He opens their mind to understand the Scriptures

More from Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon last Sunday, on the connection between Scripture and Jesus:

Luke tells us: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Like the parent who after embracing her child opens the closet to show him that there are no monsters, or who kneels and shows her that there is nothing under the bed, so Jesus next opens the Scriptures to show His children the truth – the truth of His Word. That what happened the past few days was no accident, no series of unfortunate events, and not things spinning out of control – but what had been prophesied and spoken of from the beginning and all through the Scriptures. Everything that had been written, spoke of and pointed to Him and His Easter work.

And so Jesus opened the Scriptures to them and filled their minds with the truth. He told them about the cross and Isaac’s burden of wood in Genesis. He told them about His Supper and the flesh and blood of the passover lamb in Exodus. He told them about His atonement for sin and the sacrifices in Leviticus. He told them about His death for the life of the world, like it was with Joseph. He told them how He was the real strong man, like Samson, who came to crash the gates of his enemy. He told them about the hatred and villainy He and a former King of Israel – David – received, even from their own people. He told them about the being pierced from Zechariah as He showed them His hands and side. He told them how He was Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. He told them about dry bones and resurrection. And with each teaching, each story, each shadow revealed, their fears were taken away and their faith increased. The monsters of uncertainty and the ghosts of sin were taken away, and replaced with the Spirit and Word of God.

Oh, they were still children! They would always be children, just as we will always be. But they were learning as they drank the pure spiritual milk of the Word, and growing up to and into their salvation – which is not a what, but a who. Growing up and into Christ – the one who was speaking to them and not only informing, but forming, them.

And that distinction is important. That the Word of God not only informs us, but also forms us. For being a child of God is not simply a matter of the head, but of the heart. Of life that is not just known, but lived. Perhaps we have too often put asunder these two things that God has joined together. The Word of God became flesh, and He still does, as He now comes and lives in and through us. That we live who we are; who we have been made in our baptism.

That is what John means when he goes on to talk about the “practice of sinning” and the “practice of righteousness.” That is not simply of matter of knowing what is right and wrong, or of will power and determination to follow the Law. It is a matter of being, of abiding in Christ. That born anew as children of God, we no longer follow the false promises and lies of the devil, but instead, follow the true and sure promises of God, and find our life in Him. Practicing righteousness by repenting of our sin and abiding in His forgiveness and love, and thus growing into Him.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 3 Sermon.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    It’s important to add that Jesus, in opening their minds, didn’t just give them a proper explanation of what the Scriptures said about Him. He performed a supernatural work in them.

    1 Corinthians 2:12-14. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

    I’ll never forget the night of my conversion, when this “opening” happened to me. One minute, there was a wall between my mind and the words of Scripture (as there had always been). The next minute, I actually understood what those words were saying, and jumped with joy and excitement.

    (I’m not saying conversion is, or should be, like this for everyone. I understand how it’s a process over time for some believers. Others can’t remember a time when they didn’t believe, and so can’t remember a time when the Scriptures weren’t open to them.)

  • Tom Hering

    It’s important to add that Jesus, in opening their minds, didn’t just give them a proper explanation of what the Scriptures said about Him. He performed a supernatural work in them.

    1 Corinthians 2:12-14. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

    I’ll never forget the night of my conversion, when this “opening” happened to me. One minute, there was a wall between my mind and the words of Scripture (as there had always been). The next minute, I actually understood what those words were saying, and jumped with joy and excitement.

    (I’m not saying conversion is, or should be, like this for everyone. I understand how it’s a process over time for some believers. Others can’t remember a time when they didn’t believe, and so can’t remember a time when the Scriptures weren’t open to them.)

  • George A. Marquart

    The Scriptural record of the 50 days between our Lord’s resurrection and Pentecost raises a number of questions.

    Our Lord appeared to the eleven Apostles on the evening of His resurrection and breathed the Holy Spirit on (or into? ἐνεφύσησεν a hapax legomenon; you can hear the word “infuse” in that) them, thereby doing for the new creature what God did to Adam when He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Scripture makes it clear that the way in which the Holy Spirit dwells with God’s people in the new Kingdom is different from the way in which He dwelled with His people in the Old Testament: (John 7: 37) “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” And: (John 14: 16) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Note that even on the night He was betrayed He was careful to make that distinction between “with you” and “in you”.

    But a week later the Apostles were still in that room, with the doors locked. The next time we see them they are by the Sea of Tiberias. Peter had said to them, (John 21:3) “I am going fishing.” We don’t know when he said this but maybe it was back in that room in Jerusalem when Peter decided that this whole adventure with Jesus was over. He was going back to the life he had before this all started. Maybe in the back of his mind he was still bothered by what the women had told the Apostles when they came back from the empty tomb, “Tell the Disciples and Peter.” So he was no longer one of them anyway. But then our Lord comes to meet the Apostles again, and He has Peter confess his love for the Lord three times as a sign that Peter was an Apostle again. So how does Peter react, (John 21:21) “Lord, what about him?” he asks about John.

    Then, just before His Ascension, the Apostles asked Him, (Acts 1:6) “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” Were they thinking back to the time before our Lord was crucified when He said to them, (Luke 22:28) “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” It would seem that when our Lord “opened their minds” (Luke 24:45) it did not all become clear as we often think. Later the foolishness persists when they decide that it is up to them to make sure there are 12 judges ready to judge Israel, and Matthias is chosen, although we often hear about how this showed their great understanding.

    I believe that the key to Scriptural puzzles is in the mercy and forbearance of God. These things were recorded so that we, who have received the Holy Spirit in Baptism, whether as infants or adults, would not think that everything would become clear to us right away, or that we would immediately improve our behavior. Growth in the faith and Christian living is a process which takes a lifetime and is powered by God through our parents, our relatives, our friends, our teachers, our pastors, the Word which we hear, read, and contemplate, the Body and Blood of our Savior, and by God Himself dwelling in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Therefore I believe that one of the reasons for those 50 days is so that the people of God, hundreds and thousands of years later, would not despair because we are not making the kind of progress in our spiritual lives which we think we ought to make, and which we so often hear the Apostles did, but in reality did not.

    But there is no denying that the Apostles suddenly did become entirely different. How does Scripture account for this? Twice Luke tells us, (Luke 24:49) “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” and (Acts 1:8) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is what happened on Pentecost. The Apostles already had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. This was not some new infusion (all those “they were filled-s” in Acts are in a Greek tense that does not refer to the time of the action; it would be just as correct to translate those as “they were all full of the Holy Spirit”); this was simply the Holy Spirit doing His will and showing His power on the day on which the people celebrated the founding of the Kingdom of Israel, the giving of the Law. This was a unique gift, given only to the Apostles, including St. Paul, who received his gift on the road to Damascus and in the home of Ananias.

    The Church could not wait for the spiritual progress to take place in the Apostles as it does in us. As we know from the many miracles they performed, this was indeed a special gift. We should not think that if we are unable to work miracles or acts of faith as the Apostles did, that we are not “real Christians.” That, by the mercy and forbearance of God is part of the reason for the 50 days.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    The Scriptural record of the 50 days between our Lord’s resurrection and Pentecost raises a number of questions.

    Our Lord appeared to the eleven Apostles on the evening of His resurrection and breathed the Holy Spirit on (or into? ἐνεφύσησεν a hapax legomenon; you can hear the word “infuse” in that) them, thereby doing for the new creature what God did to Adam when He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Scripture makes it clear that the way in which the Holy Spirit dwells with God’s people in the new Kingdom is different from the way in which He dwelled with His people in the Old Testament: (John 7: 37) “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” And: (John 14: 16) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Note that even on the night He was betrayed He was careful to make that distinction between “with you” and “in you”.

    But a week later the Apostles were still in that room, with the doors locked. The next time we see them they are by the Sea of Tiberias. Peter had said to them, (John 21:3) “I am going fishing.” We don’t know when he said this but maybe it was back in that room in Jerusalem when Peter decided that this whole adventure with Jesus was over. He was going back to the life he had before this all started. Maybe in the back of his mind he was still bothered by what the women had told the Apostles when they came back from the empty tomb, “Tell the Disciples and Peter.” So he was no longer one of them anyway. But then our Lord comes to meet the Apostles again, and He has Peter confess his love for the Lord three times as a sign that Peter was an Apostle again. So how does Peter react, (John 21:21) “Lord, what about him?” he asks about John.

    Then, just before His Ascension, the Apostles asked Him, (Acts 1:6) “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” Were they thinking back to the time before our Lord was crucified when He said to them, (Luke 22:28) “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” It would seem that when our Lord “opened their minds” (Luke 24:45) it did not all become clear as we often think. Later the foolishness persists when they decide that it is up to them to make sure there are 12 judges ready to judge Israel, and Matthias is chosen, although we often hear about how this showed their great understanding.

    I believe that the key to Scriptural puzzles is in the mercy and forbearance of God. These things were recorded so that we, who have received the Holy Spirit in Baptism, whether as infants or adults, would not think that everything would become clear to us right away, or that we would immediately improve our behavior. Growth in the faith and Christian living is a process which takes a lifetime and is powered by God through our parents, our relatives, our friends, our teachers, our pastors, the Word which we hear, read, and contemplate, the Body and Blood of our Savior, and by God Himself dwelling in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Therefore I believe that one of the reasons for those 50 days is so that the people of God, hundreds and thousands of years later, would not despair because we are not making the kind of progress in our spiritual lives which we think we ought to make, and which we so often hear the Apostles did, but in reality did not.

    But there is no denying that the Apostles suddenly did become entirely different. How does Scripture account for this? Twice Luke tells us, (Luke 24:49) “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” and (Acts 1:8) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is what happened on Pentecost. The Apostles already had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. This was not some new infusion (all those “they were filled-s” in Acts are in a Greek tense that does not refer to the time of the action; it would be just as correct to translate those as “they were all full of the Holy Spirit”); this was simply the Holy Spirit doing His will and showing His power on the day on which the people celebrated the founding of the Kingdom of Israel, the giving of the Law. This was a unique gift, given only to the Apostles, including St. Paul, who received his gift on the road to Damascus and in the home of Ananias.

    The Church could not wait for the spiritual progress to take place in the Apostles as it does in us. As we know from the many miracles they performed, this was indeed a special gift. We should not think that if we are unable to work miracles or acts of faith as the Apostles did, that we are not “real Christians.” That, by the mercy and forbearance of God is part of the reason for the 50 days.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart


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