Then He Opened Their Minds to Understand
He told 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. He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these things. And look I am sending you what my father promised. As for you stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”
Luke 24 is a companion passage to the great commission in Matthew 28. It actually seems to occur after Jesus’ commission to the disciples in Matthew. The great commission was given in Galilee on a hill, but this commission of Luke is given immediately before the ascension just outside of Jerusalem. Thus these are a report of some of the last words of Jesus as he commissions them to be witnesses.
In the passage, there are two things that stand out. The first is that Jesus opens their minds to understand that the scriptures foretold the work of Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection. Up until this point, the disciples didn’t understand the reason for Jesus’ coming to earth. Some disciples in Acts wondered if Jesus was going to restore the kingdom to the Jews. Others probably didn’t understand. But Jesus in this instance opens their minds to understand the great plan of God as explained through the scriptures and accomplished in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The point is that God had to open their minds to understand the gospel. This is still true to this day. God must open our minds so that we can understand the gospel and so that others may understand the gospel. It is by God’s grace that we have been saved, and we were prepared to believe by hearing and understanding the good news of the life of Christ which fulfilled the Scriptures.
The second is that soon they would be empowered from on high. The disciples don’t experience this for a few weeks. They must have wondered what this power from on high would look like. Would they be like the prophets of old or even Moses who met with God on the mount? In fact as we see in Acts, the power from on high is the very presence of God came to dwell with his people permanently. This indwelling of the spirit of God made the church the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is an astounding fact. Jesus tabernacle among us; he lived with humanity for 30 years, but now the Spirit has been sent to the elect and we are now sealed with the Spirit and one with Christ. Ephesians 1 returns again and again to this truth: we are now in Christ! What great empowerment we have! In the book of Acts, we saw how the Spirit empowered the disciples: it gave them boldness to be witnesses where they would have shrunk back. It gave them confidence in the power of God to transform not only Jews but gentiles into the image of his Son. This wonderful empowerment is still ours today. We are filled with the Spirit of God and can live as bold witnesses being filled with his Spirit. We need not be ashamed because to us who are being saved, the gospel is the power of God. This is why we gather to worship: to praise God our great savior.