Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 22 2013 - Mark 6:1-29 – Without honour

Jesus had been teaching and healing in many towns of Galilee. At last he returned to his home town where, on the Sabbath, he taught in the synagogue. The reaction was strange and sad. Those who heard him recognised the power of Jesus' teaching and that it was far more than mere words, it was accompanied by undeniable displays of extraordinary power: “He even does miracles” (Mark 6:2). But this very recognition brought offence; "Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?" (Mark 6:3). They were scandalised by his conduct because they thought that they knew him. He was their local boy, the carpenter; "Who does he think he is, carrying on like this?"

What a sad and sorry story. They, of all people, should have recognised the answer to their own questions, "Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given him?" (6:2). There could only be one answer to this question, had they but eyes to see it.

Jesus' sad response to these people, who thought they knew him, was, "A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home" (6:4). We then read that Jesus "could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith" (6:5). Here we are faced with a great mystery. In what sense was Jesus unable to do any/many miracles in his home town? As we read the gospels, we do not come upon any occasion when Jesus was unable to heal. There is never an occasion when those who are sick come to Jesus for healing and are sent away to endure their sickness. Nevertheless, here we find that Jesus performed few miracles in his home town, presumably because, through lack of faith, few came to him for healing.

As I say, we deal here with mysteries that are beyond our understanding. They were not healed because they lacked faith and failed to ask. We often come to Christ in prayer seeking healing for ourselves or for those we love and the same Lord seems not to answer our prayers. It is pastorally insensitive, even cruel, to suggest that such prayers for healing remain unanswered through lack of faith. Yet it remains true to say that our lack of faith may limit the power of God, for it is Christ's purpose, now as then, to build his kingdom through a faithful people.

We see this illustrated in the verses that follow. Jesus sent out his closest disciples to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and to heal the sick. And they did: “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (6:12-13). These twelve were not offended by the humble origins of Jesus; they had come to recognise something of who he was and the origin of his power. They had put their faith in him – they had left all they had to follow him. They had joined him in his mission and were beginning, in their own small way, to do the things that he did and to be the means through which his transforming power touched the lives of others.

Lord Jesus, enable me to understand more of your character and to see you for who you truly are. Keep me from that lack of faith that would limit the work of the kingdom both in me and through me. May your power be at work in and through my weakness. Use me to bring something of the life of the kingdom to a dying world.

Feb 22 2019 - Exodus 12:1-28 – Passover preparations

The Lord is about to come down in judgment upon Egypt and to redeem his people from slavery. But when God comes down in judgment, no-one is safe. Hence the elaborate preparations that needed to be made for that night.

Some are practical preparations to get ready for sudden travel. That night, the Israelites are to remain clothed with their cloaks tucked into their belts, sandals on their feet and staff in hand ready for an immediate and rapid exit. Nor will they have time to allow their bread to rise; they will have to eat unleavened bread.

Other preparations are for their protection. Each household is to take a lamb, the meat of which will be sufficient to feed the family. They are to kill the lamb in the evening and to collect the blood in a basin. Then they are to take a bunch of hyssop to use like a paintbrush, dip it in the blood and paint the sides and tops of the doorframes of their house. None of the family is to leave the house that night. When the Lord comes down in judgment he will see the blood painted on the doorframes and will pass over that house. It will be spared from judgment because a lamb has been sacrificed. There will be a death in every household in Egypt that night: in the Egyptian households, the death of the firstborn; in the Israelite households, the death of the Passover lamb.

God's judgment that night is not visited solely upon Pharaoh and his people. God says, "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord [or, I am Yahweh]." (v.12) This is the final demonstration that the Lord, Yahweh, God of the Israelites is the living God, the God who is with his people to accomplish all that he has promised. There is no other god like him. The multitude of the gods of Egypt are shown up also for what they are – mere cardboard cut-outs; powerless idols.

This momentous act of judgment and of salvation will be remembered forever in Israel. It will mark the start of a new year for them and will be celebrated annually, recalling the bitterness of their slavery as they eat bitter herbs and celebrating their salvation with joy as they feast together on the roast lamb. The salvation of God creates a perpetual new beginning for his people.

When God comes down in judgment, no-one is safe. We all fall short of what God calls us to be; we are all deserving of his judgment. But God has provided a lamb for us; Christ our Passover has been sacrificed and his shed blood keeps us safe from the wrath to come. He is our salvation and redemption. There is no safety except in him; there is no fear of judgment when we shelter in him and his shed blood. This is what we celebrate together when we take part in a Communion Service.

None other Lamb, none other name,
none other hope in heav'n or earth or sea,
none other hiding place from guilt and shame,
none beside thee!

Christina Rossetti

Holy and Almighty God, we give you thanks for Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thank you that he shed his blood for us and died in our place. Thank you for the salvation and new beginning we have in him. Help us to celebrate this salvation daily by living the life you call us to live – a life free from the 'yeast' of malice and wickedness.

Peter Misselbrook