for the heart-companion you have given me and with whom I share the life and love you have given. Thank you for family and friends and for the riches and blessing of human companionship. May your life flow through us and from us to renew a dry and dusty world.

Peter Misselbrook