THE GOOD NEWS: Jesus speaks to open your mind
Have you observed, the older you get, how you forget? Not that you forget. How you forget. Like making a reminder list but forgetting where you put the list. Or like putting something on the calendar but forgetting to look at the calendar.
To forget is human. The mind is naturally limited. How we forget is to be helpless. We know we forget yet cannot prevent it. The naturally limited mind also is naturally closed.
Consider Luke 24. It is Sunday evening. News has spread since dawn that Jesus’ tomb is open and His body is missing. And a number of people have claimed Jesus appeared to them alive.
Meanwhile, afraid of the violence that crucified Jesus on Friday and dumbfounded over the rumors that are spreading, the remaining 11 disciples and some number of additional disciples are gathered together in support group behind locked doors. All of a sudden, out of no where, right in the middle of them all, the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ appears. For sheer terror and fright the disciples run into the limitations of their minds. And rather than the person of very God in flesh crucified and resurrected, every one of them judges what they see to be a ghost.
Like a parent in bed with a child nervous of the thunderstorm, Jesus says, “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.”
The disciples run into more limitations of their minds. Even after taking Jesus’ offer of His nail-pierced hands and feet, the disciples continue disbelieving Jesus is really present in body and blood. First fear closed their minds. Then joy. First, news too bad to be true. Then news too good to be true.
Knowing their predicament, knowing the futility of the disciples to sort this out for themselves, Jesus conceives a comfort. “Have you anything here to eat?” What better way to dispel the notion He was a ghost than to handle, chew, and swallow something physical? So after they give Him a piece of a broiled fish, He eats it.
Then Jesus speaks. For Jesus has unfettered His disciples from their unreliable feelings and, finally, captured their attention. By assuaging their superstitious fear and then cooling their giddy joy, He has readied them to hear Him. The shepherd has stilled his distressed and excited sheep that he may feed them. And He says, “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.” In other words, Jesus says, “What I am about to speak to you is the Word of God, the Gospel, the Good News saved for you in the Scriptures, both on record in the Old Testament and for the record in the New Testament.”
“Then,” Luke reports, “Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures as He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’”
That is, Jesus opened their naturally closed minds to understand the Scriptures – by preaching to them. Not by mystical incantation nor ecstatic inducement. By audibly speaking His Word. That is, Jesus’ cure and care for the closed and limited minds of His disciples was not the information of God’s Word as much as the power of God’s Word.
God’s Word is a different word. God’s Word comes in the same plain manner as our words, yet is distinct in that it creates. It brings into existence that which formerly did not exist. It opens that which otherwise cannot be opened. Like your mind.
Think of it this way. No man can open the door of his mind himself, nor can he help the Lord to open it by himself lifting the latch and moving the door. Jesus alone opens and the hand with which He lifts the latch and draws the door is the Word which He makes us hear.
The Good News is Jesus makes you hear through preaching that is faithful to His Word. And in hearing His Word preached, He governs your mind. And He promises to do so until the Last Day when the moment comes to release you from your grave. He will not leave you hopeless to beckon your own bones to life or resuscitate your own corpse from death. No. On that Day, just as He has declared your mind open, He will command your tomb open. And He will speak your body resurrected.
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.