Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 26 2013 - Mark 8:11-38 – The call to discipleship

The disciples often seem so slow to understand what Jesus is talking about. When he warned them to “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15) they imagined that his comment was an obscure way of criticising them for having forgotten to bring bread with them on their journey across the lake. They had to be reminded of the miracles which Jesus had performed before they began to understand what he was saying to them.

Later, as he and his disciples are on their way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks them, "Who do people think I am?" The opinions are varied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Nevertheless, there seems to be general agreement that Jesus is someone special; someone sent by God. Jesus then asks the disciples what they think. Peter immediately replies "You are the Messiah" (8:29).

But Peter also is slow to understand. He is rather like the blind man whose healing we read of in the previous verses. His eyes have been opened, but he still does not see very clearly. As Jesus goes on to explain to the disciples the nature of his Messianic calling – that he must suffer and die – Peter is deeply shocked and rebukes his master. But there are even more shocking revelations to come; Jesus says that those who would be his disciples must follow him in the way of the cross (8:34). Peter’s eyes may have been opened but it will take a further work of the Spirit before he not only understands Jesus’ mission but also identifies with it and makes it his own.

It’s all too easy for us recognise the failings of these first disciples, but are we really any different? These words and incidents are recorded by Mark because he knows that we need to take them to heart. Jesus is calling us to more than a profession of faith in him; he calls us to follow him. He calls us not only to recognise who he is; he calls us to understand the nature of his mission and to join him in it. He calls us not only to rejoice in sin forgiven through his atoning death and the promise of resurrection glory to come; he calls us to lay down our own lives for the work of the kingdom. Jesus will not allow nominal discipleship.

Like those first disciples, we also are slow to learn all that Jesus wants to teach us. However much we may imagine we have learned from Christ there is always much more to understand. However much we may think we have committed ourselves to following him and serving him there is much more to be done before we are truly like him. We need the Lord Jesus to touch our eyes again and again that we might see him as he is and see more of his calling upon our lives. Can it yet be said of us, as it was said of the man of Bethsaida when Jesus had finished healing him, "He saw everything clearly"?

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see clearly who you are as Son of God, Saviour of the world, promised Messiah and Lord of Glory. Help me to understand more of why you came into this world that I may share your passion to see your kingdom come.  By your Spirit, open my ears to hear your call upon my life that I might not draw back from the work you have prepared for me but may do it with all my might and with great joy.

Feb 26 2019 - Exodus 15:1-21 – The song of Moses

As we saw yesterday, when the Israelites seemed to be backed up against the sea with the Egyptians coming towards them they were full of fear and cried out in complaint against Moses and against God. But Moses had said, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (14:13-14). And that is precisely what had happened. The opening verses of Psalm 44 are probably recalling this event when they say, "You give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name for ever" (Psalm 44:7-8).

When God saves his people they cannot but respond with praise. That is what we read in Exodus 15. This psalm of praise is called a song of Moses, but it also involves Miriam, Moses' sister, taking up her tambourine and joining in along with all the Israelites, both men and women. Just imagine the scene on that day.

I wonder how deeply the Israelites were affected by this psalm taught them by Moses and Miriam. The psalm rehearses what God has done using the most dramatic language, see, for instance, vv. 8-10. In response, it expresses his people's faith new-found in him:

The Lord is my strength and my defence;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  (v.3)

The people seem to be acknowledging that the Lord, Yahweh, is the living God, a God like no other god (v. 11), a God who hears and acts to save.  They at last acknowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is now their God also. They seemed determined to praise him rather than complain against him both now and in the future. Maybe, at that moment, they were genuine in their praise and in their intentions, but how long would it last?

The psalm also expresses the assurance that God will perform all that he had promised to do for his people. He had delivered them from the Egyptians and will not now abandon them, but will bring them into the land he has promised them:

In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.   (v. 13)

Revelation, the final book in the Bible, pictures those whom God has brought safe to glory singing "the song of God's servant Moses and the Lamb" (see Revelation 15:3-4). God has saved us in a remarkable way through Jesus Christ; through an even more remarkable demonstration of his power than the Israelites witnessed in Egypt. Jesus, the Lamb of God, has defeated the powers that held us in captivity and slavery, the powers of sin and death. He has promised that he will bring us to live at last with him in the glory of a world made new. Surely our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving and our mouths filled with songs of praise. This should be more than a momentary enthusiasm; it should become the settled character of our lives even as it will be our theme in glory.

Father God, we acknowledge that there are no other gods like you. You loved us when we were far off from you and sent your beloved Son into the world to bring us home. We thank you for the salvation we have in him; we thank you that you have forgiven our sin and rebellion and have owned us as your children. Help us to glorify you in all we say and do and to tell others of your goodness and saving power. May all the end of the earth come to acknowledge that you alone are God and that you are an almighty Saviour.

Peter Misselbrook