Opening Our Minds
Greetings in the name of the Lord,
I pray God’s blessings on you all. What a beautiful spring weekend. I love springtime. After what has seemed to be two years of Covid winter, I pray that you can bloom during this season. Staying in God's Word will feed your growth.
Last week, we walked the Emmaus Road with Jesus, Cleopas, and an unnamed companion. We finished this reading from Luke with verse 27,
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Now I wish to make a fine point to begin with today. Simply this: To those who say that the Old Testament is not relevant, I give you this 27th verse of the book of Luke. This is Jesus using the words of Moses and the prophets to teach Cleopas and his friend about himself. Jesus Christ is discipling by using the Old Testament exclusively. Exclusively, because there was no New Testament at the time. The New Testament was being lived.
The Old Testament is all about Jesus. Sure there is much history and tradition, however, all of it points to the Messiah, Immanuel, Jesus Christ. These are the very verses that Jesus cites as he is preparing to send forth the disciples into mission. The verses that crystalize their understanding and their motivation to their mission.
So over the next several weeks, I thought that it would be of instructional importance for us to cover some of the same scriptures that Jesus was very likely using with Cleopas and then later with the rest of the disciples.
To set the scene for this week though, we will begin with Luke 24 again, only this is the time when Jesus appears to the disciples. This is just after the walk to Emmaus. Luke 24:36-49,
“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost (indicating unbelief). He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts (again unbelief) rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence (Spiritual bodies do not need food). Remember, Jesus had had a long difficult weekend.
He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them: ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’”
This is what we are going to do, we are going to open our minds by looking at Old Testament scriptures. When I say open our minds, I do not mean to open our minds to any whim that the world comes up with. We are going to open our minds so that we can understand the Old Testament scriptures, as they relate to Jesus Christ.
Last week we looked to Moses, the Israelites complaining about God's cooking, snake bites, and the bronze image of the snake. The Israelites, when snakebit could look up to the bronze image of the snake and be saved. Just as centuries later mankind would be able to look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was lifted up on a cross for our salvation, and be saved. This week we will look to the prophet Isaiah. Let’s begin with Isaiah 7:14,
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
We know this verse as a verse normally associated with our Christmas celebration. So, I would guess that most of us are familiar with this verse.
Contextually, this verse is mentioning Immanuel, which we should all also remember means “God with us”. God speaks this to king Ahaz, through the prophet Isaiah to move Ahaz spiritually by assuring him that God would rescue the king from his enemies. However, Ahaz would not put God to the test. Isaiah 9:b-12,
“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights’. But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
God was trying to firm up Ahaz’s faith by encouraging him to pray to him. Seek God’s face, humble himself and ask God for guidance and help. God desired a relationship with Ahaz, as he does for all of us. However, Ahaz was too proud, too stubborn, too stiff-necked. Just like some Israelites who did not look to snake image provided for healing by God. Also, just like some of our families and friends who are too proud to look to Jesus for their salvation.
Ahaz has rejected God. (Since Ahaz rejected praying to God, this is the sign God will give everyone), verse 14,
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and we will call him Immanuel.”
Most signs in the Old Testament were for fulfillment within a year or two. However, it is important to note that this sign is a sign that will be fulfilled some 600 years or so after this time period of king Ahaz.
This is why this piece of prophecy, this reference to Jesus is so important. You can’t make this up. I cannot make this up. Those who wish to throw shade at the truth of Jesus’ existence, struggle to overcome the truth contained within this one verse.
This is why the words of Isaiah carry so much weight as historical evidence proving Christ’s deity. Our next reference is Isaiah 9:6-7,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God; Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”
If you are a headline watcher, a worrier, a hand-wringer, thinking of WW III, nuclear war, inflation, food shortage, and all the rest, I give you this message. If God's Word (OT), promises us Jesus and delivers, then would it not logically follow that God's Word (NT) would deliver as well?
The accuracy and details of these verses, considering they are 600 years or so before the birth of Christ, are amazing aren’t they?
This is the very reason why Christ is using these scriptures to “open the minds” of the disciples. This is powerful proof to all of Jesus’ friends that Jesus is no fluke, no make-believe, no pretend, no false idol.
Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God.
Old Testament testimony all points to Jesus. Isaiah 40:10-11,
“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
How cool would it be to have Jesus teaching you, about himself, through these OT scriptures? Now, just imagine Jesus personally teaching you and citing these verses from Isaiah, from 600 years ago, finishing up with this passage here, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Does this verse from Isaiah not accurately describe Jesus’ ministry over the last few years with the disciples? This prophecy describes the very Jesus that they knew and believed in. The disciples witnessed the miracles, the love, and the care that Jesus had for his flock. They also witnessed firsthand his sacrifice on the cross.
Is not this the very message that a young church needs to hear as they begin their mission work? You know it is.
This is the moment of understanding for these disciples, many of whom did not believe or did not understand what Jesus' purpose was and is as the Messiah, Immanuel, the Good Shepherd, and the Christ. Their minds have now been opened to the reality of Jesus. This is my prayer for you this Spring of 2022.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC