CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: Opened Minds
Jesus said to his disciples, "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 worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
- Luke 24:44-53
This passage captures the imagination. Try to picture the Ascension of Jesus. What comes to mind? Artists for thousands of years have tried. There are many pictures of Jesus rising into the clouds or a ray of light with his arms outstretched, as if giving a blessing, rather than simply waving goodbye. Some show him being carried away into the heavens by angels, surrounded by the shape of a parabola, which represents the intersection of two worlds. My favorite is the painting of the disciples looking up with amazement at the feet of Jesus in the air. I get a thrill out of the possibility that Jesus went full on Super-Man and launched into the heavens, but it was probably something a little gentler than that.
Whether the ascension is literal or a metaphor, or both, the image in the story invites us into a place of wonder, of openness to possibilities, and of anticipation of what will happen next!
But step back for a moment and look at the significance of what Jesus does before he withdraws from his disciples. It has only been a short time, a mere 40 days since they experienced the horrors of witnessing Jesus die on a cross in front of a crowd of people, the fear of imminent persecution for being his disciples and then the amazement at seeing the resurrected Jesus, alive! Their world turned upside down and inside out. They are understandably disoriented. Jesus recognizes this moment with his disciples and helps them to locate themselves in the larger story of what God is doing in our world. He leads them into those places in scripture where the imagination of the prophets anticipated not only the suffering of the chosen one of God, but also the glory of God’s response.
Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
Jesus opens their minds (and ours) to a connection with generations of people who have walked the many paths of faith. They show us how to find strength and courage, healing and hope in the midst of the sufferings that are part of life in this world. Faith in God is not an insurance policy against hardship. Doing what is right or good does not guarantee prosperity or success. Quite the opposite. Look at what society did to the prophets. Look at what they did to Jesus himself. Persecution, injustice, oppression, violence, greed, racism, cruelty and a host of other ills are still active in this world and in the structures of societies. We can look to scriptures to hold on to hope, to seek new ways and solutions for these problems, and to find grace that will sustain us.
their minds to see these scriptures in a new light. Something new has happened
in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus reveals the love of God in
person and in the flesh. The love Jesus called for in his teachings, the
love he demonstrated in his compassion and care for all -- and especially
for those who are on the margins or cast out -- is the lens for us to understand
the holy scriptures. If your interpretation of scripture leads you to a posture
of prejudice or hate, reexamine it and ask if this is what love looks like. If your
understanding of scripture enables you to justify violence, oppression or
discrimination of others, if it causes you to defend power structures which
degrade and abuse people, does it change if you look at these people as beloved
children of God? This is how Jesus viewed them, even his enemies.
Jesus opens his disciples' minds to look for what God is doing now. In his ministry, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God is near -- it is around us and within us. This kingdom is not the perpetuation of the brokenness of the world we know. It is the start of something new -- or renewed. This transformation is a process that happens over time and in the lives and hearts of people. Remember, when the gospels refer to the scriptures, they are speaking of the Hebrew scriptures. The canon of the New Testament had not been written. They were living it. And that witness did not end in the first century; we continue to live into it. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will lead us into all truth.
We are still being led by the Holy Spirit to work for that Kingdom of Heaven, the Beloved Community God desires to see.
The gift of an open mind is a form of Ascension. It allows for different perspectives and new understandings. It expands the horizon of possibilities. May you be blessed with an open mind, a loving heart and an awareness of the Holy Spirit of God.
Up, Up and Away!
The Rev. Canon Earnest Graham is a canon for regional ministry in the Diocese of North Carolina.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus