Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 27 2013 - Luke 23:13-43 – Today you will be with me in paradise

Jesus was crucified with two criminals or terrorists, one on his right and the other on his left. One of them mocked Jesus, "Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39). But the other rebuked him saying, "Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong" (23:40-41).

This second criminal had seen something different in Jesus – Jesus who had prayed that those who crucified him might be forgiven. He knew that he was guilty of wrongdoing not just in the eyes of the Romans, but before God. He longed that he also might be forgiven and cried out, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (23:42). Somehow, this man could see that Jesus, hanging upon a cross, really was the King of the Jews – the long awaited Messiah. Somehow he knew that though Jesus might be put to death he would nevertheless establish his kingdom. I don't know what answer this nameless criminal might have been expecting or hoping for, but he was surely astonished to be told, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (23:43).

And what an extraordinary promise it is from one dying in agony: the promise of paradise; the promise of paradise today. Taking fruit from a tree had closed the gates of paradise against humanity; one hanging on a tree now promises paradise to a repentant sinner. Angels with flaming swords had once blocked the entrance to paradise; here God has opened up a new doorway through the broken body of his Son. If this man can be promised paradise through faith in Jesus, there is no-one against whom the gates are now barred. “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:11).

I remember some years ago when I was a pastor in London. I had been knocking on doors in a certain street and talking with residents. One recently retired east ender welcomed me and over some months we had many conversations together. But the one thing he just could not accept was the grace of God. He could not get his head around the fact that bad people could have a place in paradise. For him, the matter was clear; we all get what we deserve. He felt that he wasn't too bad a character and was prepared to take his chances. I could not get him to see his own need, nor the wonder of a Saviour who have given himself to secure our redemption.

Do you rejoice in this, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"? The worst of people found acceptance with him – tax collectors and sinners. And the most religious came to see that they had nothing to plead before him but their need. This is what Saul the Pharisee discovered through an encounter with the risen Savour. Like the dying thief, he saw that the crucified Jesus was the promised Christ, the hope of Israel and of the whole world.

Looking to Jesus, do you have the full assurance given to that criminal, that you also will be with him in paradise? "There is life for a look at the crucified one."

Father God, we thank you for the wonder of your saving grace in the Lord Jesus. I confess that I have no more right to paradise than had that dying thief. But I ask that you would remember me, forgive me, cleanse me. I believe that you are the way, the truth and the life. I believe that you are the door that leads again into the Garden of God. Help me to walk with you in the way and to draw others to join you in the walk to paradise.

Apr 27 2019 - 1 Samuel 16 – Samuel anoints David

Saul has become a wilful ruler who wants to have absolute power and do things his own way. His disobedience has resulted in him being rejected by God. Samuel seems to have found this hard to accept. Had not God chosen this man to be Israel's king? Had he not seemed head-and-shoulders above all rival candidates for kingship? Maybe, despite his unruly character, Samuel continued to see Saul as his protégé, the hope for the future unity and prosperity of Israel. So he is grieved that the Lord has rejected him.

Samuel is rebuked by the Lord for hanging on to hopes regarding Saul and is sent off to the little town of Bethlehem to anoint a new king from among the sons of Jesse.

I'm not sure what reputation Samuel had gained for himself in Israel but when he arrives in Bethlehem the elders of the town trembled and asked, "Do you come in peace?" Maybe they knew that Saul no longer enjoyed the Lord's favour and feared that Samuel had come to seek out a replacement among the families of the town. This, they feared, would stir up Saul's wrath and bring trouble on the town. But Samuel tells them that he has come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. The townspeople are invited to consecrate themselves and join Samuel in offering the sacrifice.

The Lord had told Samuel that he should anoint one of Jesse's sons to succeed Saul. When Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse's eldest son, he immediately thought that this must be the one whom the Lord had chosen. But the Lord tells him that this is not the one for, "The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Each of Jesse's sons is paraded before Samuel, but none of these is the one chosen by the Lord. There is only one son left, David, the youngest and least significant son who has been left in the fields to look after his father's sheep. When he is sent for and arrives before Samuel the Lord says, "Rise and anoint him; this is the one" (16:12).

On that day the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. But the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul who, instead, was tormented by an evil spirit – he is a man with a troubled mind. Saul's servants suggest that music may pacify him. David was already well known for his ability to play the lyre; one of the courtiers not only spoke of his musical ability but also described him as "a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him" (v.18). So David was summoned to play for Saul and was honoured with the title of Saul's armour-bearer. He has gained a place in the courts of the king.

God still looks upon the heart; he looks for a people who will reflect his own heart, who will be like his own beloved Son. What does the Lord see when he looks into your heart?

Lord, we are all too painfully aware of the many ways in which are hearts are prone to wander away from you and to be filled with thoughts that would make us ashamed if others knew of them. You know our hearts. You know that we love you and want to honour and serve you. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the power of your Holy Spirit within us, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Fill me with the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Peter Misselbrook