Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 8 2020 - Mark 14:22-52 – The flesh is weak

Jesus knew that he was soon to be arrested, tried and put to death. Taking Peter, James and John with him into the garden of Gethsemane, he poured out his heart in prayer. He had wanted these three disciples to be his companions in his agony and prayer, but they fell asleep. Jesus' words to them are full of sad accusation, "Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:37-38).

The disciples were beginning to learn more about themselves. Soon they would run off and desert Jesus when he is taken captive. Before the night is out, Peter will deny that he ever knew his Lord. The flesh is weak.

And we are no different. We are full of good intentions and grand plans, but we all too often fail to live up to our words. Many years ago now, I was in Christian ministry as pastor of a church. I had, I believed, a clear vision of what a church should be and a longing to develop a community of the people of God where we would disciple one another and grow up into Christ. The stress of the work and a breakdown in my health led to me resigning from the pastorate. It was a devastating experience for me from which, more than 30 years later, I am still seeking to learn lessons. Above all, I was made painfully aware of my own weakness and the brokenness of all God’s people.

Such experiences underline the need for us to watch and pray, not just that we do not fall into temptation but also that we may have the strength to serve Christ as we should. We need to know ourselves and to be aware of own weakness and the frailty of others around us. But we need also to be fully confident that God's power is able to work in and through our weakness. As the Lord said to Paul, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." And Paul responded, "I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul's testimony is therefore, "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). We need to watch and pray: watch for the dangers we face, fully aware that we are weak; pray in the knowledge that we have one who is able to help us.

I am writing this during Lent, a time of preparation leading up to Easter. It's a time to reflect on our own weakness, but also upon the power and grace of God shown us in the Lord Jesus Christ – resurrection power; the power of life in the face of death. But the need to watch and pray will outlast Lent; it will last as long as we remain in our current weakness; it will only cease when we are finally transformed by God's power into the likeness of our risen Lord.

Lord Jesus, help me each day to watch and pray knowing that you are with me and that you pray with me and for me and never fall asleep. Keep me from the self-confidence that would boast that I will never let you down. Teach me the grace of humble dependence. Living God, by your Spirit equip me with everything good that I may do your will, working in me what is pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. And when I do fail, as I surely will, forgive me and restore me as you restored Peter of old, and then use me again for your glory.

Aug 8 2019 - Isaiah 11:1-12 – A branch from Jesse

Isaiah 11 builds on the prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah that we read yesterday in Isaiah 9. The Messiah will spring from "the stump of Jesse" (11:1). The kingly line of David will be cut down as God brings rebellious kings and people to judgment. But from this apparently lifeless stump, God will raise up a descendant of David to rule over his people. He will be equipped with the Spirit of the Lord, filling him with wisdom, understanding and power. He will delight in the fear of the Lord and will judge the people of God with wisdom surpassing that of Solomon (11:2-3).

God had told his people that their king was not to be like the kings of the nations around them; he was not to accumulate riches and power for himself while neglecting the poor and needy. But Judah's kings, like those of Israel, had adopted patterns of kingship common to the nations around them. God's Messiah, however, will judge the needy with righteousness and give decisions for the poor of the earth with justice (11:4). God's people must have longed for such a king.

Under the Messiah's rule, God's people will be brought back from the nations where they have been scattered in judgment, such as Assyria, Egypt and Babylonia (11:10-12). They will be restored as one people under the rule of one king. More than that, all of creation will live harmoniously under his reign of peace. The beautiful picture of a world transformed (11:6-8) concludes with the promise:

the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
    as the waters cover the sea. (11:9)

This is the world as God had intended it to be – all creation filled with the glory of God's presence and blessing. Creation itself groans in pain and with longing as it looks forward to that great day.

This prophecy finds its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus who is the Christ, the promised Messiah. We see something of this in Jesus' earthly ministry with his compassion for the poor and his healing of the diseases that destroy God's creation. We see something of his character as a man filled with the Spirit of God and marked by a life of righteousness and faithfulness. But his earthly life was brought to a cruel end when he was nailed to the cross – a day when Jew and Gentile conspired together to reject God's Messiah.

But the resurrection of the Lord Jesus marks a new era in the fulfilment of these promises of Scripture. God has raised Jesus his Messiah to the highest place in all creation. By his outpoured Spirit he is now gathering to himself a people from every nation under heaven – one people living under the gracious reign of one Lord. We cannot yet say that the earth is filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, but that day is drawing closer.

And that day shall come with the return of Jesus, when every knee shall bow to him and all of creation shall be transformed at his coming. Imagine then what it will be like when:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (11:6-7)

In truth, it defies our imagination.

Father God, we praise you for these beautiful and glorious pictures of all that you purpose to do through the Lord Jesus, your Messiah. We thank you that the definitive battle against sin and death, and all that spoils your creation, has already been won through Jesus' death and resurrection. We look with longing to the day of his coming when all things shall be made new and all promises fulfilled. Help us by your Spirit to tell the world of your Salvation, and to point them to the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

Peter Misselbrook