Opening Our Minds to the Scriptures
In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read that Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures:
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, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:44-53)
That’s a lot of action in just nine verses so I want to focus on the idea that Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to the scriptures (law, the psalms and the prophets).
There is a recent debate in modern scholarship over the translation that we have today:
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures…
Matthew Bates proposes that a better translation would be that:
Jesus opened the scriptures, so that the disciples could understand…
Indeed, this second way of translating it would probably be closer in parallel to the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, one was named Cleopas, we’re not sure of the other’s name. When it was written that: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
But another scholar Joshua Mann disagrees, stating that this newer translation is syntactically infeasible and that “Illumination, the opening of the mind of the disciples, is a climactic moment at the end of the Third Gospel.”
Why would I delve into this scholarly debate?
Did Jesus open the scripture or did he open the minds of the disciples, something akin to an endowment or gift of the Holy Spirit?
But the debate may miss the entire point.
By opening the scriptures, and opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we open our minds to the meaning and relevance of the scriptures in our lives today.
Contemplating scripture and reviewing the major themes of scripture can bring us into awareness of God’s living Word in Jesus Christ and into harmony with God’s will for us: Jesus’ mission of the Kingdom of God.
When I was a senior in high school, I was approached in January by our congregation’s choir director, Mary Rasmussen, and asked to write an Easter pageant on the life of Christ beginning with his birth and going through Easter.
She showed me the library of all the choral music, and wanted me to choose the narrator’s scriptures that would weave between the songs and direct the actors who would act out the music as it was sung by the choir. It was a major project and undertaking, but I accepted.
I am forever grateful to Mary, because it forced me to read the gospels, note the differences between them and synchronize the story. I not only read all the gospels all the way through, I compared and contrasted them and wrote a script that we could use. In that experience, I became a bit of a gospel geek. In the 45 years since, I am still opening my mind to understand the scriptures and opening the scriptures to open my mind. Sometimes I read the texts primarily with an attitude of academic inquiry focusing on literary, historical, and theological understanding. Sometimes I read the texts primarily with a devotional attitude in search of spiritual meaning and insight. In both ways of reading, I believe the Holy Spirit is present and made known.