“He opened their minds so that they could understand” (Luke 24)

jesus among them.jpg

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ ” 

“The way to do research (according to Celia Green) is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.” There is no doubt but that Luke set out to research the facts about Jesus the Christ and the community that bore his name in just that way. As he said at the beginning of this account: “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.”  And here we arrive, perhaps, at “the point of greatest astonishment.” He documents the responses to the risen Christ with a cool objectivity: “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” Their sheer surprise and fear are mixed with disbelief. Jesus addresses both responses together:  “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” 

Jesus addresses those issues with a prosaic matter-of-factness, pointing to the evidence of their senses, seeing , hearing, touching, and to Jesus himself tasting their food. He offers the simplest of proofs that he is indeed alive in a way that they can comprehend. And now, at last, another component is mentioned -their joy and amazement. It’s really him! The worst possible case scenario (the death of their beloved leader) has given way to the best, and the emotions spill out, like a salt sellar where the top has come loose and the entire contents spill  out on to your chips. It’s all too much.

And Jesus steadies them, stirring not their emotions but their intellects:  “This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  And then this: “He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” On one level, this is just the disciples at Jerusalem playing catch-up with the disicples at Emmaus. God’s purposes can be known through the Scriptures. We have only to read them with him, so to speak, or rather, in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. “This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high….”

Look at those intertwining components of revelation: Scripture, Jesus the Messiah, and the communal call to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth in the power of the Spirit.

The promise of being clothed with power from on high (in verse 49) immediately recalls Gabriel’s explanation to Mary regarding her virginal conception in Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Thus, the Holy Spirit which empowered the impossible, a virgin conceiving God’s Son, will empower the community to do what is otherwise impossible, testifying to God’s salvation flowing to all nations in the name of God’s Son.

At the same time, this promise anticipates the incredible events and proclamation empowered by the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-42), as well as the Spirit coming upon Gentiles to demonstrate how God’s salvation involves all nations (Acts 10:1-11:18).

This is the revelation-anointing. It comes upon the dispirited and confused followers of Jesus and shows them, through the scriptures, the meaning and purposes of God. It anchors them upon the company of Jesus, through the breaking of bread, to see him as he really is. It prompts them into obedience. It empowers them for witness. And our faith becomes our eyes.

And we see for real.

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