Great persons come and go with much ceremony. “Advance” people come, making preparation prior to arrival. Heralds report as the VIP nears. An entourage of officials of lesser rank and status are in attendance. Then there is the greatest One of all who arrives, flying under the radar, arriving as an infant born into a common family. And now, just prior to His departure, He seems to still shun pomp and circumstance. He just materializes; scaring the wits out of His closest friends. While they were still on their heals in utter shock, He asks them,
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Jesus wasn’t searching for missing information when He asked questions. He knew exactly what was in man’s heart, especially His disciples. Yet…He asks anyway. I believe Jesus is always trying to jump start the reasoning in our hearts with His questions. He believes it is important for us to formulate the answers for ourselves so that we bump into the reality of where we are so that we can better get to where we are going.
To assure them he was not a dreaded specter, He permits them to examine the same body they had abandoned in Gethsamene that was ultimately impaled upon a cross. By touching His scars, they verified it was in fact Jesus. The body that had just popped into the room was made of flesh and bone, like the bodies they lived in. If they had been on their heels before, they have now been floored, possessed by the wonder and the joy of it all. I suspect, as they grasped the implications of Jesus’ resurrection life, hope and joy were rekindled regularly over the years to come.
Another way Jesus sustains us through the years and rekindles the fires within is by “opening our minds to understand the scriptures“. On this occasion, He permitted them to grasp that the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms were being fulfilled in Him. There are seasons where He permits us to connect the dots. The disciples were not scholars. They were not necessarily well read or educated men, yet in the years to follow they would turn the world upside down by simply proclaiming that there should be repentance for the forgiveness of sins because Christ has conquered sin and death. The disciples saw and even handled Jesus. We can understand why they believed. But, what has provoked the millions of others to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ who would not get to see the resurrected body?
There is no sin in giving our minds to the discipline of academic understanding and to the mastery of scriptural texts as long as we do not err by missing the Spirit who authored them. The sin would come by making our understanding of God our god. If we are depending on our knowledge as the vehicle moving us forward we have made learning our golden calf. We are in trouble because we were commanded to have no other God’s before him. We have also made a mockery of the disciples and the New Testament.
The disciples did not have seminaries or bible study reference materials. All they had was His Spirit. When Jesus opens a disciple’s mind to understand the scriptures its not to add to their knowledge base; it is to connect the dots between their minds and hearts; between their knowledge and their wills, between time and eternity. When that happens, transformation occurs. It was not scholarship that caused the gospel to take root. It was changed lives. It was the kingdom’s righteousness, peace and joy. It was about the essence of God’s life, finding expressions in human beings which gave credibility and authority to the message and cause for others to buy in. Changed hearts and lives, not knowledge, are the only true evidence of His resurrection. Without transformation, the claims of the gospel are hollow and unbelievable. The gospel will be far more credible when the Body of Christ is actually living in resurrection power.
Unfortunately, the gospel has too often been preached and pushed as a get-out-of-hell & into-heaven proposition only. While forgiveness and eternity security are great news, it is only partial news. The bigger picture is that the gospel was not intended as an end in itself. It was intended as a port-of-entry into the kingdom of God, which is a now– kingdom bringing with it now opportunities and responsibilities (discipleship) that go overlooked and unattended when getting out of hell and into heaven is the main point.
I am encouraged as I see so many believers from different faith communities focusing on the kingdom of God. It is my suspicion that as all our vast gospel knowledge and focus is recaptured into the context of the kingdom of God, many dots will get connected and His eternal life will find “new” and “now” expressions in the lives of His disciples. Only transformed lives can establish the credibility of Christ’s resurrection. I personally see no other hope for this world outside of Jesus’ prayer being answered;
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Father, help us to encounter afresh Your Spirit, who is Your promise, Who will clothe us with power from on high; who will heal our troubled and doubtful hearts. Open our minds and hearts fully that we may understand Your kingdom and the now implications it has for us as individuals and as the corporate expression of Your life in the here and now. Amen.
Note: Miracles are a great compliment to transformed lives. They were normative in the early church and they can be now.