Worship Service, April 18, 2021 “Their Minds Were Opened”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik for worship on April 18, 2021 via YouTube
The message “Their Minds Were Opened” by Pastor Erik can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service.
GOSPEL READING: LUKE 24:36B-48
The Gospel according to Luke, the twenty-fourth chapter.
Glory to you O Lord.
R: 36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44Then 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, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
Praise to You O Christ.
When Jesus suddenly shows up to some of his disciples after he has resurrected from the dead, they are afraid at first. A person can’t blame them. They knew Jesus had been crucified so it makes sense they might think he was a ghost. Jesus tells them, “Peace be with you” in order to calm their nerves. Then he requests some broiled fish to eat in their midst to prove that he is alive. But somehow that all does not seem to be enough, for the Bible tells us that, “Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures.”
Why does Jesus need to open their minds? It sounds as if they weren’t getting it on their own. They were not really comprehending the meaning of the situation. Maybe this was because they had an implicit bias of who they though the Messiah would be. They may have had a pre-conceived notion which could have put up a roadblock that kept them from seeing how Jesus could be raised from the dead and how he could be the Messiah.
I think it is important for us to remember that the scriptures Jesus was opening their minds to were the Hebrew Scriptures. There was no new testament yet. The new testament and the Gospel Scriptures are written down later after the disciples and Paul have experienced the risen Christ.
What then may have been the bias that the disciples had, which influenced their view of the Hebrew Scriptures? It could have been that they viewed the Messiah as someone who would overthrow the ‘Roman oppressors, someone who would bring back the former glory of the Israelite kingdom, someone who would bring them power. The disciples may have assumed that the image of Messiah would have been seen in parts of scripture where God violently overthrows the Israelite’s enemies like in Joshua and Judges, like David and Goliath or when David establishes the early kingdom of Israel, or when God conquered the Egyptians.
Surely the Messiah would display similar power, wouldn’t he?. It’s true that Jesus didn’t seem to promote violence, but Jesus did perform miracles of healing and feeding people. It’s true, that Jesus died, but if he really rose from the dead, couldn’t he conquer the Romans?
To counter this bias Jesus may have lifted up parts of Scripture that perhaps the disciples had forgotten about. He may have highlighted certain texts that counter the narrative of the violent God of the Old Testament. Jesus could have opened their eyes to other parts of Scripture where God comes in a different form then the conquering hero.
He could have talked about Jonah and the mercy shown to Nineveh. He could have talked about Ruth and the mercy shown to a foreigner, an immigrant who came to Bethlehem with her grieving mother-in-law Naomi. He could have talked about Abraham and Sarah, the original couple of the covenant, the ones who also were foreigners, but were called by God to become a new people, a people who were blessed to be a blessing, the matriarch and patriarch of the Jewish people, whose purpose was to walk with God, not in order conquer and dominate, but to be a light, be an example so that God could bless the nations through them.
Jesus could have talked about the image of the suffering servant in Isaiah, the messianic figure who does not lift a hand in retaliation or revenge but goes forth on behalf of the people even if it means he will be persecuted. Jesus could have talked about the vision of Isaiah where folks from all different kinds of places from all different kinds of countries are streaming to the mountain of the Lord and the mountain is a place where the wolf lies down with the lamb—where there is peace even within an incomprehensibly diverse assortment of creatures and people. He could have talked about a grumpy, discontented tribe called the Israelites who time and again in the wilderness complained to God, who time and again chased after idols, and yet time and again heard from a God who was slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, who welcomed them back.
There are a lot of different parts of Scripture that you could use to describe God. Some of them may even seem like they give conflicting pictures of who God is. How you interpret those parts of the Bible and which ones you choose to emphasize will become your dominant view of what you think God is like.
So maybe the disciples were stuck on a certain image of God where they thought God would act with violent retribution and retaliation and maybe they actually liked this image of God as long as they believed God was on their side. Maybe their minds were closed off to other ways that God might act in the world besides the conquering Messiah they were hoping for and that is why they couldn’t quite get why Jesus had to die in the first place and why they couldn’t quite get why if he really rose again why he wasn’t showing off his power and making the change they wanted right away.
Perhaps this is why Jesus had to open their minds to the scriptures. He needed to lift up some other passages to demonstrate how God could be fulfilling the law and the prophets through him in a different way than the disciples may have originally imagined. Jesus had to sort through the scriptures and emphasize some of the parts the disciples had forgotten in order to reveal what God was really about—to show that God’s way wasn’t through force and domination but through repentance and forgiveness. Jesus reveals to the disciples that the Messiah is not going to magically make things better, but instead is calling them to be the ones who will be proclaiming the message of mercy to the nations of the world.
Do our minds ever get closed off to seeing the aspects of God that have been revealed in Jesus Christ? Have the judgmental and violent aspects of scripture ever been overemphasized in our society so that we have missed the message of steadfast love and forgiveness? Do our minds ever get closed off to the scripture that reminds us we are all made in the image of God? What implicit bias or preconceived notion has closed our minds off to seeing the full humanity of other folks? Do our minds ever need to be opened by Jesus?
This week you may have heard the news of another mass shooting in Indianapolis at the Fed Ex center there. This is the third such incident in less than a month. What is it in the minds of such perpetrators that would lead to such violence? Have they closed themselves off to their fellow human beings? Or is it that they have felt others have closed them off? Do they feel isolated or lonely? We know there are no easy answers, but if we don’t ask the questions, these tragic events will just keep happening.
Then there is the other violence you may have heard about this week. The shooting of Duante Wright and Adam Toledo that occurred with encounters with the police. A young man and a teenage boy, both people of color. There was also the encounter of Caron Nazario, pepper sprayed and terrorized at a routine traffic stop. All this occurred while the trial around the death of George Floyd is still happening. Of course, these are all different instances and the individual circumstances are all being examined, but they the lift up the continuing pattern of violence against black and brown bodies that has become more evident and more disturbing as more and more incidences are caught on camera.
No one would deny that our police officers are constantly being put in dangerous situations where they have to make split second decisions that are complicated and life-threatening. But what is it about our society that seems to promote the kind of environment where these incidences keep occurring? What is it that causes us to assume the criminality of certain kinds of people? What is it that seems to close our minds off to the humanity of one group as opposed to another?
Do our minds need to be opened to an implicit bias in our culture that needs to get called out? Is there a history of violence that needs to be acknowledged? Does the horror of slavery still haunt us today? Has the specter of racism just shifted to continue under the guise of the criminalization of young black men? Do we need to name such things in order to change such things?
When Jesus encountered his disciples after he rose from the dead, he was revealing to them that there could be a new way of life. They did not have to be stuck in their old patterns. They did not have to be hindered by their old fears. They could be a part of God’s grace breaking into the world. But in order to experience this new way of being, Jesus had to open their minds. His followers could not remain in the routine of old preconceived notions. They needed to be aware of another way of seeing things. They needed to let go of their former perceptions to be able to receive the message of repentance and forgiveness that Jesus was calling them to share.
Christ still calls us to share this same message and to do so, we too may need to heed a word of repentance and forgiveness so that new life can begin in us. We may need our minds to be opened so that we are not so quick to judge, but can rather see the image of God even in those who are different from ourselves.
-Pastor Erik Goehner