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He Opened their Minds.

Updated: May 12, 2023

In the time between Easter and Pentecost there was a certain amount of making ready which had to be done. The defining event of Christianity, the Cross-and Resurrection had occurred, yet the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on the disciples, to empower them to do anything with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Yet we discover, that for all the time that Jesus had had with the disciples before the final week of his life, for all his teaching over perhaps one-year, perhaps three, there was more teaching still.

Jesus may not have been a ghost, but somehow or other he appeared in the room even though the doors were locked. Normally, human beings don't walk through locked doors. Jesus was fit and well. On Friday his injuries had been so appalling that he'd died from them.·Now it was Sunday. Although he may have had scars from the wounds, evidently there was no bleeding, no discomfort and no pain.

Jesus was upright, walking and appearing as healthy as anyone else was in the room. In fact, he'd just walked seven miles to Emmaus and seemingly back again. This would not be a jaunt to be undertaken by the unfit. And there seems to have been something different about the way in which he taught the disciples. It seems as though from the other side of death, Jesus himself had gainedse insight into the Scriptures and how they had been fulfilled in his own case. Everything now fell into place, and he was able to clearly explain all this to his friends.

So, the Jesus who appeared in the upper room on Easter Sunday evening was not the same as the Jesus who died on Good Friday afternoon. Or rather, he was the same, yet he was quite different. t was unquestionably Jesus who died, Jesus the son of Mary and Joseph, and who somehow or other passed through death and was seen alive on the other side of death. But this post-death, post-Easter Jesus was different. He was Jesus the Christ, the Savior, the Messiah.

The resurrection of Jesus is a huge stumbling block for many people, including Christians. Because there was no media to cover the event of two thousand years ago, we shall never know exactly what happened. All we can do is examine the different versions of the testimony and reach the most likely conclusion. We can, however, be absolutely certain that something happened and that it was something consequential, and something previously and utterly unknown.

The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. The disciples, who for the previous three years had a kind of belief in Jesus and kind of understanding what he was about, now knew. They understood in a completely different way at a completely different level. They knew in the center of there being that Jesus. was indeed the Lord.

What could Jesus have taught? The Risen Christ could have laid down a blueprint on how the Church could be organized. How helpful it might have been if he had used this time to give us directions about the apostolic succession, church government and liturgical directions. He could have used the time to talk about how we need to be evangelical, how frequently we should update prayer books or the necessity for services to be taken in the vernacular. Or he could have used the time to speak about adherence to the laws of the Old Testament.

In fact, what he chose to speak about was that the Old Testament witnessed to the necessity of the Messiah to suffer death and to rise from the dead. When they'd eaten together and were feeling a little surer of themselves and of Jesus, he immediately began to teach them. Jesus opened the Scriptures to them in a new sort of way, just as he had opened the Scriptures to those on the way to Emmaus.

Earlier, although Jesus spoke a great deal in parables and stories, much of his teaching was rather cryptic and always had to be explained to the disciples. We're told time and again in the gospels that their minds were dull or that they were blind or that they couldn't understand. However, that wasn't the case for the disciples in today's story, nor was. it for the disciples on the road to Emmaus. In both episodes, the disciples immediately grasped what Jesus was telling them and they were filled with fervor and excitement and enthusiasm. It was as if they had been awakened to a new realization of Jesus. They seemed to understand things differently, with the heart rather than simply with the mind or the intellect.

The message is clear that Jesus Christ wants the disciples to thoroughly appreciate that the sacred scripture of His day, which we know as the Old Testament and the books of the Apocrypha, witness to the necessity of the Messiah to suffer, to die and to rise from the dead. Once the disciples' minds had been opened, the story of Jesus, who was the Christ expected in the Hebrew scriptures, began to take hold and became part of the foundation of our great deposit of Faith.

The reality of Jesus fulfilling scripture finds expression in the sermon of St. Peter, when he says: "In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer." (Acts 3:17-18). Peter uses this fact to exonerate his Jewish audience of the otherwise terrible guilt they may have felt in the assertion that they had crucified the Messiah: "And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers." Peter knew that he was following the will of Jesus and that the disciples were commissioned to go out to all the nations proclaiming repentance and forgiveness.

The fact that Jesus fulfilled scripture is also a high priority for St. Paul. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he repeatedly declares everything Jesus did was "in accordance with scripture". The Gospel stories and the book of Revelation, the totality of Jesus' life and the portrayal of the final heavenly struggle, borrow heavily on quotations from the Old Testament.

Recall the passage in John 20:19, "When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Perhaps the particular Jew the disciples were most probably fearful of meeting was not the religious authorities like the chief priests, but in fact from the account of the women, they were most likely fearful of meeting the Risen Jesus. After their abhorrent abandonment and rejection, their own feelings of guilt and self-loathing would have meant that the last person they would want to meet was Jesus. Is it any wonder that Jesus keeps repeating "Peace be with you".

Nevertheless, Jesus didn't come back to criminate or for retribution. He returned to forgive, forget, and to bring peace and acceptance. The Churches task is to do the same.

How do we as the Church reflect this same attitude?

The resurrection, indeed, the whole Bible, tells us that when we are powerless God acts and acts for the good. When we retain power over others we get in God's way. On the Cross, Jesus was totally and utterly powerless. When we forgive, forget, and bring peace and acceptance to both other people and us, when we say with Peter: "I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers", we place ourselves in the same powerless situation.

The preparation that we have to do in the period of pause between Easter and Pentecost is to discover and to rediscover that we as the Church must become powerless, to let God act. For the event at Pentecost can be readily misinterpreted as God's revenge, the power of one group over another.

The Holy Spirit is certainly an enabler and a strengthener. But it is an enabler and a strengthener that allows us to accept our powerlessness and find a new life. New life frees us to forgive, forget, and bring peace and acceptance into our world. This can only happen when we place Christ in the center and not our own human self-interest. It takes a lot of courage to let go of our own sense of self-importance and power.

When we meet with the Risen Christ, those of us who have spent the whole of our lives, kind of believing and kind of understanding, suddenly will comprehend at a totally different level and in a totally different way; that Jesus is Lord. And much like the disciples, that new kind of knowing, which rests in the center of our very being, will transform our lives.

Just as many people are unable to believe in ghosts until or unless they meet one for themselves, it's impossible to know the Risen Christ at the center of our being until we meet him for ourselves. No amount of reading the Bible or doing good deeds or even attending church and saying prayers will give an experience of the Risen Christ unless and until we meet Him for ourselves.

Once we know that Jesus is real, and that it's possible to communicate with Him, our lives can become instantly altered. To know Christ is to have a deep, inner happiness, the peace that passes understanding. A very real source of strength and power begins to take hold and our finite life becomes eternal life, experienced in the here and now.

This is what the Risen Christ offers His Easter people, to those who meet with the Resurrected Lord. The actual mechanics of resurrection suddenly become much less important when we find out for ourselves that the Risen Christ is no ghost but a Holy Spirit which dwells within each of us. We are indeed called to live eternally in union with the Divine Christ. He is the one who fulfills the prophecy of the Resurrection foretold in the Holy Scripture. And, as was also foretold, He lived with his Apostles for a short time before His Ascension into Heaven and taught them in detail the message of the Holy Scriptures, which spoke of the importance of the body in eternal life.

When we read and meditate upon the Holy Scriptures, let us try to find in them an expectation of Heaven; let us try to open the Door of Heaven by believing deeply in the reality of the Resurrection of the Body. And may we continue to share in the Divine Life of our Risen and Ascended Lord, through the Power of the Holy Spirit? Amen.

For Morning Prayer on the Third Sunday after Easter Published on May 7th, 2000 {Revised on November 18th, 2022}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2021

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