by Frank Schaefer
primarily based on Luke 24:36b-48
Last week, we heard about
Thomas, his doubts, his questions about the risen Jesus. That was John’s
account. This week we hear this story from a slightly different angle, from the
writer of Luke. In his story, Jesus also suddenly appears among the disciples,
but according to Luke, all of the disciples were fearful and unbelieving.
Makes me wonder why? I
mean, here Jesus was standing right in front of them and they couldn’t believe
their eyes. Thomas in John’s version didn’t see Jesus and doubted, but in
Luke’s account the disciples have doubt even as Jesus stands before them. They
think he’s a ghost. They’re scared like little kids.
Hmmm… It makes you wonder
why. Didn’t they hear the teachings of Jesus? Didn’t they hear Jesus talk to
them about the sign of Jonah didn’t he explain that “the son of man will be
killed, but on the third day he will rise again?” So, why were they so
surprised and unbelieving when Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection?
According to Luke, there
was something missing: “understanding.” In Verse 45 Luke reports: “Then he
opened their minds to understand the scriptures . . .”
That must have been quite
an intense Sunday School class with students muttering: “Ahhh!” “Ohh!” “Riiiiight!”
“Of course!” “Why didn’t I see that?” and other such exclamations.
But it took for Jesus to
unlock their minds, it took a special revelation by God himself for the
disciples to get it.
Have you ever wondered why
two people can look at nature and one sees the signature of God in it and starts
praising the Maker, and the other sees nothing but a bunch of molecules caught
in the cycle of evolution and entropy?
Have you ever wondered why
two people read the same bible and one meets the living God (receives strength
and peace and joy for every-day living) and another sees nothing but a
collection of ancient human writings?
Fact is, that it takes an
act of God, a special revelation to each one of us personally in order for us to
see the light of God. Just like Jesus had to open the disciples’ minds, God
needs to open our minds, too, so we can understand.
Opening our minds, of
course, is the work of the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. That’s why we pray
before reading the Scripture in our bible study. And you know what? I think
that’s why we ought to pray before reading Scripture in our worship service and
before the sermon. Brothers and sisters, I have an announcement to make: after
reading this Scripture passage and while preparing this message, I have heard
God speak to me concerning this matter. And I think we would profit from praying
a prayer of illumination before our bible readings. Let us start a new,
wonderful tradition (for us new) in next week’s service by having a prayer for
illumination before the readings.
The fact that we need God
to understand puts a whole new twist on our (human) theology, doesn’t it? Our
faith, the fact that we believe and understand something of the mystery of God,
is not rooted in any of our doing, it is rooted in God’s grace alone. It is God
who is doing the revealing of God’s truths, it is not our natural intellect who
True Wisdom is not
something we can obtain, we can’t get it on our own--not even if we worked
extremely had and studied all there is to study. God’s wisdom is not like
earthly wisdom, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
I am experiencing this
whenever I teach Confirmation class. I can teach all I want, but even the best
curriculum will not cause any of those kids to learn and understand matters of
faith. It has to be revealed by God. They have to have an experience of God in
order to really understand. And that I can only pray for. That’s sort of a
paradox in Christian Education—how do you “teach” what is most central about the
Christian faith, namely an intimate knowledge of God?
If God gives understanding
to whom God wills, is there anything we can do in the process of growing
spiritually? Yes, I believe there is. We can be open, we can pray that God may
open our minds. I would like us to close this service with a chorus that
expresses nothing less than this attitude: “Open the Eyes of my heart, Lord."
What a wonderful prayer this is. As we sing it I would like to invite anybody
who feels the tug of the Holy Spirit to come forward and kneel at the altar and
pray for a new and deeper understanding of Jesus. Come and pray the words of
this song: "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you!" Amen.