Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 23 2013 - Luke 5:29-6:11 – They watched him closely

By his words and actions, Jesus had provoked the opposition of the Pharisees. He had claimed to have authority to forgive sins. He associated with tax collectors and sinners and seemed to prefer feasting with them than fasting with pious Jews. He did not seem to show a proper respect for the Sabbath and its stifling restrictions. So, on one Sabbath day, when Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, the Pharisees and teachers of the law "watched him closely" (Luke 6:7). They kept a careful eye on him, not to marvel in all that he was doing but to look for some fault for which they might condemn him. In the synagogue there was a man whose hand was withered and useless. These critics kept a close eye on Jesus to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath day.

And, of course, their expectations were not disappointed. Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. He did so and his hand was completely restored. But before he healed the man he asked his critics a question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9).

For all their careful attention, the Pharisees and teachers of the law could see only one thing; here was a man who broke the law by doing work on the Sabbath. They could not see a man remarkably healed from a long-standing affliction. Instead of rejoicing with the man who was healed, they were filled with rage at Jesus’ words and actions (6:11). Instead of seeing Jesus as the author of life, they were intent on putting him to death. For all their close watching, they remained blind.

I remember some time ago being asked to watch a short film clip. It was a clip of a basketball match and, before being shown it we were asked to count how many times the ball was passed. When the clip was over, we were asked whether we noticed anything else. On being shown it again we saw a man in a gorilla outfit walking behind the players. We had not noticed him on first showing because we were focussed entirely on the ball. We are not good at seeing the bigger picture when we are focussed in on the one thing we really want to see.

It’s frustrating sometimes when we try to talk to others about Jesus and they just can’t see what we see in him. But it must be equally frustrating for others if there are times when we are so intent on getting our message across that we do not really ‘see’ the person we are talking to in all their complexity of concerns. Narrow views lead to narrow minds – and Christians are not immune from this affliction.

What do we see in Jesus? One of the things I see in Jesus is someone who saw people as they really were and who dealt with each one according to their particular circumstances and need. He calls us also to widen our vision and to see beyond the narrow confines of our limited understanding. He calls us to see with his eyes and respond with his compassion and concern. He calls us to celebrate with those who have found new life in him, to mourn with those who are feeling broken and sad and to challenge those who would come to quick judgments about others.

Lord Jesus, continue that work you have begun in me – the work of making me like you. Keep me from narrow minded judgments this day. May the new wine of your kingdom – the heady wine of your presence and resurrection life – burst all that remains of the old wineskin and flow out to the refreshing of others.

Mar 23 2019 - Deuteronomy 6:1-25 – Love the Lord your God

The name "Deuteronomy" means a second giving, or repetition, of the law. The Israelites have arrived at another critical point in their history; they have come to the land which God had promised to give them and will soon cross the Jordon to possess it. Moses will shortly be taken from them by death, so it is with a sense of urgency that he repeats and summarises the instruction God had given him for Israel his people, and he exhorts the people to live in obedience to the Lord (6:1-3).

This is a key theme of the Book of Deuteronomy: God has been wonderfully gracious to his people, he has rescued them from Egypt, provided for them in the wilderness and is about to give them this good land – a land flowing with milk and honey. God has made his covenant with Israel and is a faithful God who never fails to keep his promises. Now he calls for them to respond to his grace with obedience. If they are obedient to the instruction that God has given them they will enjoy God's abundant blessings in the land he is giving them to possess: "be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you." (6:3). If, however, they are disobedient they will suffer his discipline and judgment and may even be exiled from the good land that God is giving them. Obedience will bring blessing, but disobedience will bring judgment.

This is not salvation by works. The Israelites are a redeemed people; God saved them out of undeserved love towards them – it was all of grace. Now, as a redeemed people they are being called to love and obey the one who has first loved them.

The great danger is that they may forget what God has done for them. They are about to possess riches they have not worked for (6:10-11); the danger is that they may be so satisfied with the gifts that they forget the giver: "be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." (6:12). Moreover, the danger of forgetting will increase as the years go by. The generation entering the Promised Land, and all the generations following them need to remember what God has done; each generation is to tell the story of God's salvation to their children so that it will not be forgotten but celebrated (6:20-25). The instruction that God has given them is to be handed on to the generations to come; it is to be the continual subject of conversation in the home and is to shape every part of their daily lives (6:7-9). But above all, God's word is to be impressed on their hearts and is to be expressed in love for God with all their heart and soul and strength (6:5). It is to shape a life of heartfelt remembrance and devotion.

We also are a redeemed people. We have been rescued from enslavement to self and to sin through the shed blood and risen power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We also are called to respond to the one who has first loved us with single-minded and wholehearted love expressed in devoted obedience to him. We also are called to remember all that God has done for us – his costly grace towards us in Christ. We do this especially when we meet together to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of him. But our remembrance must shape every part of our lives: it is to be the frequent topic of conversations in our homes; it is to be central to our instruction of our children; it is to shape every aspect of our daily lives. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength and to love others as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27). This is the way to enjoy the blessings of our God.

Father God, we praise you for your great love for us shown in the gift of your Son. Help us by your Spirit to love you in return. Help us to follow our precious Saviour in glad obedience to you and in service of others that we, and they, may enjoy the blessings of your grace.

Peter Misselbrook