Luke 24: 44-53
The Christian faith, and those who believe in Jesus Christ, has come under much scrutiny in recent times. There are many unbelievers who have posed serious questions about the Christian faith. And all too often come to the conclusion that Christians are ignorant because, if we are honest, many Christians struggle to answer their questions. This leaves many Christians in a place where they struggle with their belief and faith because all too often they don’t understand things about God and how he works in this world.
When it comes to faith in Jesus have you have you have been in a place where you have struggled to understand. Have you have felt confused about God and what he says in his word? Have you ever been in a situation where you just wish you understood what is happening in your life, why God was or is allowing certain things to happen in your life, and in the world around you.
In today’s Gospel reading Luke tells of how Jesus addressed this issue with his disciples, who were in a place of confusion and did not understand or comprehend what was happening. Jesus appears to the disciples who were gathered together. They of course were frightened. While they were full of joy and amazement, they still struggled with doubt. Jesus showed himself to them physically and he then ate with them.
What Jesus did next is important. He spoke to them about His Word. We have seen this already where Jesus had interpreted the scriptures to two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Now he reminds them of what he had already spoken to them before, concerning what was written in scriptures about him from Moses, the Psalms and Prophets. In other words he was showing them that his life fulfilled what is recorded in the Old Testament. Jesus then did another thing of greater significance. He opened up their minds so they could understand the scriptures. You see the disciples, the very people who were with Jesus in his earthly ministry, were not able to understand, what was occurring, as indeed we are not able on our own. While Jesus was with them, before his resurrection, he spoke plainly about what was to take place, but each time they could not grasp what he was speaking to them about. Jesus the risen Lord is the only one who was able to open their minds to see. Once he had done this, he spoke his word and clearly and gave the gospel message to them that the Christ had to suffer and die and on the third day rise again so that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all nations beginning at Jerusalem in his name. And they were to be witnesses of this fact.
Now Jesus could have easily left it at that. He has helped his disciples see and understand the scriptures; he has spoken to them the gospel that is to be proclaimed in his name. What more do they need? Jesus has risen, he is alive they have seen him. Surely this is enough?
However, rather than giving the gospel over to the disciples, leaving them on their own, Jesus tells them that he is sending the promise of his Father upon them. They were to stay put until they were clothed with power from heaven. What is this promise? It is the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever considered why this is so important? The very gospel that is proclaimed to this day, that because of Christ’s death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sins, simply cannot be grasped by human reason. Rather, the Holy Spirit is given to you and me as gift. In fact the disciples were to be clothed with His power that enables the gospel to be preached and to be heard.
This promise of Father was fulfilled in the book of Acts. And it is closely connected with Jesus and his enthronement at his ascension. When Jesus was taken up to Heaven, he was exalted as King; he is seated in at the right hand of Father, he has complete authority; and he receives from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. Which he then gives out, because of this people are able to hear and receive the gospel. This promise is gift. It is given by our ascended Lord, and it is received. Again it is the risen and enthroned Lord of the church who is the one at work. And in fact he is still at work as we still have this promise through his Word today.
You see our eyes and minds still need to be opened to the reality of who Jesus is and to see what he has done for us. This goes against the grain of our modern world. Where everything has to be scrutinized, analysed and understood. We place such a high value of the human mind and gaining of knowledge and understanding. But all too often though, we can so easily become proud and over confident in our own reasoning. It is easy to see how we could come to a place where we think we know everything.
Make no mistake this goes for Christians as for anybody else. We’ve read that bible, we know what our Christian faith is about. What more is there for us to learn? Of course knowledge is gift from God and it should be perused. But when it comes to faith in God, we need to have humility. We need to realise that, even in our modern world, we don’t know everything. We are reliant upon having our eyes and understanding opened, just as the disciples were. We are dependent upon receiving the promised Holy Spirit through his Word.
The opening of the disciples minds by Jesus was not a once of event. It is not like Jesus opened up their minds to understand the scriptures and they knew it all! Let me give you some examples: let’s take the apostle Peter he was there at this gathering and his understanding was opened by our Lord. We have Peter at Pentecost with the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming the Gospel from the Old Testament prophets, with the result that the people respond and the church was started. But does this mean that Peter understood everything? No In Acts we find him resistant to the fact that the Gospel is for the Gentiles. He has to be moved by God through a vision before he actually comes to realise the reality that Gentiles are included in the Gospel promise. Take the Apostle Paul after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. When the scales fell of his eyes did he understand everything? No he did not. He had to spend time with the other disciples learning and growing, having his mind opened through the word. Or finally what about the early church after the apostles. Did the early Christians know and understand everything. No. They wrestled with many false teaching and it was only through the Holy Spirit working through the Word opening their understanding that they were able teach and pass down the teaching of the Christian faith.
Here today we are in the same position, we cannot grasp the truth about Jesus by our own effort, but rather we have the promised Holy Spirit who comes to us through the word and opens our understanding. If you are in a place where you are struggling with confusion or overwhelmed by things that you do not understand about God and His word, In encourage you to hold on to this promise: that our risen and ascended Lord has given the Holy Spirit through his word to help you grasp the reality of who he is. He is present with you in his word. He is at work revealing who he is and what he has done. He is revealing the Gospel that your sins are truly forgiven. Jesus is the one who enables preaching of the Gospel, but at the same time he is the one who enables us to hear and understand this promise. We are in Jesus hands.
In today’s reading we have Jesus lifting his hands and giving the disciples a priestly blessing before being taken from them. And what is their response to his being taken? They were worshiping Jesus and were filled with joy. These disciples, who had been with Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, now for the first time, with their understanding of the word opened by Jesus, finally are able to see Jesus in all his fullness and glory: Fully God and Fully man. Notice that the doubting and disbelieving seen earlier is now gone, but they are now worshipping the Lord with joy and they continue until Pentecost to praise and worship Jesus at the temple.
Our Lord Jesus who has been lifted up and is seated at the right hand of Father, is interceding for you. He has been given all authority, and is continuing to send you the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit through his word and sacrament. Our risen and ascended Lord is not distant, but intimately connected with you doing what you cannot do.
During those times where you struggle to see and understand what God is doing or what he is saying through his Word. I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to help you, and he will do this, as this is the promise Jesus gives you.
May he continue to open your eyes and minds to see him for who he truly is.