Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 13 2013 - Matthew 27:32-66 – Forsaken

Yesterday, we saw how Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers who had charge of him before he was led out to his crucifixion. That mockery continued as he hung dying upon the cross. Passers-by mocked him over whom the charge was written, “This is the King of the Jews.” Those crucified with him cursed him as they hung beside him. And the Jewish leaders mocked him saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.” They did not see the irony in their own words; it was because he was determined to save others that he would not save himself.

There were thousands of crucifixions in Judea in the first century, but none was like this one. The sun refused to shine at mid-day and there was darkness over the land all afternoon as Jesus hung there dying. The created world seemed to lose its vitality as the one through whom all things were made was destroyed. And then, Jesus "cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')." (Matthew 27:46). Jesus feels himself to be forsaken, abandoned by God, for he feels himself to be under the judgment of God. At the cross, God himself shares in the brokenness of a broken world that it might be healed.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Jesus suffered in our place. He bore the weight of our iniquity and was pierced for our transgressions. He suffered the punishment which our sins deserved; he felt himself to be "punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted." It is our iniquity that separated Jesus from the Father and that caused him to feel forsaken. He endured all of this for us that we might never be forsaken; that we might be reconciled to God. He was broken that we might be healed.

As Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain separated the dwelling place of God in the holy of holies from the parts of the temple where the worshipers would meet. Jesus' separation from the Father meant that this curtain of separation was ripped open. It was as if God himself burst out of the confines of the most holy place to embrace a world of people who had been far away from him – to embrace not only the Jewish worshipers within the temple area but Gentiles also who could only stand far off, outside. It is through this one last sacrifice for sin that God and man are reconciled; nothing can ever again separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Father God, I stand in wonder at the cross. There are mysteries here that I cannot fully understand. But I do see clearly the greatness of your love for me. You loved the world so much that you did not spare your own Son. There was nothing you would not do to embrace me in your love. Help me by your Spirit to love you in return with a love that consumes every fibre of my being. Help me also to love others with the costly love you have lavished on me in the Lord Jesus – to break down barriers through your reconciling love, to forgive as I have been forgiven and to make the love of Jesus visible.

Feb 13 2019 - Exodus 4:1-23 – Moses returns to Egypt

Moses' mind is racing ahead. He can see all the difficulties in the task before him. Firstly, the Israelites may simply not believe that God had appeared to him and commissioned him to rescue them from Egypt.

No difficulty is too great for God. Moses is given three signs to demonstrate not only that God has sent him, but that God is with him in all that he has sent him to do. In the first, Moses is told to throw his staff on the ground and it becomes a snake. Moses runs from it in terror, but the Lord tells his to grasp it by the tail. It immediately turns back into his staff. Perhaps the Lord is teaching him not to run from what frightens him but to take hold of it in God's name. We need to learn the same lesson.

Secondly, Moses' hand is made white and leprous and then restored again. Lastly, he is told that he will have power to turn water from the Nile into blood. The last of these signs anticipates the plagues God will send upon the Egyptians; it is therefore a sign that God has come to make life difficult for the Egyptians until they let the Israelites go. By these signs the Israelites will believe that God has sent Moses.

Now Moses comes up with another problem. He who was raised in the court of Pharaoh, raised to be a prince in Egypt, now claims that he is not the right person to go and talk to Pharaoh. For a man who claims to be slow in speech and ill-equipped to talk to Pharaoh he seems very free in speaking up before almighty God.

God is wonderfully patient in his response to Moses; "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" (4:11-12). God is the one who created Moses and raised him up for the very purpose of being his spokesman before Pharaoh. Moreover, he will be with Moses and will give him the words to say when he needs to say them.

Moses has run out of objections. He has no more excuses to bring before God so he simply blurts out, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (4:13).

God is angry with Moses. Yet even in his anger he is full of grace. He has already put it in the heart of Moses' brother Aaron to slip out of Egypt to look for Moses. He will return to Egypt with Moses and will act as the front-man for what God is about to do through Moses.

How like Moses we often are. We know that God plans to build his kingdom in this world and to use us in his work, but we have eyes only for the difficulties. When all other excuses run out we fall back on the plea, "Let someone else do it." We need to recapture the vision that God can do great things through broken people; to be like Isaiah who saw the holiness of the Lord and his own unworthiness but who responded to God's call with the words, "Here am I! Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).

Creator God, you know all about me. You formed me when I was in my mother's womb. You are the one who has shaped my character and abilities. Thank you that you have also prepared work for me to do for the building of your kingdom. Show me your glory and your power. Help me to follow faithfully in the footsteps of your Son, whose meat and drink it was to do your will, knowing that he is always with me, to the very end of the age.

Peter Misselbrook