The Third Sunday of Easter (4/26/2009)

He Opened Their Mindsto Understand the Scriptures

Lessons:      Acts  3:12-19      Psalm 4      1st John 3:1-7      St. Luke 24:36b-48

Prayer of the Day:     Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life, and you adopt us to be your children. Fill us with your words of life, that we may live as witnesses to the resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24:36b Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to 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." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

St. Luke 24:36b-48, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

I've been taught... and I've been taught. There have been times when teachers have filled my mind with information: explanations, dates, relationships, limits, expectations... It has happened at the hands of high school, college, and seminary instructors. Supervisors at work have done it in preparing me for new jobs. Leaders in civic organizations have laid out expectations for me. I've walked away from these experiences better informed, and perhaps even a bit more capable.

But there have also been people who have truly taught me. Parents, other family members, mentors throughout my life, close friends and colleagues - there have been times when these people have gone a step beyond filling my mind with information. There have been times when they have literally opened my mind to a new understanding of what was at hand. When a person is touched by that kind of teaching, the world never quite looks the same again. That kind of teaching is a closer kin to conversion than it is to indoctrination. It provides a depth of understanding that transforms who we are, and the way we live.

I imagine that to be what happened that first Easter evening. The disciples had been devastated by the horrible turn of events during Jesus' last week of life. They buried him, and gathered together to console and support one another. On Easter morning, according to St. Luke, Mary and Mary and some other women reported that an angel had told them Jesus was living, but most of thee others considered it an idle tale. Later that evening two of them (who had been planning to spend the night in Emmaus, some seven miles outside of Jerusalem) came rushing back to report that Jesus had appeared to them on the road. While they were trying to understand what this all meant, suddenly Jesus appeared in their midst. He greeted them with peace, showed them his wounds, ate with them and then, St. Luke tells us, he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

From that point on, nothing was the same. They worshipped him. They were filled with joy. They were continually in the temple praising God. They followed his command to share this good news with the whole world, and their witness changed the course of history.

There is a power in God's word: the power to change believers. As Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, he transformed them from a frightened, bewildered and paralyzed group to a bold, passionate and persuasive one. St. Luke will tell us later (in Acts 17:11, for instance) that they dedicated themselves to studying the Scriptures, and it became their strength and their wisdom.

At Saint Peter, we have declared our intent to be a growing people. One truth that lies behind that desire is our belief that God's word possesses a transforming power. As we spend time in daily devotions, weekly study, and weekly worship, the word of God has its way with us, and begins to transform us into the people God needs us to be. Apart from this word, we remain only a shadow of what we might be. But empowered by this word, we gain a strength far greater than we had ever imagined.

Jesus was instrumental in helping those early believers discover in God's word the power to be transformed into faithful and courageous followers, who would never again be the same. He can do the same for us as well. Will we spend enough time with God's word that we give him the chance? Will we become the growing people we have set out to be? May God grant that this be so among us. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. What were the disciples like before they saw Jesus that day?
  2. How did his appearance among them change them?
  3. How do you suppose they differently understood his mission and ministry after he opened their minds?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. What are my personal disciplines for studying and reflecting on God's word?
  2. How do I invite Jesus to be part of that experience?
  3. When has my mind been opened by God in the past?