Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 26 2013 - Luke 22:54-23:12 – Herod and Pilate became friends

The Jewish Sanhedrin judged Jesus worthy of death since he claimed to be the Son of God. But they had no power to execute, so they took Jesus off to Pilate to have the Romans do their dirty work for them. The Jewish leaders accused Jesus before Pilate of claiming that he is King of the Jews – a political charge that they hoped would trouble Pilate sufficiently to want to get rid of him. However, Pilate could find no reason to execute Jesus – he appeared quite harmless to him. Then he learned that Jesus was a Galilean. So Pilate immediately sent Jesus off to stand trial before Herod, the one whom the Romans had set up as king of the Jews – or at least the region of Galilee.

Herod was at first pleased to see Jesus. He had heard a great deal about him and the miracles he had been performing. Herod hoped that Jesus would put on a show for him, but he was soon disappointed. Jesus would not reply to his many questions or do anything to entertain Herod. So his pleasure turned to scorn and "Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate" (Luke 23:11). As a result, Luke tells us, "That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies" (23:12). They were united in their perplexity and frustration concerning Jesus and united in feeling that they were being forced to take unnecessary action by the Jewish leaders.

Jesus has a way of reconciling enemies. Here they were reconciled in fear of Jesus, fear that led them to humiliate him. More importantly, Jesus is able to reconcile those who were previously enemies of God. This was why Jesus did not defend himself before his accusers but submitted to their humiliation, and ultimately to the cross. His death was to be the means by which we, the enemies of God, would be reconciled to him (see Romans 5:10). More than that, it would be the means by which that wall of suspicion and prejudice between Jew and Gentile would be broken down.

Jew and Gentile leaders were united in opposition to Jesus and in sending him to his death. Through his death, Jew and Gentile would be reconciled and share together in the blessings God promised to Abraham.

And we have now been given a ministry of reconciliation. Jesus has entrusted his followers with the task of mending a fractured world through the message of the cross by which people are reconciled to God and to one another.

In 1994 Rwanda was torn apart by tribal warfare and brutal massacres in which it is estimated that nearly one million people were killed – 700,000 Tutsis being killed by their Hutu neighbours. One might have expected that the wounds inflicted to that society were beyond healing. But there are now remarkable stories of reconciliation coming out of Rwanda. The Gospel message of Christ crucified is enabling people to forgive and be reconciled to those responsible for killing their families. The situation remains fragile, but only Christ can bring healing to such wounds.

Father, we pray today for places where division and hatred seem to have the upper hand and where lives are torn apart in the conflict. Prince of peace, we cry to you to heal the wounds of our world and so to work by your Spirit that you may make wars cease to the ends of the earth. Break the bow and shatter the spear. May all the world be still and know that you are God. May you be exalted among the nations; exalted in all the earth. Lord Jesus, may my words and actions make people friends not in their opposition to you but in common love for you and one another.

Apr 26 2019 - 1 Samuel 13:1-15 – Samuel rebukes Saul

Israel had asked for a king like the nations. Samuel had warned them, "This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots." (1 Samuel 8:11-12). A king will demand the best of Israel's men for his army and that many others should be engaged in support for the military machine. But the people did not listen; they wanted a king like the nations.

And that is what they got. Saul chose 3,000 men from Israel to be in his army, 2000 to be commanded by him and 1,000 by Jonathan, his son. But they were no match for the Philistines whose soldiers were as numerous as grains of sand (v.5). Clearly Saul had a long way to go in developing his army before he could match that of the Philistines – or any other threatening nation.

Saul and his soldiers were quaking with fear in Gilgal. He must quickly have realised that military might would not give him victory over the Philistines – he did not have it; nor had Israel ever won their battles through military superiority. Saul realised that he needed the help of the Lord, the God of Israel. So he sent for Samuel to come to him at Gilgal.

A whole week passed while his troops began to sneak away to their own homes, convinced that a life in Saul's army was a sentence of death. In Samuel's absence Saul ordered that the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings they had set apart for Samuel's arrival be brought to him and he offered them to the Lord, taking upon himself the role of a priest.

Samuel had told Saul the duties and responsibilities of a king, based on the law given through Moses, and had ensured that these were recorded and kept safe before the Lord. But Saul must have thought, this is no time for petty law-keeping; extreme situations demand extreme measures. So he took upon himself the role of a priest in seeking God's favour through sacrifice. In doing so he seems to have believed that the ceremony was of first importance. If only the right offerings can be made then surely the God of Israel will rise to the defence of his people. In this he was adopting the thinking of the nations around him who believed that they could manipulate their gods through ceremonies and sacrifices – think of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in the days of Elijah.

Samuel arrives as Saul finishes the offering and is horrified. He cries out, "What have you done?" (v.11). Saul tries to defend himself by saying that the crisis situation demanded it – he had to seek the Lord's favour (v.12). I wonder whether it crossed his mind to try prayer.

Samuel responds by saying, "You have done a foolish thing. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command." (vv.13-14). The king was required to keep the Lord's commandments; he was not supposed to come up with schemes of his own devising to win the Lord's favour. Saul is left with 600 men and the knowledge that his days as king are numbered; God has determined that someone else will take his place.

Are there times when we seek to do things our own way rather than God's way and then, when they do not work out, seek to bargain with God for his favour? We need to remember that obedience is better than sacrifice (see 1 Samuel 15:22).

Living God, help me to remember that, in myself, I have no ability to win the battles I face nor to command your favour. Thank you for the Lord Jesus who has won the battles for us and has secured an eternal place in your favour by his own perfect obedience and sacrifice. By your Spirit, keep me faithful and obedient in following him.

Peter Misselbrook