Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 11 2013 - Matthew 26:69-27:14 – Despair

It is difficult for us to know exactly what was going on in the mind of Judas. He had been one of the twelve; an intimate associate of Jesus. He had been sent out with the others in the mission to proclaim the good news among the towns of Galilee and, presumably, with the others had healed the sick and cast out demons. Yet now he betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. In John's Gospel it is hinted that a love of money may have been Judas' downfall; he looked after the money for Jesus and the disciples and would help himself to the contents of the bag (John 12:6). Others have suggested that Judas may have become impatient with the lack of progress in establishing the kingdom and that, in betraying Jesus, he wanted to precipitate a crisis in which Jesus would show his true colours and claim his kingdom.

Whatever may have been Judas' motives, he denied the one who had been his Master and his friend. But when he saw that Jesus was falsely condemned by the Jewish leaders and was likely to be killed, he was filled with remorse. He flung back the money that had been given him and went out and hung himself. He could not live with what he had done and was utterly without hope of forgiveness.

There is an awful sadness about this story. Judas' actions brought about Jesus' arrest which led to his trial and crucifixion. But that very death was to be the spring from which forgiveness would flow to all who would receive it. Judas did not have to despair; forgiveness was available even for him.

One of the lovely pictures of the gospel is that of light coming to those who are in darkness:

The people living in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
   a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16)

Jesus, this crucified Messiah, brings light to those who sit in darkness, hope to those who are in the depths of despair.

This is what Peter was to discover. He had been one of the inner circle of disciples. When Jesus had told the disciples that they would all desert him, Peter had boasted that he would never turn his back on Jesus; he was even ready to die with him. But there, in the courtyard of the high priest, he denied his Lord three times with oaths and curses. Immediately he was filled with remorse; “He went out and wept bitterly”.

Peter also faced the darkness of failure and despair – the fear that he was nothing but a fraud. But later, the risen Saviour gently restored him and encouraged him with the hope of fresh usefulness. Writing to encourage others Peter says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (1 Peter 1:3). The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ brings light to those living in darkness and under the shadow of death.

Most of us, at some time or another, feel despair – not as Judas felt it perhaps, but real and dark nevertheless. We need to remember that beyond the cross lies resurrection. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ can never again be subject to death, so also we have in him a hope which nothing – not even our own unfaithfulness – can destroy.

Heavenly Father, when we face moments of darkness and despair, may the light of the presence of the risen Saviour give us hope even as the blood of the crucified Saviour brings us forgiveness and cleansing. Saviour, may your gentle presence bring light today to those who sit in darkness.

Feb 11 2019 - Exodus 2:1-25 – A false start for Moses

Pharaoh was intent on decimating the Israelites and had ordered that every male child born to an Israelite woman should be thrown into the river.

Amram and Jochebed received the gift of a healthy baby boy. Jochebed knew that she could not keep him hidden from the Egyptian terror squads, so she hit upon a plan. She would comply with the letter of Pharaoh's law while doing all she could to preserve the boy's life. She made him a watertight basket of woven reeds and placed him in the river, sending his older sister, Miriam, to watch what would happen.

Pharaoh's daughter, coming to the river to bathe, finds the baby, takes pity on him and decides to keep him. Miriam offers to find someone to nurse the baby who is promptly handed back to his mother, but now with the protection and payment of the royal court. Once the child is weaned, he is handed back to Pharaoh's daughter who names him 'Moses' and brings him up as her own son.

This remarkable story, like that of Joseph, shows that God is at work through even the darkest pages of history to save his people and fulfil his own purposes. The very means that Pharaoh has chosen for the destruction of Israel – throwing baby boys into the river – is the means used of God to preserve the life of the one who will lead Israel out of captivity.

Moses grew up in Pharaoh's household and was educated as an Egyptian prince, but he never forgot that he was an Israelite. One day he decided to go and see how his people were being treated. He saw an Egyptian foreman beating an Israelite slave and in anger he killed the Egyptian. The next day he saw two Israelites fighting. His attempt at mediation was rebuffed with the words, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" 

Moses' hope to relieve the suffering of his people backfired. The news of what Moses had done soon got back to the palace and Pharaoh determined to put him to death. Moses had to flee for his life to the land of Midian.

Through an act of kindness, Moses is received by the family of a priest in Midian. Reuel (also known as Jethro) gives Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife and together they have a son whom Moses names Gershom, 'alien', as an expression of the fact that he is now living in a foreign land.

Moses may have made a complete hash of trying to alleviate the suffering of his people. He may think that he has had to abandon them to their fate, but God has other ideas. As the years pass, the Pharaoh who had sought Moses' life dies, but the Israelites continue to be ill-treated slaves in Egypt. Their cries are heard by God who is determined to fulfil his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had told Abraham that his descendants would become slaves to another nation but that he set them free and bring them back to the Promised Land (Genesis 15:13-19). He had told Jacob not to be afraid of going down into Egypt; God would make them into a great nation and would then bring them back to the land he had promised to give them (Genesis 46:2-4). The time of fulfilment is about to arrive.

Father God, help me to learn this clear lesson that I can trust you in all circumstances. You will use even those things that seem to threaten me to accomplish your good purposes. Yet I confess that all too often I make a hash of things when I come up with my own plans and seek to do things in my own way and by my own power. Help me to see that your plans are so much better than mine and that I am powerless compared with you. Enable me to discern your plans and to be used of you in what you are doing in the world rather going my own way.

Peter Misselbrook