Whenever there is a political scandal, you hear this question asked about the high-ranking official under investigation: “What did he know, and when did he know it?” Understanding the consecutive order of knowledge, decisions, and events is critical. It would be unfair to read the common knowledge results and guilt for some event back to the beginning of it, if the person at the outset had no knowledge or understanding of what was taking place. There is a progressive sequence.
We often look at the Scripture and at biblical characters and wonder how they could be so ignorant. In reference to the disciples – who are featured in our final Scripture devotional today – we are amazed at how little they understood of relatively straight-forward remarks by Christ before his death, burial, and resurrection. Of course, it is nearly impossible for us to drop into their sandals and context. We know the end of the story; but in the heat of the middle of it all, that Christ would conquer the grave and show up alive on the other side of a Roman cross was too much for them to imagine.
But there is even a larger dynamic at work. We read today that Christ opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. We have the divine presence of God living within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Prior to the Day of Pentecost, this was but an occasional experience of those especially inhabited and empowered by God for special ministry and service. We undervalue this resource. I have often preached that as much as we look at the miraculous events of the Bible where God showed up in powerful and personal ways on (most often very widely separated) occasions, all of those Old Testament era saints would trade that in a heartbeat to have the resource we possess of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Our series has been on the work of Christ on the Cross, but among the benefits that follow is the coming of the Holy Spirit that marks the age of the Church. Among the works done by the third person of the Godhead is that of illumination – which means that the Holy Spirit provides a ministry of enlightenment to open our minds to understanding the Scriptures. But as with all works of the Spirit, we may cause hindrance to that enablement by thwarting it through complacency, or worse. If you have chosen to track with us through this series by following these devotionals and the resources Chris has also put on this page for the iGrow groups … then good for you! Thank you. And I encourage you to tell others to participate the next time the church makes this sort of resource available as a complementary tool.
The passage today says that the disciples were told that they were witnesses to the cross work. A witness is one who bears testimony. And though we today are not eyewitnesses of the cross, we still bear testimony of the benefits of the words and concepts we have studied and the way they have changed and impacted our lives. The next series that begins this coming Sunday is one where you will be challenged to be a Matthew – like one of the disciples – who was desirous that others meet the person who so impacted his entire life.
In conclusion, I hope that through this series your minds have been opened to the Scriptures in new ways. I trust that our delving into words that are admittedly big ones with lots of syllables and letters has made you not only more intellectually aware of what Christ has done on the cross, and not only emotionally and spiritually more profoundly grateful, but also more equipped to better proclaim the cross words of eternal life. That is my hope for you, as it has in fact been my desire for you over all these 19 years that God gave me to be his under-shepherd in this place.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
36 While they were still talking about this, 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 Ascension of Jesus
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.