Opened to Understand

Text: Luke 24:36-49

Today we continue our celebration of the Good News of Easter. The Good News is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. By His death and resurrection He has defeated the powers of sin, death, and the devil forever. By His suffering He won for us the free forgiveness of all our sins, and rising from the dead He has justified us. This week we hear the Good News from St. Luke’s account of the Resurrection and the events following it. Though it is similar to St. John’s account, St. Luke’s focus is a little different. From John we learned of the peace that comes through the Resurrection of Christ which is the forgiveness of our sins. This week we look at how the minds of the Disciples were opened through the words of Christ.

Even though the Disciples heard from Mary Magdalene and the other women Jesus had risen from the dead, they didn’t believe. Instead, they locked themselves away in fear for their lives and in disbelief. Peter had even seen the empty tomb, but he didn’t believe. Earlier in Luke 24 it says, “Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”[1] Peter saw the empty grave, the open tomb, and he didn’t believe. He didn’t believe because, though the tomb was open, his mind was closed. In our reading Jesus appeared to open minds to the Scriptures by showing it is all about Him. Jesus opened their eyes and minds of the Disciples, because His work is of no use to those with closed minds.

II.

The kind of open-mindedness that Jesus gave is very different from what our world thinks today when it values open-mindedness. The world thinks it knows all about what it means to be open-minded. If open-mindedness is what we need, then the world has it. To be open-minded is to be open to all kinds of thinking, all opinions, and all views. There is no one truth, just different interpretations and judgments that we should be open to. To be open-minded is to open your mind and let things fill it – all kinds of worldly wisdom and enlightened thinking; newly-discovered truth. You only need to turn on the TV or radio to discover what it means to be open-minded. It means to accept and affirm adulterous relationships, saying that marriage is not a pre-requisite for sexual activity. But then again, marriage itself is to be redefined. To be open-minded is to accept and encourage alternative definitions of marriage than what has been understood by all of human history until recent times.

It’s funny how almost all of the definitions of “open-minded,” that the world has to offer paint the Scriptural teaching as “close-minded.” That notion has led no small number of Christians into confusion and doubt. Instead of our minds being opened, they become a cesspool of ideas all mixing and fermenting together. Enticed by the world that offers to open minds, many are led into confusion over what the true teaching of Scripture is. And eventually, this leads to doubt and contempt for God’s Word. This should sound familiar, for it was Satan who first asked, “Did God really say?” in the Garden of Eden.[2]

III.

And so, instead of opening minds the world closes them. Jesus’ open tomb is folly to minds closed by the world, closed to the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus. Not content to leave His Disciples with minds closed by the world, minds callous to His word, Jesus appears to open their minds. This He does by removing all the junk put in there by the world and replacing it with His Word. The text says, “Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’”[3]

Jesus appeared among them and their first thoughts weren’t to rejoice, but to wonder if they were seeing a spirit. Their minds were still full of junk. Jesus asked them why they were troubled and why doubts arise in their hearts, for it is He Himself. This is the Jesus who was with them for three years, who was betrayed, suffered, died, and now who has risen from the dead. He has hands and feet that they can touch, which a spirit doesn’t. Moreover, Jesus asked for something to eat. They gave Him a piece of fish, and He ate. But the cobwebs weren’t cleared yet.

Jesus 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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”[4] Then their minds were opened to understand the Scriptures. Jesus continued to show them that it has always been written in the Scripture that Jesus would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. Then, because of His suffering and death for the sins of the world, repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed in His name to all nations. This is what it has all been about, the forgiveness of sins. It’s not about anything else, and to center on anything else is to be close-minded. To be open-minded is to be centered on the grace that we receive through the work of Christ on our behalf. JUST AS JESUS OPENED THE TOMB, SO ALSO HE OPENS NOW OUR MINDS.

IV.

Even today He does this. Through the washing of Holy Baptism the risen Christ opens the tombs of our minds. Tombs are ordinarily filled with death, but instead He fills us with His life. He fills us with His truth by making us children of God as we heard in the Epistle reading. The Holy Spirit works through the washing of Baptism to wash away our sins and give us the gift of faith. By faith the Scriptures are opened to us so that we understand that it is all about Jesus. In Baptism God shows His incredible love for us by welcoming us into His arms.

Through the preaching of God’s Word, Jesus continues to beat back all the cobwebs of the world that threaten to close our minds to the truth of Scripture. These cobwebs want us to deny that His Word is true, that it is without any error whatsoever, that sin exists and we are dead in it, and that we cannot do anything to save ourselves. But Christ, who rose triumphant from the grave by His power and left the tomb open will continue to work through His Means of Grace to open our minds to His love.

V.

This isn’t to say that all worldly wisdom is bad. God has blessed many people in our world all across time with great minds and intelligence, and through their work and vocations, we have received many great things from God – advances in medicine, technology, and communication. We thank God for all of that. But, with the good has also come the bad. There’s all sorts of false wisdom and truth in this world.

We have a different wisdom that fills our minds. After Christ spoke peace to the Disciples, forgiving their sins and opening their minds, He sent them out to proclaim to the world the forgiveness of sins that is in Him. He breathed on them the Holy Spirit to preach His Word which shows our sinfulness and need for a Savior. As Christ forgave the Disciples, so He forgives you and gives you peace. He fills you here with His Body and Blood and with the Holy Spirit. With His forgiveness, His Life, and His Word, the Holy Spirit works now through you to speak and share that Word, so that hearts and minds may be opened in those around you until the open gates of heaven.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Lk 24:12.

[2] Gen. 3:1.

[3] Lk. 24:36–39.

[4] Lk. 24:44–45.

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