Late Than Never
a sermon based on Luke 24:44-53
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
A few weeks ago, we heard about Thomas, his doubts, his questions
about the risen Jesus. That was Johns account. This week we celebrate Ascension Day,
the day our Lord said fare-well to his disciples before being lifted into the sky.
Right before Jesus leaves, he appears to his friends one more time. Jesus
suddenly appears among the disciples, and 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
couldnt believe their eyes. Thomas in Johns account didnt see Jesus and
doubted, but in Lukes account the disciples have doubt even as Jesus stands before
them. They think hes a ghost. Theyre scared like little kids. It makes
you wonder why. Didnt they hear the teachings of Jesus? Didnt they hear Jesus
talk to them about the sign of Jonah didnt 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
didnt I see that? and other such exclamations. Now, finally they understand.
It was about time.
Better late than never!" some would say. But, here is the thing, it
took for Jesus to unlock their minds, it took a special revelation by God himself for the
disciples to get it. It wasn't up to them.
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 the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
Thats why we pray before reading the Scripture in our bible study. And you know
what? I think thats 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 weeks service by having a prayer for illunation before the readings.
The fact that we need God to understand puts a whole new twist on our (human) theology,
doesnt 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 Gods grace alone.
It is God who is doing the revealing of Gods truths, it is not our natural intellect
who understands. The apostle Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians, chapter one:
"For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us
who are being saved it is the power of God...Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the
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. On this Ascension Day let us open ourselves up to Jesus to
unlock our minds and give us understanding as well. As we celebrate Jesus taking his
place at the right hand of God the Father, may we ask God to reveal to us the
possibilities that Jesus can unlock in our lives. Amen.