He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures – Luke 24:24-25

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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

A while back, GQ magazine got some attention by putting the Bible on a list of books not worth reading.  I never actually read the list in GQ myself.  I only learned about it from USA Today.  Feel free to check out at least the headline there.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/04/23/gq-magazine-puts-bible-list-classic-books-not-worth-reading/541325002/

By writing such a thing, maybe the GQ columnist was hoping to increase GQ readership as compared with the Bible. If so, I don’t believe it worked.

There is something here that is understandable though, and that is that the Bible can be hard to understand.  Christ’s own disciples were often stumped by it, just as they were often stumped by Christ.  After the resurrection, however, much of that began to change.  Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  And that brings us to where we are today.

We are far removed from the people and events of the Bible, both by time and by geography.  Sitting here in my office on the edge of downtown Indianapolis, the events of the Bible happened a long time ago on a continent far, far away.  And that can be troubling.  

We can feel much like those early disciples.  Confused, bewildered, baffled.  If we give up too soon, we can come to the premature conclusion of the GQ guy and think the Bible just isn’t worth reading.  We need Jesus to explain things to us.  Like the psalmist we may cry out,

Open my eyes, that I may behold
       wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

Jesus even promised that the Holy Spirit would come to teach us.  In John 14:26, he said, 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 

Without God’s help we just might not get it.  But with his help, we can find ourselves agreeing again with the psalmist,

92 If your law had not been my delight,
    I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
    for by them you have given me life. (Psalm 119:92-93)

When Jesus challenged his disciples, the Peter gave a response that all of us should be able to repeat after him.  Here it is in John 6,

67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Let’s make God’s word our delight and far from being critical of it, we will find that it will become for us a source of life.

The (in)justice of the mob in Luke 23

We pick up the story with Jesus before Pontius Pilate,

And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod, and when Herod was done with him,

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 

The crowd would have nothing of it.  They demanded Jesus be crucified.  Pilate continued,

22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 

You can almost feel sorry for Pilate.  It’s hard to resist the mob and maybe hardest of all for a politician to do so, even one as awful as this one.  The raging crowd often gets its way, and that is what happens here, but is seldom altogether right in what it demands.  Mob scenes are never a good place to carefully debate all the options, but ideal if your goal is to make bad things happen.

Exodus 23:2 says,

You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.

In this case the sinless Son of God was sent to his death, a slow, arduous, humiliating, hellish death.  Of course, we can be happy for that.  It was part of God’s plan to use evil to bring about good.  The worst injustice that ever occurred on planet earth accomplished the greatest good for the maximum number of people. 

As we read in Romans 8:31-34,

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Thank you Jesus!

Do this – Luke 22:19-20

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

The practice of repeating the Lord’s Supper over and over again in church is one of the most basic and defining elements of the Christian faith.  We do it, not least, because Jesus told us to do so.  In other words, it’s not that some church people from long ago thought it up and kept doing it because they simply liked it.  We get the idea from Jesus himself.  Why did he think it was so important?  It’s a question worth pondering.

The best answer I can come up with is that it forces us to review the story of the gospel time and again.  This persistent retelling and, in a sense, reliving the gospel is necessary.  Without it, our faith might easily degenerate into something else, which could only be something less.

We might, for example, get lost in theological speculation.  Thinking about theology is good and admittedly much needed in a day like ours when theological shallowness is the norm.  But Christian theology and its theologians must always come back to the gospel.  Without the gospel consistently retold, theology can lose its base, its foundation or its center.  What good is theology if the gospel gets lost?

Another error might be found in good works.  No Christian can sanely minimize the importance of charitable activity resulting from faith.  But faith in what or in whom?  Faith in Christ as we see understand him through the gospel.  Good works cannot just hang in midair.  They are not publicity stunts or ways of adding merit to our account before God.  The gospel tells us that the only merit we have is that of Christ.  We need to hear that again and again.

A final error might be seen in our private devotional life.  Time alone with God is basic to a lively and growing faith.  This idea of intimate personal experience is sometimes lost in our cluttered and hyperactive culture.  Who has time for it?  And yet, as we learn the lessons we need to learn about spending time alone with God, we also need to experience the gospel with others.  And we need it on a regular basis.  

This week at our church we are celebrating the Lord’s Supper again.  Many will do it at home while viewing a livestream service online.  All of us will focus on Jesus, taking the bread and the cup, remember him and what he did for us once more.  

We need to review that gospel story.  We need to hear it again.  We need to think about Jesus and his sacrifice, his body torn and his blood poured out.  He said it to his disciples and we will say it one more time. 

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

Watch yourselves – Luke 21:34-36

34 But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

In a wider discussion about signs of the times and future things, Jesus turned his attention back to the present.  He knew that our interest in the future is not always correlated with vigilance in the present.  In fact, it can be used as a way to avoid it.

The person who is always looking just beyond the horizon can grow careless.  It doesn’t have to happen, but when attention is drawn to the “What if … ?” or “Is it maybe …?” we can lose sight of our current responsibilities.  

Character is inevitably developed in the present tense.  What we do today ripples into tomorrow in more ways than we can imagine.  Preparing for the future means doing something before the future gets here.  This was Christ’s concern for his disciples and it remains his concern for us.

If we become lax in our walk with Christ, in our disciplines, or in the little details of our spiritual life, the future will be here before we know it.  It will come quickly enough anyway, but it will seem even quicker for the one who is caught off guard.

Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down …