Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 23 2013 - Mark 6:30-56 – A word to the terrified

Imagine that you have had a long, hard, but exciting day. You are probably looking forward to a good sleep but have been sent off to cross the Sea of Galilee before you take your rest. You then discover that you cannot set the sail and take your rest in the boat because there is a strong wind blowing directly against you; you must row. And so you attempt the rowing, perhaps different ones from your company rowing together in shifts. But, despite all your efforts you are making very slow progress due to the opposing wind. And it is dark, very dark, for it is now past midnight.

Then, all of a sudden, you catch sight of something off to one side of the boat. As you peer into the darkness you see that it looks like a man, walking past you, walking on the water! It must be a ghost, an ill-omen surely. The boat is now in uproar as all cry out in terror, crying out also in prayer to be saved from this thing.

And your prayers are answered; you are saved. For the figure now speaks to you, "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid" (Mark 6:50). And immediately you recognise the voice and the figure – it is Jesus. And now he is with you in the boat. And now that he is here, the wind stops its opposition and you are soon safely arrived at the shore.

As Mark relates this story he adds, "They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened" (6:51-52). That they were amazed we can understand; it had been a day of amazements. By why does Mark link their amazement with them not having understood about the loaves? Perhaps he means that they had not yet grasped the answer to their own question, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (Mark 4:41). Had they not seen in his feeding of the five thousand that here is the one who fed Israel with manna in the desert; here is the God of Israel come to his people in the person of Jesus? Here is the one who commanded the waters of the Red Sea and they parted so that the Israelites walked across on dry ground. Why should such a person not walk across a lake on the water? Why should not the presence of such a person still the wind and bring his companions safe to shore?

And, are we still slow to understand? Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He still speaks to us as he draws alongside us in the moments of our panic, "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." Maybe we have known his presence and experienced remarkable answers to prayer in times past but have then failed to learn from these things – we ‘have not understood about the loaves.’

Begone unbelief, my Saviour is near,
And for my relief will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, and prove that he saves,
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the waves…

His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
And can he have taught me to trust in his name,
And this far have brought me to put me to shame?

Living God, thank you that when we were struggling in the storm and finding no way forward, you came to us in the person and gentle power of Jesus of Nazareth. Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you that you have promised never to leave us on our own, but to be with us to the very end of the age. Keep me from the fear that would overwhelm me. Soften my heart by the power of your Spirit that it may receive the impress of your character. May I delight in your presence this day and serve you with confidence and joy through the strength which you supply.

Feb 23 2019 - Exodus 12:29-42 – Egypt defeated, Israel liberated

When God met with Moses at the burning bush, he told him, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son'" (Exodus 4:21-23).

Israel is God's firstborn, the heir to all the good things he has to give. If Pharaoh will not let God's firstborn go free, then God will destroy his firstborn and all the firstborn of Egypt. Moses had known that this was how the battle would be played out. Now it has reached its final crisis.

"At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead" (Exodus 12:31-32).

Pharaoh summoned Moses – even though he had said that if he saw Moses again he would have him executed. He tells Moses to take the Israelites out of Egypt along with all their livestock and everything they possess. The Lord their God must love them greatly if he will go to such lengths to bring them to himself. Just for a moment, Pharaoh wishes he could have a part in the blessing this God has promised his people; his final plea to Moses is, "And also bless me."

The Israelites – getting on for two million of them – leave Egypt, hastened on by the Egyptians who gave them gold, silver and clothing. They leave a life of slavery to walk into the desert with nothing but the promise that the God of Abraham is with them.

God sacrificed the firstborn of Egypt that he might rescue the Israelites and bring them to himself. But in the Lord Jesus he has done something far more wonderful to secure our redemption; God sacrificed his own firstborn Son for us. And in him we also have been made heirs of God; co-heirs with Christ to all the riches of his kingdom. God has blessed us beyond measure.

And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me? …

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

God of the covenant, you have freed us from our slavery and have called us to yourself. As with Abraham and with Israel, you call us to walk into the unknown with nothing but your promise before us and your presence alongside us. Help us to remember that you have given your Son for us and have promised with him freely to give us all things. Help us to follow you in the company of your people and in a spirit of joyful expectation. Bless us and make us a blessing.

Peter Misselbrook