Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 10 2013 - Matthew 26:47-68 – Legions of angels

Immediately after Jesus' baptism by John, he spent 40 days fasting in a deserted place. At the end of this time, the devil came to tempt him. In one of those temptations, Jesus was taken to the top of the temple. The devil suggested that he should throw himself down; surely God would send an angel to catch him so that he would not come to any harm. Jesus resisted the temptation of the evil one and angels did come to minister to him (Matthew 4:11).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus has begun to face the terror of the ordeal before him; not merely death on a cross, but bearing the sin of the world. At the end of his prayer-ordeal, when he has determined to do the Father's will, an angel came to minister to him and strengthen him (see Luke 22:43).

Now Judas the betrayer has arrived, and with him "a large crowd armed with swords and clubs" intent on seizing him and taking him to be tried before the Sanhedrin. For one brief moment, one of the disciples, Peter, is bold enough to draw his sword and seek to defend Jesus. But Peter is rebuked and told to put his sword away. Jesus says, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

These words of Jesus suggest that the words of the devil in the desert may have returned to tempt Jesus in this moment of crisis – perhaps they had never been far from him. He knew that he could call not upon one angel, but legions of angels to fly to his protection. But the temptation no sooner entered his mind than it was refused. The Father had sent him into the world for a purpose. Just as he had been baptised by John "to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15), so also now he submits to be taken captive and to be led away to false trial and unjust death, that "the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled" (26:56).

Jesus' death is a story of human wickedness and injustice. In this respect, sadly, it is far from unique. Scenes like this are played out daily in many parts of our world. What is unique is the person and mission of Jesus. He was sent by God to suffer and submit to betrayal, injustice, torture and death that, by this very means, and by his resurrection from the dead, he might defeat the power of human wickedness. In his death wickedness is brought to judgment; by his resurrection justice triumphs and righteousness reigns. And, at the empty tomb, it is angels who proclaim the good news to the disciples.

But for now, the acceptance of the way of the cross leaves Jesus abandoned. For, no sooner has he declared, "this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled", than his followers fulfil what was spoken of them; "the disciples deserted him and fled."

For me, one of the most mysterious verses of Scripture is Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Do angels minister to me? Maybe they do, but I remain as unaware of the legions that surround me as Elisha’s servant (see 2 Kings 6:15-17).

Heavenly Father, teach me what it means to follow Jesus. Help me to follow in the way of the cross and not to yield to the temptation to turn tail and flee when the going gets tough. May your ministering angels keep guard over me and your Spirit strengthen me to do your will.

Feb 10 2019 - Psalm 17 – When I awake I will be with God

There are many psalms that we find it easy to identify with and echo in our own prayers. Others may seem to use language that is strange to us, language we would not dream of using – though they may express ideas that often occupy our private thoughts. Psalm 17 falls into this latter category.

The psalm is a plea for God's help uttered from a situation of distress and perplexity. The psalmist has always been careful to live a life pleasing to God. He has not sought to do evil and has been careful to speak always with truthfulness and sincerity. He has paid attention to God's word and has kept his feet firmly on the path God has set out for him. Nevertheless, some who care nothing for God seem intent on his destruction. Why do bad things happen to good people – or at least threaten to happen to good people? It just does not seem right.

So the psalmist pleads his integrity before God and even challenges God to look right into his heart and see if there is any evil in him. This is the basis of his appeal for God's help.

This is the plea of an obedient child. If we had sent one of our children to perform some task for us and, precisely because they followed our instructions, they got into difficulties, what would we expect them to do? I expect that they would say, like the psalmist, "I've followed your instructions and it's landed me in problems. You got me into this mess, please now help me get out of it." That's what our children would say to us and this is what the psalmist is saying to God.

The psalmist is confident that God will hear and answer his cry (v.6). He knows that he is loved by God and will not be abandoned. He pleads, "Keep me as the apple of your eye" (v.8). The original Hebrew expression may have the meaning "the little man of the eye". If you look into someone else's eyes, you see a tiny reflection of yourself in their eye – you are the little man of their eye. So the psalmist asks that he might remain in the centre of God's sight and attention. He pleads that he might shelter under God's protection as a baby bird shelters under its mothers wings. He urgently pleads that God would rise up and rescue him from the trouble he is in.

Thus far, we can identify with the words of the psalmist, but he then turns to calling down curses on his enemies and their children (v.14). We would not wish to imitate him by using such words in our own prayers. But God does not turn away from the psalmist's cry and the psalmist is confident that he will be vindicated.

And this leads us to the remarkable closing words of this psalm, "As for me, I shall be vindicated and shall see your face; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with seeing your likeness" (v.15). Here, like Job, the psalmist expresses the confidence that even if he should be killed by those who now threaten him, he will yet live to see God's face. He expresses a confident hope in the resurrection.

We who have come to trust in the Lord Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord, have even more reason to believe that beyond this life we will awake to see God's face and be made perfectly like our glorious Saviour. We, even more than the psalmist, have reason to approach the throne of God's grace and seek his help in every time of need.

Father God, we thank you that even when we feel surrounded by dangers and threats we can be confident of your unfailing love and saving power. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have gone to prepare a place for us in your Father's house and that we will one day awake to see your face and be satisfied at last when we not only see you as you are but are made like you.

Peter Misselbrook