Their Minds Were Opened
Their Minds Were Opened
So here’s the scene…Jesus was crucified in Luke 23, very much dead, and then buried on a Friday night. Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, meaning they weren’t allowed to touch a dead body or do any work, so they could not embalm his body properly until Sunday morning. Early on Sunday morning, no doubt after a sleepless night, some of the women who had become followers of Jesus went to the tomb with spices to finish the embalming process on Jesus’ body.
But they found the stone rolled away, no body of Jesus anywhere, and two angels telling them that he is risen. So they ran back to the city, rounding up the apostles and the rest of the disciples to tell them what happened. Look at 24:11 – but these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. Typical men, right? The women said “Jesus is alive!” And at least one of the men probably said, “actually, no he’s not. No one could come back to life after that.”
Remember, most of Jesus’ closest followers as well as many people in the city during this time are visitors from other parts of the region who have traveled in for the holiday. In fact, two of them say you guys can do what you want, we’re leaving, and they start walking home from Jerusalem. These guys are disappointed, dejected, sorrowful, probably angry… they aren’t sticking around for any more of the holiday. Culturally they would have stayed in town for 7 days to mourn the loss of a loved one – but not these two. It hurts too much…they are headed home.
And one of the most gracious and gentle aspects of Jesus’ ministry is how he moves toward those who are disillusioned. He catches up with them on the road, walks with them, and hears them out. Have you ever watched that TV show, Undercover Boss? If you’ve never seen the show, a CEO of a major company gets into a disguise, and visits his or her own employees to hear what they think of the company, the boss, the process, etc.
That’s a bit of what’s happening here, although for very different reasons. These two men don’t recognize him at the moment, but they are saying to Jesus’ face, we thought he was the one. He massively let us down. We gave our lives to him, and now we look like fools. We hoped he would be the deliverer, a rescuer, that he would be the Messiah who would restore the kingdom to Israel.
Maybe these disciples remember Jesus’ words about rising on the third day, because they add, “besides all of this, it’s now the third day. Some of the women say they’ve been to the tomb and it’s empty. They say they saw some angels who say Jesus is alive, but you know how that goes. One of the guys with us actually ran to the tomb, and they were right that his body wasn’t there. But there were no angels either, so, typical women. All emotional, just hanging on to the past, too slow to realize it’s all over instead of just letting it go and getting on with life.”
And Jesus says in verse 25, “No, you guys are the ones who don’t get it. You’re the ones who are slow. Don’t you remember any prophecies about the Messiah? If you did, you would know v26 that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer before he can be glorified.” And then verse 27 is where it all came together for them…
“Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.”
Jesus takes the rest of the day to explain how the whole Old Testament points to him.
Then, you remember how the rest of it goes. They get to the village they were heading for, they invite Jesus to eat and spend the night, he agrees to dinner, and when he prays for the meal and breaks the bread, their eyes are opened, they see that it’s him and then he disappears. They both are like, “aaagh, we knew something was different. Our hearts were burning while he was talking to us and explaining the scriptures,” and without finishing their food, they booked it back to Jerusalem in the dark to let the others know that, turns out, the women were right after all, and Jesus is alive.
When they got back to the house where the others were, they said, “We’ve seen the risen Christ!” And they start to tell them the whole story. 36 As they were saying these things, he himself stood in their midst. He said to them,“Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.
And again, Jesus, with what I think is a little bit of humor, asks these terrified followers of his – two of which had already seen him alive – 38 “Why are you troubled? ” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Well, Jesus, to answer your question, “why are we troubled?,” We've prepared a PowerPoint.
- You were just beaten within an inch of your life on Friday morning, and now you seem fine. Next slide.
- You had thorns jammed into your head, and now your head looks normal. Next slide.
- And you had nails through your hands and your feet, and now you’re acting like nothing happened. Slide please
- The soldier shoved a spear into your heart… you died. You died. No one comes back from that. Next slide.
- You were put in a tomb, a huge stone was rolled in front of the opening, Roman guards were stationed outside…that’s the last we saw you.
- And, we’ll close with this – you just now walked through the wall! You didn’t knock, you didn’t need the door, just … Here you are!
So forgive us if we are a little jittery at the moment. And, like I said, Jesus gets it, he understands our humanity, so he offers, v 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
This is Jesus Christ, standing in front of them with his glorified body, the one he’ll have forever, and yet, he has kept the holes in his hands and his feet as proof that he really is the crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected king.
This is still hard for them to wrap their minds around, but it’s starting to sink in little by little… verse 41 But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them,“Do you have anything here to eat? ” 42 So they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
In Acts chapter 1, it says Jesus presented himself alive to his disciples “by many convincing proofs.” This right here – touch me, and let’s eat – are two of those convincing proofs. In two weeks, I’m going to take an entire sermon to talk through some additional convincing proofs that the resurrection is a true historical fact.
So, because of these two convincing proofs, the disciples are now at least somewhat convinced Jesus really is alive – it’s still sinking in, still a bit hard to comprehend, but here he is, standing in front of them – they can touch his arms, can’t argue with that… he ate food, can’t argue with that…and then verse 44:
44 He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Jesus is saying here the same thing he told the two guys on the road, which is that the entire Old Testament – The Law of Moses, that’s the first 5 books; the Prophets – that’s a lot of the rest of the OT; and the Psalms all have direct prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled in the life of Christ.
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
Oh how I wish I would have been in that room. Can you imagine? Fishermen who were never trained by a rabbi, now able to see and understand the Scriptures with more clarity than the high priests who could go into the Most Holy Place. Women, who were not even allowed all the way into the temple, not allowed to learn how to read or be the disciple of a rabbi, now given understanding and insight that would run circles around the very men who suppressed them. I think the disciples would have had their jaws on the floor the whole time as Jesus described for them things like:
- Moses was fully Hebrew, but raised fully Egyptian. I am fully God but was raised fully human. Moses delivered you from Egypt – I have delivered you from sin and death.
- The Passover lamb’s blood on the doorpost made the angel of death passover that house – I’m the Passover lamb! My blood applied to your heart by faith will cause death to pass over you too.
- Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son – I’m the only Son of God who willingly sacrificed me on the cross. God stopped Abraham from killing his son at just the right time and provided a ram – I’m the ram, dying instead of you!
- Ruth was a no name gentile with no claim to the promises of God. Boaz redeemed her, paid for her, took her as his bride – I’m the better Boaz who welcomes the poor, the outcast, the sinner at great cost to myself, making you into my bride.
- Solomon asked my Father for wisdom – I am the wisdom of God the Father.
- Joshua led Israel to take the promised land – I’m the new Joshua, here to take you into God’s promises, and the true promised land, the kingdom of heaven.
- Esther willingly put her life on the line to save her own people – I’m the new Esther who willingly went to the cross to save my people
- The Israelites ate manna, bread that fell from the sky – I am the Bread of Life that came down from heaven to you.
- They drank water that came from a rock – I am the Rock, and I am the Living Water!
- Noah built an ark to escape Judgment – I am the ark, the only way to escape the judgment for sin.
Then he continues, 46… “This is what is written. The Messiah will suffer (which I did) and rise from the dead the third day, (which I did) 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
You’ve seen this all coming together. You’ve seen the suffering, the rising, you’ve heard my sermons, my conversations, my interactions. You’ve seen the fulfillment of so many of the prophecies of Scripture, and now repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in my name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem… and you’re going to do that part. YOU are the witnesses. YOU are the mouthpiece. YOU are the paperboy. YOU are the news reporters. YOU are the preachers pleading with people to repent and be forgiven of their sins.
It’s the same message that was preached by the prophets all along. Repent and turn back to God, and you’ll find you’ve been forgiven! You can find that all throughout the OT. But this message isn’t just for Israel anymore either, it’s for all nations, all races, all ethnic groups, all ages, and YOU are going to be the ones who carry the news. YOU will witness people repenting of their sins, receiving forgiveness and proclaiming his name to all nations – YOU are going to be the ones who take it around the world.
They were now armed with a knowledge that even the highest priests and rabbis and scholars and scribes didn’t have. The philosopher Francis Bacon coined the saying “Knowledge is power,” and it sure seems like they had it now! They knew how every story on every page of Scripture pointed to Jesus! For those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, it made their hearts burn in them to see the truths of scripture, and how Jesus’ death and resurrection were always part of the story! They may have felt on top of the world now that they understood all of this, yet completely overwhelmed by the task at hand. Tell the story to all nations!? How in the world are we supposed to do that? We don’t speak other languages! We don’t live in those places! We don’t have the kind of money where we can quit everything and have enough supplies to just move around the world.
And then Jesus says 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”
I think most of us understand what power from on high Jesus is talking about here, and as we head into the book of Acts this Fall, you’re going to see this brought up a whole lot more, but the power these disciples are going to receive – this promise of the Father, the prophecies in the books of Isaiah and Joel, is that the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out on ordinary people. That’s the power that’s coming.
So, Jesus has opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and how they all point to him. Now he’s telling them to wait for the Holy Spirit. Two things I see in this text:
- Theology matters. Theology just means “the study of God.” Having a correct understanding of God’s word is massively important to how we worship, and how we follow Jesus. If it wasn’t, Jesus would not have taken the time to explain everything to these followers. If it wasn’t important, Luke wouldn’t have taken the time to write this book so that a man named Theophilus can be certain about the things he’s been taught – in other words, so he can know correct theology about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
- Knowledge isn’t power. We need to know good theology.
- We have every obligation as believers to continue to add to our understanding of the Bible, to not settle for what we already know. We must keep gathering as the body of Christ for preaching, for Bible study, for encouragement. We have every obligation to lean in, to think deeply, to ponder and meditate on God’s word, using Bible study tools to help us understand what we’re reading, to scrutinize the songs we sing in our gatherings to make sure they speak what is true
- According to verse 49, perfect theology alone will not win anyone to Jesus. Knowledge is not power. God himself is the only one who has the power to transform a life, to set a prisoner free, to heal the brokenhearted. To me, it looks like Jesus would say, I don’t want you going anywhere armed with perfect theology and no Holy Spirit. I don’t want you talking to anyone about the ins and outs of scripture if you don’t have the presence of God himself in and on you.
- The Spirit is power.
- Zechariah 4:6, Not by strength nor by might, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty
- It is the Spirit that enables us to do what and be who God has called us to be. Christ in me is the hope of glory.
It fits right along with what Jesus said in John 15, when he said, "I am the vine and you are the branches. Stay united to me and you will bear a lot of fruit, because.... And here it is… apart from me you can do nothing!”
You were not saved just to know something different than non-Christians, you were saved to do something God had planned and purposed for you before you were even born. In Christ, your life is not a throwaway. You have purpose; your life has meaning. According to the apostle Paul, you were predestined and chosen and called and justified and glorified in order that you would bear fruit for the kingdom of heaven as you live your life in the footsteps of Jesus.
What does it mean to bear fruit? It means you’re becoming like Jesus. Jesus was full of love, full of joy, full of peace, full of patience, kindness, always full of goodness and faithfulness, full of gentleness and self-control.
Ephesians 2:10 – We were created in Christ Jesus (that’s the new birth, being born again, made alive… if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, right? Our record of sin applied to Jesus, his perfect record of obedience applied to us) – We were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
And the reality is that cannot do those works or grow this fruit alone – We need to be empowered or clothed with or united to the very presence and power of Jesus, so that we are able do the things he has gifted and prepared and ordained for us to do. Which is why it’s such good news when he says in Matthew’s gospel, right before his ascension, “And remember, I will be with you always.”
So, to be a Christian is not just to believe the right things, as important as that is – Being an effective disciple of Jesus means we are partnered up with the resurrected and living person that is Jesus Christ, walking with him on the road, learning from him, being baptized or filled or immersed in his Spirit, whatever word you want to use, and staying united to him there in and by his grace until he returns or calls us home.
This is why I think a lot of Christians feel stuck in their faith. We think we have a knowledge problem. When we get stuck, we think we need to read more. So we read, and read, and read, and read, and still feel stuck, like what does all this knowledge really accomplish? The more I read, the more I realize I don’t know. And now, I don’t feel any closer to God than I was before!
I wonder if it’s because we’ve viewed the Holy Spirit as a force. An “it”. Some “thing” or some “energy” that makes people do weird things. We’ve forgotten he is a person who is a mirror image of Jesus, who can be grieved and joyful and sad, and can speak and think and listen and teach.
- Could it be that this is why we feel stuck when it comes to witnessing to others? We think we don’t know enough, instead of relying on the actual person called the Holy Spirit who lives in us and just opening our mouths and trusting that he will supply the content like Jesus promised?
- Could it be that we feel stuck in our work, in our marriage, in our parenting, in finding purpose in life because we are relying on what we know and what we understand instead of relying on Jesus’ personal presence with us?
- Could it be that we feel stuck in our faith because simply knowing the right things was never what God intended the Christian life to be?
Man, I’ve been there! Let me close with this: A promise and a tragedy.
The promise goes first: That is the promise of the Father, that when a person comes to faith in Christ, instantly they are inhabited by the person of the Holy Spirit. As AW Tozer pointed out, this is not something you have to beg or cajole or plead with God for. God is delighted to gift you with his very own presence the moment you believe. John 10:10 says that Jesus came that we could have life and have it in abundance. Despite what Satan has been saying ever since Eden, God is not looking to hold out on you. He wants you to know the fullness of life by his definition.
Here’s the tragedy: Many believers will be content to be stuck with half a spiritual life. I would say they are still saved, and children of God, but they’ll be content to believe that knowledge is power, and if they feel stuck, it’s because they just don’t know enough yet. They’ll try to think and reason their way through their lives and all the while the Holy Spirit who is a person that can be known and loved and interacted with is pushed to the side, forgotten, misunderstood, or neglected. I know this, because I’ve done it. I’ve had to repent of that this week. God I’ve pushed away your Spirit because I didn’t want to let go of control.
So as we shift this conversation into prayer, I want you to be brutally honest with yourself and with God.
- Question one: Are you feeling stuck in your walk with God? Or a better question might be Jesus’ question to the disciples… “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts?
- Maybe you are having a hard time believing that God exists at all, or maybe he exists but it’s hard to believe that he is good. Maybe you’re angry at God for some of the things he’s allowed into your story, and you just can’t trust him fully.
- Maybe like the disciples on the road, where you wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he walked up to you on the sidewalk because you’re so disillusioned, disappointed, and frustrated with life.
- Maybe you’re stuck with God’s word. Can’t figure out how to read it. Frustrated with it. Or maybe you’re on the other side – I read, and read, and read and I don’t really know that it’s changing anything.
- Or you’re depending on what you know instead of who you know.
- Take a minute to be honest with God. Tell him where you’re feeling stuck. If you know why you’re stuck, tell him. He already knows.
- Question two: Are you depending on your own knowledge?
- Have you just become lazy, and thought, well, I guess this is how the Christian life goes. It’s a lot more boring than I thought, but if that’s what I have to do to not go to hell for eternity, whatever. I’ll believe the stuff, read and pray when they ask me to, and sort of ride it out. Is that you? Not your spouse, your friends, you coworker – is it you?
- Have you sort of thrown up your hands and figured well, I guess I’m just going to be an anxious person my whole life. I guess I’m just going to have lustful thoughts, can’t do anything about it. I guess I’m just going to never be as knowledgeable as some people. Is that you?
- Confess those as sin and unbelief. Return to the Father! He’s ready to fill you with a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit, to walk with you, to know you, to give you strength to say no to sin and yes to God.
- Jesus, I want to know you. We’re going to sing this last one together. Not just know about you. I want to know you, to walk with you, to hear you speak, to know your presence with me all the time – not just during my 1 minute or 5 minute or 30 minute devotions in the morning – I want to know your presence with me all the time. I’m tired of being stuck. I’m tired of going through the motions – I want to know your power at work in me. I give you the keys to my house… I want everything you have for me.
20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen
Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Heb 13:20–21.
Daryl Witmer, What are the odds surrounding Jesus Christ? 2001 https://christiananswers.net/q-aiia/jesus-odds.html
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996)