Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 25 2013 - Luke 22:35-53 – Weak disciples

At the Last Supper, Jesus had washed his disciples' feet; he had been among them as one who served. Now they are arguing about which of them is the greatest. Have they learned nothing from Jesus? Have they learned nothing of the nature of his kingdom and how different it is from the kingdoms of this world?

Despite their failure to act as disciples, Jesus promises that they will have a part in the kingdom which has been given him by the Father. One day they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, but for the present they need to learn what it means to follow Christ in his humiliation.

In the same vein, Jesus exposes Peter's brash self-confidence. It is evident that he does not know his own character. He is weak and will deny Jesus, but Jesus has prayed for him, will keep him from Satan's clutches and will enable him to be a strength to his brothers.

Jesus and his disciples go on to Gethsemane. There Jesus asks his disciples to support him by praying with him. Again they show their weakness by falling asleep. The conduct of the disciples vividly reminds us of our own frailty.

All three Synoptic Gospels record the agonised prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his betrayal and arrest. They all record the desire of Jesus to avoid the torment that lay ahead of him but also his submission to the Father's will. But Luke adds a couple of significant details; he speaks of Jesus sweating blood as he prayed, such was his agony of spirit. Luke also records that, "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him" (Luke 22:43).

There are mysteries here that we cannot fully fathom. There is a sense in which we see here the weakness of Christ. He needed to be strengthened by the ministry of an angel in his hour of need. The angel strengthened him by assuring him that his Father had not abandoned him; he would be with him even when it seemed that he had turned his back on him.

Strengthened by the ministry of an angel, Jesus went to the cross for our salvation – refusing to call on twelve legions of angels to rescue him. At the cross we see both the 'weakness' of God and the power of God that is stronger than any human strength. God's power is made perfect in weakness.

Raised from the dead, Jesus is now the one who ever lives to help and strengthen us in time of need:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In our weakness we may turn to Christ our Saviour. He has tasted human weakness but he possesses all the power in the universe. He strengthens us in our weakness. And in ways I don't profess to understand, he also sends his angels to minister to us in our weakness (Hebrews 1:14).

Thank you Jesus that you are never asleep when we need your help. Thank you that you know all about our weakness and yet have promised that we will inherit your kingdom. Help us to trust in you, depend upon you and to know your risen power made perfect in our weakness. Help us also to strengthen one another that together we may live the cruciform life of your kingdom and so confound the kingdom of this world.

Apr 25 2019 - 1 Samuel 10 – Saul anointed as king

Through the providential loss of his father's donkeys, Saul gets to meet Samuel and Samuel is instructed by the Lord to anoint Saul as king over his people – his inheritance (1 Samuel 10:1). Samuel, the seer, then tells Saul the various people he will meet on the way home and what they will say and do; these are signs that the Lord is with him. Saul is told that that at Gibeah, the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully on him and he will prophesy with them; he "will be changed into a different person" (v.6). The Spirit will equip him for the task to which God is calling him.

When the Spirit fell on him, "God changed Saul's heart" (v.9). He joined in prophesying with the procession of prophets at Gibeah to the astonishment of all who saw him.

Samuel summoned representatives from all Israel to meet with him at Mizpah. Samuel reminded the Israelites that the Lord, the God of Israel, had redeemed their ancestors from Egypt and given them victory over all their enemies. The Lord had been their king and they had prospered under his leadership of them. In asking for a king like the nations they were rejecting the Lord as their king. Nevertheless, in response to their demands, Samuel has called them together to determine the king whom God would appoint over his people Israel. Then, through an elaborate elimination procedure Saul was selected to be Israel's king and was acclaimed as king by all the tribes of Israel – except for a few dissenting scoundrels.

This all seems rather strange. Saul is anointed as king by Samuel before this elaborate selection procedure at Mizpah. What was that all about? God himself had selected Saul to be king over his people, he revealed his choice to Samuel and he made the lots fall so that Saul was selected. The public selection of Saul was a demonstration to Israel that this is the man whom God had chosen.

We read that "Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord" (v.25). We would love to know what Samuel said and what he wrote down; it was doubtless a summary of the law God had given through Moses. Samuel's actions are a reminder that the one who is to be king over God's people must not be like the kings of the nations. He is not an absolute monarch who can make laws of his own and who is free to behave as he wishes and treat the people of his kingdom as he pleases; he is bound by the law of God and is to live in obedience to God's law. In this way, the king is not to be a tyrant but is to be an example to and leader of the people of God.

Saul's kingship seems to start well, but it will not last. We will soon find that Saul can only be happy as king while he remains head-and-shoulders above everyone else in Israel. He is only happy so long as he is the one who receives the praise of the people.

Though Jesus was, and is, the Lord of glory, he humbled himself and became like us in every way except that he was without sin. He not only came to be our Saviour, he came also as our example, leader and Lord. He came to show us the kind of life God calls us to live, a life of faithful service. He calls us to follow him.

Lord God, we desire no king except our faithful Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. May your Spirit work in us to transform us from the people we used to be and to create us afresh in the image of your Son. May he equip us for the tasks you are calling us to do. Keep us from rebellion against king Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook