Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 5 2013 - Mark 12:18-37 – When the dead rise

The Jewish leaders are intent on finding a way to condemn Jesus. They decide that they will try to trap him with his own words. First of all the Pharisees and Herodians have a go. They tried to trick him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar. It’s a question designed either to lose him credibility among the crowds who hate the Roman occupation of their land, or to get him into fatal trouble with the Roman authorities. But Jesus sees through their flattery and deceit; he produces a response which is as memorable as it is full of wisdom. His answer silences his questioners and rescues him from condemnation by the crowd and by Rome.

Now it is the turn of the Sadducees to try their hand at tripping him up. They tell Jesus a story about seven brothers who, each in turn, have the same woman as their wife. “At the resurrection whose wife will she be?” they ask him (Mark 12:22). The Sadducees did not believe in any form of afterlife and, in their arrogance, they believe their story shows that any notion of life beyond this world is absurd and that those who believe such things are simply naive.

But Jesus is not to be confounded by their fables. He replies, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven…” (12:24-25).

Jesus rebukes the ignorance of the Sadducees, but his reply leaves us (or at least me), with so many more questions. I understand that there will be no more need for reproduction in the resurrection – there will be people enough in the life to come. But will we no longer have a special relationship with those who have been our family here below? My dad who died recently was looking forward to being reunited with my mum who had died three years earlier. Does Jesus’ answer suggest that such desires are misplaced sentimentality? In the resurrection, will the one who is currently my wife mean no more to me then than the next woman? And in what sense will we be like the angels? I find this very confusing.

I can hazard a guess at an answer to some of these questions. I might suggest that my wife will mean no less to me in the resurrection than she does now but that others will mean far more in that day – that we shall truly be conscious of being one family through the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, many questions remain – particularly on us being like the angels! I’m sure that it does not mean that we shall be dressed in white, have wings and play harps!

It is salutary to realise that some or our questions just have to remain unresolved for the present. It was said of Jesus during his earthly ministry that he did all things well. We can trust him to do the same for the age to come. We cannot fully imagine what it will be like – how shall the wolf lie down with the lamb and the leopard with a young kid? I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of surprises and delights in the age of resurrection. But of one thing I’m also absolutely sure, there will be no disappointments.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you have given me a living hope through your resurrection from the dead. I know that death is not the end and that I will share in your resurrection life. I can only begin to understand what this means, but I do know that it will be unutterable glory. I gladly trust you for all that’s to come.

Mar 5 2019 - Exodus 32:1-35 – The golden calf

Moses had climbed up a mountain which had all the ferocity of a volcano. He had gone for so long that the people begin to think that he was not coming back. Who will lead them now? The pillar of fire and smoke has gone; the fire is on the mountain. So the people decide that they need a more permanent symbol of the presence of the god who has brought them out of Egypt and who will lead them into the land of promise. They ask Aaron to make them an idol, a god they can see and touch.

Aaron gathers the golden jewellery the people are wearing, has it melted down and shaped like a calf. When the people see it they declare, "This is the god who brought us up out of Egypt."

There is a deep irony in the fact that the Israelites are making an image of god, while God is delivering the Law beginning with the command that the Israelites should make no image of him.

It is easy for us to see the utter foolishness of the Israelites. But we are not so quick to spot our own folly. All too easily we place our security and hope in the things we can see and touch; the things we can control. It is hard to trust a God whom we cannot see.

God knows what the people are doing and is filled with anger. He tells Moses that he will destroy them and make a new people for himself from Moses and his descendants.

Note the remarkable selfless prayer of Moses (cf. Psalm 106:19-23). He pleads that God might spare the people, not because they deserve it, but for the sake of his own name and glory. He pleads what God has already done for them – he rescued them from slavery and brought them safely out of Egypt. He pleads God's reputation – what will the Egyptians say if they hear that the Israelites have perished in the desert? He pleads God's promises – remember your covenant with Abraham and your purpose to bless. And because of Moses' prayer, the people are spared.

Moses descended from Sinai with the two stone tablets in his hand engraved by the finger of God. Half way down he met Joshua who had been waiting for him. As they got nearer the bottom of the mountain the sounds of the people's idolatrous celebration could be heard. Joshua thought that the people were being attacked, but Moses quickly sets him right.

At the foot of the mountain Moses dashes the stone tablets to the ground where they shatter. This is no angry or impulsive gesture. Moses is demonstrating that the people have broken the covenant and no longer deserve to be called the people of God. The golden calf was burned – it was probably a wooded frame covered with hammered gold plates – and the remains ground into powder to be slowly and unpleasantly consumed by the people in their water. Those who would not turn away from their idolatry are to be put to death. Moses again intercedes with the Lord for his people. Like Paul in Romans 9:3, he is willing to sacrifice his own place in God's kingdom if only the Israelites can be saved.

God's grace was displayed when only three thousand died that day rather than all the people being rejected. How much more wonderfully is the grace of God displayed in the Lord Jesus. He, the spotless Lamb of God died for us that we might be forgiven – that our names might be written indelibly in the Lamb's Book of Life. Three thousand died on that day, but when Christ had died and been raised from the dead three thousand were added to his people in one day (Acts 2:41). Grace triumphs over judgment.

Gracious God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thank you that you do not treat us as our sins deserve but have written our names in the Lamb's Book of Life and will save us from the wrath to come. Forgive us that all too often our hearts turn away from you to idols which seem so much more substantial. Help us to keep ourselves from idols.

Peter Misselbrook