Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 5 2013 - Matthew 24:1-28 – The destruction of the Temple

Jesus' disciples were country folk from Galilee. The newly built Temple in Jerusalem filled them with a sense of awe. But as they spoke to Jesus of its splendour, he told them that it would be utterly destroyed. In their minds, such a cataclysmic event must amount to the end of the world, at least, the world as they knew it. So they ask Jesus, "When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). The rest of Matthew 24 records Jesus' answer to their question. And what a perplexing answer it is. Certainly it has challenged and divided Christian understanding down the centuries and, I suspect, will continue to do so until the Lord returns.

Part of the confusion arises perhaps from the way in which the New Testament seems to bind together things that we think of as quite separate events. Firstly, it links the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple with the final judgment of God. The destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple is an act of God’s judgment on a rebellious people that anticipates the greater judgment to come. Those who had rejected Christ – who had refused the shelter of his wings – will not escape the day of God’s judgment. Before many years have passed, Jerusalem will be destroyed by the power of the Roman Empire and the Temple will be torn down. Nor will they be safe in the final day of God's judgment. The destruction of Jerusalem foreshadows the greater and more cosmic day of God’s visitation. But Jesus’ followers, having been warned by his words, fled from Jerusalem before the judgment fell.

But the New Testament equally links the death of the Lord Jesus Christ both with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple and the greater judgment to come. Caiaphas thought it good that Jesus would die on behalf of the people (John 11:50). Caiaphas was thinking only of threats from the Roman Empire and that Jesus' death would save the Jewish nation from destruction. But his vision was too small. As the Suffering Servant, Jesus endured the judgment of God on behalf of a rebellious people. God's judgment day has already come.

In the death and resurrection of Jesus, the end of history has broken into the middle of history. The "end of the age" has come; the age to come has arrived. The "making of all things new" which will mark the age to come has broken into a world grown old. A greater Temple has already come, one which, though destroyed by the hands of men, was recreated in three days by the power of God.  The crucified Christ is the place of perfect sacrifice which tears down the curtain that separates a sinful people from a holy God. It is in Jesus that God has come to dwell with us and in Jesus, raised from the dead, that he displays his glory.

None of this promises an easy life to those who follow Jesus – read Matthew 24:9-14. But it does promise us a secure future, safe under the shadow of his wings. It is also a call to be busy about the work of the kingdom; "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (24:14). We are the bridgehead through which the kingdom is invading and conquering the kingdom of this world – through which the age to come floods into this present age. We inhabit the time between the ages.

Heavenly Father, thank you that Jesus, through his atoning death and victorious resurrection, saves us from the wrath to come – there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Thank you that, in your grace, you have brought me into the kingdom of your dear Son. Help me both to proclaim the good news of your kingdom and to work tirelessly for its coming. Spirit of the risen Saviour, flood the nations with your saving grace and transforming compassion.

Feb 5 2019 - Genesis 43:1-34 – Benjamin sent to Egypt with his brothers

Jacob and his family need more grain. Jacob's sons plead that they may return to Egypt, but they can only go if Benjamin goes with them. Jacob does not want to let his youngest son go, fearing that he may never see him again. But the threat of hunger and death, along with the solemn pledge of Judah, persuades Jacob to let Benjamin accompany his brothers to Egypt.

Jacob does all that he can to ensure the success of their trip. Double money is taken to repay the money that had mysteriously been returned to them before, and to pay for further supplies. They also take luxury goods from the land. The "balm and honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds" must have cost Jacob dearly in a time of famine.

Jacob entrusts Benjamin not only to Judah, but to the safekeeping of God Almighty. He pleads that the God of his grandfather Abraham and of his father Isaac, the God who had become his God and had watched over him during the years of his exile in Haran, may now watch over his family and grant them mercy with the Egyptian official. But he does not seem to be confident that his plea will be answered for he concludes, "If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved" (43:14).

God's determination to prosper this family is more unshakable that Jacob's confidence. God has ensured that the official the brothers deal with in Egypt is none other than Joseph, their brother.

Joseph is filled with joy when he sees his brother Benjamin – though he continues to act the part of the stern Egyptian official. He commands his servants to kill the fatted calf and prepare a feast; these ten brothers, along with Simeon, released from imprisonment, are to eat with him today.

When the brothers are brought to Joseph's house they are full of fear. Can you imagine how they must have felt? They are tent dwellers from Canaan; now they are brought to a grand house of a high Egyptian official. Surely it must be a trap? They are reluctant to enter and begin a self-justifying conversation with the steward at the door explaining how their money had been returned in their sacks of grain. But the steward, no doubt briefed by Joseph, tells them that the money for their grain was duly received; it must have been their God who put the money in their sacks. An Egyptian official assures these fearful brothers that, in accordance with their father's prayer, the God of Jacob has been watching over them.

The eleven brothers present their gifts to Joseph and bow before him, but Joseph is more concerned to find out about the health of their father – his father. As he talks to Benjamin and blesses him, Joseph can no longer maintain the mask of the stern Egyptian and has to leave the room to find a place to weep. Soon he is back and the feast is set out with the eleven brothers at one table, arranged from oldest to youngest. The brothers' food is taken to them from Joseph's high table with Benjamin receiving five times as much as any of the others. Now at last the brothers begin to relax and enjoy the feast and even become merry with the fine wine.

This story is full of tensions reflecting the divided heart of Joseph. There is a part of him that is still intent on teaching his brothers a lesson for having mistreated him; but Joseph also loves his brothers, particularly young Benjamin, and wants to share the riches of his house with them.

Father God, thank you that there is no divided heart with you. You have shown the greatness of your love for us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite our wrongdoing you have embraced us and welcomed us into your house that we may feast with you. Because Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers, we are not kept at arm's length; we feast with him at your right hand and are filled with joy in your presence.

Peter Misselbrook