Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 31 2013 - Luke 9:7-27 – Who is this man?

The feeding of the five thousand is one of the best-known miracles of Jesus. In Luke's gospel it is sandwiched between two sections concerning the identity of Jesus. In the verses immediately preceding this miracle, Luke records Herod's puzzlement as he hears news of what Jesus is doing. Some are saying that this must be John raised from the dead, others that Elijah has appeared and others that another of the ancient prophets has been raised back to life. Herod is perplexed. He knows that he had John beheaded; who then is this man? (Luke 9:9)

Immediately after the feeding of the five thousand, Luke records a private conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asks them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" (9:18). The same list is repeated: "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." Jesus then asks them what they think, prompting Peter's reply that Jesus is the Messiah (9:20). He is the Christ of God, the one through whom God will establish his kingdom in the earth.

The miraculous feeding of the five thousand is evidently seen by Luke as vital evidence, demonstrating who Jesus truly is. He is the prophet Moses promised that God would raise up in his place – the one who has succeeded him in feeding God’s people in desert places. But Jesus is far greater than Moses, for the food he provides comes from his own hand rather than dropping from heaven. Through Elijah, God had provided food for the widow of Zarephath and her son, but Jesus provides food for thousands; for all who come to him. He is greater than John who preached and baptised in the desert preparing people for the one who was to come. Jesus is the one who was to come. He is the promised Messiah, the one who will save, lead and provide for his people.

But following Jesus is not a perpetual picnic. Jesus warns that he is on his way to the cross and adds, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Jesus wants us to be clear not only about his identity but also concerning the character of Christian discipleship. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we are to act upon that knowledge. It is not enough to confess that he is the Christ; we must live in submission to him as glad citizens of his kingdom. The cross-shaped pattern of our lives is to make the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ visible to those around us.

Jesus has a habit of expressing these things in the starkest of terms: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (9:26); “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (9:27). Jesus leaves no room for us to hide behind platitudes and excuses. He calls for willing, wholehearted and joyful discipleship.

Lord Jesus, help me to understand more of who you are and what you have done for me that I may be filled with joy and peace in believing. Help me also to understand what it means to follow you and to follow gladly rather than turning back or dragging my feet. Keep me from half-hearted discipleship and help me never to be ashamed of you but to speak often of you and, by my actions also, make your kingdom visible in all its beauty and glory.

Mar 31 2019 - Psalm 34 – God answered my cry

The heading to this psalm reads suggests that it was written by David, "when he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left." The incident it recorded in 1 Samuel 21, though the name of the king of Gath mentioned there is Achish. It would seem that Abimelech (a word meaning "my father is king") was a dynastic title of the Philistine kings, rather like "Pharaoh" was a title of the kings of Egypt.

David was not Israel's king at this time. King Saul had tried to kill David because he was jealous of his success in fighting against the Philistines and of the acclaim he was receiving from the Israelites. So David fled from Saul armed only with the sword that had belonged to Goliath. Paradoxically, and perhaps foolishly, David sought refuge in the Philistine city of Gath, Goliath's home town. He hoped that since Saul and Achish were at war and Saul was now seeking his life, he would find a safe refuge in Gath.

Unsuprisingly, David's plan backfired. The king's servants reminded him of the Israelite chant, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" – tens of thousands of Philistines! David knew that his life was in danger and so he pretended to be insane. In this way he was allowed to leave Gath unharmed. This is the psalm of praise and thanksgiving he wrote as a result.

Psalm 34 is an acrostic psalm, that is to say, each verse begins with sequential letters of the Hebrew alphabet – which consists of 22 letters. It was constructed with great care as well as expressing a great theme.

David provides us with his personal testimony, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears… This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles." (vv. 4, 6). But David is not boasting of personal blessings, he is praising God for his goodness to all who will turn to him in prayer when they are in trouble. David turns his experience of God's goodness into an appeal that others might turn to this gracious God and find similar answers to prayer so that they too might enjoy the abundant blessings of God:

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (v. 8)

David wants all who are in trouble ("the afflicted, v. 2) to turn to God for help so that they can, "Glorify the Lord with me: let us exalt his name together" (v.3).

We also have much reason to "extol the Lord at all times" and for his praise to be always upon our lips (v. 1). God loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world to be our Saviour. Jesus loved us so much that he took upon himself the judgment our sins deserved and paid their penalty in full. Risen from the dead, he has given us his Spirit in our hearts, assuring us of his love and that we belong to him for all eternity. He is always ready to hear our prayers and receive our thanksgiving.

Think of what God has done for you in Christ and then read this psalm again making it your heartfelt testimony and response. 

As one who has tasted the goodness of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, take some time to think how you might encourage others to taste and see that he is good. A good beginning would be to ensure that his praise is always upon your lips.

Father God, we praise you for your goodness and mercy and particularly for the abundant blessings that are ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. May his praises often be the theme of our conversations. Help us to point others to him that they also may taste and see that you are good.

Peter Misselbrook