The truth is that we all carry false pictures of the way life is. And even when God shows us that our pictures are wrong, we resist.
“I do the best I can,” more than one person has told me when I’ve tried to impress on them their need of forgiveness and new life through faith in Jesus Christ. But our best can’t make us good enough for God or His kingdom. As Romans remind us: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
In both our first lesson and our Gospel lesson for today, we find God messing with people’s false pictures of reality, including ours.
The crowd is then shocked after Peter tells them this miracle has been wrought in the name of Jesus and then goes after them. “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” (Acts 3:14-15)
Our Gospel lesson, Luke 24:36-49, is set on the evening of the first Easter Sunday. The disciples of Jesus discuss that some of their party have seen the risen Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus’ appears.
But it’s one thing to know facts. It’s another for those facts to change the way we view reality. Accept God’s truth, His true picture of reality, and you need to accept that you’re a sinner in need of saving. You have to accept that only God can do the saving. You have to trust that only the God revealed in Jesus can give us the righteousness that qualifies us for life in God’s eternal kingdom. You have to accept that there is nothing good or meritorious about us, that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Luke shows us how in verse 45 of our Gospel lesson. He writes: “Then [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” God’s Word comes to us both as a mallet that shows us that we’re sinners in need of salvation and as God’s gift of the repentance and faith in Jesus that frees us from sin, death, and darkness! God’s Word breaks open our minds, helping us to see the truth that we are sinners and that Jesus Christ died and rose to save sinners! Jesus told the first disciples and He tells us, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations...” (Luke 24:46-48)
This is the God-given picture of reality that is so foreign to our sinful natures that we won’t believe--can’t believe it--unless, as Jesus did for the disciples on the first Easter Sunday evening, God opens our minds to see the truth that comes from God alone.
A man I knew grew up in an unchurched family. He married a Lutheran girl and, initially just to placate her, began attending worship with her. Later, he got involved with a Bible study and took an adult catechism class. Imbued with an analytical mind and being one of those people who could do anything, making him self-sufficient, the Bible’s picture of reality that we are sinners in need of saving and that God alone gives salvation through Jesus, was completely foreign to him. But as God’s Word did its work and opened his mind, his view of reality changed. Never have I known a more joyous Christian disciple! After God opened his mind to repentance and faith in Jesus, he challenged people he knew to set aside six consecutive Sundays to participate in Christian worship. “If you can make yourself miss the seventh Sunday, I’ll never talke with you about Jesus again.” He knew that God’s Word has the power to open up minds and hearts to the love and new life Jesus wants to give all people.
God’s Word has that same power today, friends! May God’s Word give you a true picture of reality. May you see that your desperate need of forgiveness and new life has, in Jesus the crucified and risen One, been met by the God Who desperately loves you: Loves you passionately, unswervingly, completely. And may you, like my friend, the early Church, and generations of faithful Christians, share the picture of the God we see in Jesus. Jesus is God’s Word of love for the whole human race. Amen