He Opened Their Minds
Easter 3 Year B
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St Luke 24: 36 — 49
Our reading records what took place after two disciples had experienced an amazing encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus and then returned swiftly to the eleven Apostles and their companions. (Verses 13 — 16)
It is hard for us to imagine the effect the experience of the two men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus had on the Apostles and those companions who were joining them in prayer on this occasion. The testimony of two was enough to intensify their belief that Jesus had not left them abandoned. This caused a great interest, and lively discussion, in the midst of which, the unexpected happens.
Some Reflections On The Text
Verse 36 — 40
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their
midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified and thought that they
were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do
questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me
and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as
you can see I have.”
And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
What they were still talking about was the reappearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and how they recognised Him in the breaking of the bread. Jesus now visits the whole gathering of the Apostles together with their companions (verse 34), and greets them in the usual way.
They could not hide their fear: “They were startled and frightened” at this bodiless being who was perceptible to the eye.
Jesus asks literally, why they have unspoken thoughts concerning the truth of what they see. Then He takes time to restore their confidence, gently and lovingly. He does this by inviting them to be very human and letting them look at and touch His scars.
Verses 41 — 43
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
They are completely at peace when they watch Jesus eat some baked fish. Many spiritual writers draw a parallel with breaking bread.
Verse 44 — 47
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 and in the prophets and psalms must
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah
would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be
preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from
At this point Jesus repeats similar teaching given to the two on the road to Emmaus, to enable all the disciples to understand the Old Testament prophecies of His coming. In essence He says, interpret everything that has happened using the instruction I gave you while I was teaching. His reference to “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”, was the Hebrew way of referring to the whole Bible of that time.
The most wonderful thing then happened to them. Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. They became conscious of a new spiritual power of insight and knowledge which they had not possessed before. We note that Jesus did not open their minds without taking them back into the Scriptures, nor without the benefit of the Spirit to illuminate and carry on guiding them in the future. The next two verses (46 and 47) are the key to understanding the whole of Scripture, which the Lord now confers upon them. The word “opened” means “opened fully”. Thus they see not only the prophecies pointing to the Messiah, but they see the Messiah who was pointed out by these prophecies. They recognise the Word behind the words, the Word within the words. This is crucial in their on-going preparation for service in the Church which would be continued under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, especially after Pentecost.
After referring to prophecy about Himself, Jesus states “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name”. His own preaching began with the call to repentance. Now Jesus emphatically directs the Church to uphold repentance and forgiveness as the foremost priority. It is critical therefore that we remember what these mean in His teaching if they are to hold a proper place in ours. The whole ministry of repentance and forgiveness is paramount in our Lord’s commission to the Church.
Our word comes from a Latin term meaning “to grow wise again”. This was based on the Greek idea of the word, meaning “to understand after”. Thus in the New Testament to repent means that after having the Word preached, a person is led to understand that the way they were walking was leading to destruction and not true fulfilment and to continue would be madness. It was also understood that it was the mercy of God which brought a person to this turn-around of heart, and therefore to a change of conduct. In the process the person experiences deep sorrow and anguish at sinning against God. The true penitent therefore has that sorrow whereby they forsake sin not only because it is ruinous to self but also offensive to God.
In our common, everyday language to repent is to regret, to feel genuine sorrow or contrition. To be contrite is to be broken-hearted on account of our sin — our cold-heartedness towards the things God values.
This is often translated in older Bibles as “remission” or “pardon”. It means the letting go of sins as if they had not been committed. It includes the idea of setting free and cancelling any debt or punishment.
Jesus directs that this message is for any person anywhere who will listen. And, it must begin to be preached in Jerusalem. From there the Word will go forth in accordance with the Scriptures and it will be His disciples who do the preaching! Jerusalem is the place of the Temple: the habitation of God. From there His mercy will go forth. Jerusalem is also the dwelling place of the enemies of Jesus. It is there that pardon will first be exercised.
Christians will later understand the full power of this prophecy when they learn, who the New Temple is and what the New Jerusalem is.
Verse 48 and 49
You are witnesses of these things.
And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon
you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power
from on high.”
Nearing the end of his instruction, Jesus declares, “You are witnesses to these things” meaning “You will give testimony about these things”. The word “witnesses” is another key idea about the service to which Jesus calls us. What does it mean? What does it require of us?
The word actually comes through Greek from Sanskrit and means those who remember and can give information because they have experienced it and can therefore speak with authority. Thus, in Jesus’ mind, what we are to give testimony about, in particular, God’s mercy and forgiveness and repentance of sin, must be firmly embedded in our own life or there will be no power, no effectiveness in our preaching. Personal spiritual wholeness is therefore an integral component of preaching the Gospel effectively.
What “things” are His disciples witnesses of? Not only His suffering, death, and resurrection. But also the fact that He:
• opens the understanding by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
• gives the Spirit of repentance
• pardons sin
• purifies us
• is not willing that any should perish but that all should come
to the knowledge of the truth and be saved
• calls us into full membership of His Household where He
strengthens our understanding of what it means to belong
to the family of God.
If these are steadily and honestly proclaimed, God will bless the work, and the Church will continue in good form.
Jesus’ final message before His blessing at the Ascension is the wonderful words, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised” (John 15: 26. See also Acts 1: 4 and 2: 33). The “Spirit of Promise” is keenly awaited and yearned for by those who long to carry out what the Lord has commanded. Let it be our constant prayer, that the Spirit will open our minds that we too might be “witnesses” of Jesus Messiah.
Conclusion: The Story Retold
Two of Jesus’ disciples had a very powerful experience on Easter Sunday evening. As they were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus revealed Himself to them in a way that (in their words) made their hearts “burn” within them. They returned at once to Jerusalem and told the eleven and others about it. Our passage begins while they are still talking about it.
Again, out of the blue, in walks Jesus who greets them all in the usual manner: “Shalom” (peace). It is a special occasion, as it is His last self-manifestation before the Ascension. Great fear overtakes them all, but Jesus is quick to draw it out of them. They think they are scared by a ghost. Jesus knows it is something deeper. “Why are you covering up unspoken thoughts?” He says to them, as much as to imply, “Come on. Out with it”. And then in the same breath He insists they rub his scarred hands with their fingers. It has always been his custom to make great demands of people, and then use very earthy, human ways of helping them to reach their potential.
You can almost see Him lift His nose and hear him say “Something smells good!” Can I have a piece of that fish on the barbeque? They jump at the chance to give Him something to eat, and probably watch every bite Jesus takes, with their own mouths wide open. Then He gets down to His own business. “Look, many a time I told you during my teaching days, that everything written in Sacred Scripture about me must be fulfilled.”
Without any further ado Jesus brings them to the threshold of a whole new era. St. Luke simply records it in the words: “He opened their minds, so they could understand the Scriptures”. All their knowledge was not enough to see in an interior way, that He was the One to whom the Scriptures pointed. Only when they could see that, would they understand that He Himself was the Word of God; He was the Word behind the words. When Jesus “opened their minds” they experienced a whole new richness, a new spiritual enrichment, unlike anything else. This is not the giving of the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is reserved for Pentecost. Nevertheless it is a renewal and an increase of a special spiritual empowerment begun earlier in our Lord’s ministry.
Things are happening fast in this dialogue. There is another immediate change. The disciples become aware of this new ability to hear Jesus speak to them on a higher level. He moves on without delay to His final proclamation (V 46 — 47). “the messiah”, He says, will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”
Those who would accept His invitation to carry on His work would now be able to attend to His first priority: preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins, just as He had done, following in the footsteps of the man He admired above all others — John the Baptiser. Repentance in this context refers to genuine sorrow for offences which arises in the heart when one comes to understand what the Word of God teaches.
Forgiveness, here, means the total wiping out: wiping the board clean.
“What repentance and forgiveness are and mean”, says Jesus, “must be taught in my name to people in all the nations: but it must start in Jerusalem.” He seems to imply that He has forgiven all that has been done to Him there, and the infant Church must do likewise. Otherwise it will go on bearing grudges and this will weaken the message.
(Is there still a problem in this matter today?)
To cap all of this, He calls the disciples His “witnesses”: people who can speak with authority because they have experienced themselves what Jesus requires and now can help others. Jesus closes the visit by assuring them that He will send the Spirit promised by God. “Just be patient,” is His parting shot.
How Does This Help Us Understand
Prayer And Meditation?
The approach of the Fellowship presenting these “Reflections” is, in the Benedictine Tradition, based on Lectio Divina. This approach encourages us to read Scripture reflectively, pausing to gaze, to ponder, to listen, to be present, to feed spiritually.
When we do this, we can experience, as did the first disciples, the gift of our minds being opened. Then we see not only the prophecies which pointed to the Messiah, but also the Messiah who was pointed out by the prophecies. Or as we often put it, we hear the Word behind the words. (John 1: 1 — 5)
Our passage for reflection demonstrates this superbly. But it is so compact and moves so rapidly, unless we contemplate it, its spiritual nourishment will be left untouched. Sadly, this practice of reflection is rapidly disappearing from much of Christianity. (Some Christians have never done it at all).
The experience of the two disciples on the seven-mile hike from Jerusalem to Emmaus can be ours. Our hearts, too, can burn within us as Jesus, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us understanding; inner hearing and seeing. That is the purpose for which He repeats the Emmaus experience for the Apostles together with other followers, and extends that privilege to all who wish to be true disciples.
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Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
He Opened Their Minds
Easter 3 Year B St. Luke 24: 36 — 49
1. To His disciples, Jesus said something very significant and very, very important.
He said to them, “these are my words that I spoke to
“As Christians we would benefit greatly from reading the Old Testament with this principle always in mind: the Torah (Law of Moses), the Prophets and the Psalms all point forward to the Messiah; and everything they teach “must be fulfilled” in Him. Here is the very Person they refer to telling this to His disciples down through the ages. Thus they will be able to continue down through the ages to “tap into” this beautiful stream of light which comes from studying and pondering the word with the help of the Holy Spirit.
2. “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
The enlightenment Jesus gives, we must remember is a gift from the Lord Himself, the Living Word. Here is His “secret formula” (as it were).
“….. it is written that the Messiah would suffer and
This is the key Jesus handed to His disciples, and the Church’s task is to use it in evangelisation of all the peoples of the world.
3. Jesus said, “You are witnesses of these things”.
What thing is Jesus referring to? The answer must be: the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus — and the Divine purpose for which our Lord underwent these saving acts.
Our Lord was not just referring to the fact that His disciples had observed it all. They were witnesses because they were part of it — and because of that they could speak about personal experience and convictions. They were very effective “missionaries” because of that.
We can and must, likewise, engage in knowing the Sacred Scriptures and how Jesus fulfilled them. We can worship in ways which enable us to participate in our own dying to sinfulness and rising with Christ to live the New Life He offers.
We become His “witnesses of these things” and so bear testimony to them to demonstrate the joy of being His disciples. That is the way our Blessed Messiah chooses to make Himself known in the world. That is effective evangelisation!
An Easter Prayer (St. Luke 24: 36 — 49)
In traditional Hebrew Christian thinking, this is the eighth day of
WOUNDS STILL FRESH
Lord Jesus, the two disciples whom You accompanied to Emmaus are still breathlessly describing their experience with You to the other apostles when You appear in the midst of them all. “Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid.” It is the old familiar greeting that they have so often heard You give them; but they are startled and panic-stricken, thinking You are a spirit.
Their panic is understandable, Lord, for the events of the past few days and above all the violence done to You whom they so loved have been a severe shock to them. They have seen You horribly mutilated and hung upon a cross. They have seen You die and then sealed in a tomb. And now You stand before them. Are they to believe their senses? Who has ever experienced anything like this?
Nevertheless, You ask: “Why are you disturbed, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Feel me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” And You show them Your hands and feet, the wounds still fresh. They are still doubtful (or are they simply mystified?), although there is a seed of joy expanding within them that is rapidly destroying the doubt.
You will fix that: You ask for food. A spirit does not eat material food. They give You fish and a honeycomb (in some translations only); You eat and show them the remains. Now their disbelief is transformed into love and longing.
They are ready for the explanation that You give: how and why it had to happen as it did. “Thus it is written; and thus the Christ should suffer, and should rise again from the dead on the third day; and that repentance (— regret, sorrow, contrition) and remission (— forgiveness, pardon) for sins should be preached in His to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you yourselves are witnesses of these things. And I send forth upon you the promise of my Father. But wait here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Lord Jesus, this is twice now that You insist that suffering had to be Your way to glory. It must be so, and I do believe it. Suffering, sorrow, death. Resurrection, joy, love. Such is the Law of Life that You establish for all of us whom by Baptism You have chosen to associate with Your plan for the world. There may be grief in the suffering and dying, but death is swallowed up in victory. The joy of possessing You again, possessing You arisen in victory is a joy that surpasses limitations of time, space, environment.
This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Truly, Lord Jesus, this is a request of Your Church that it is a pleasure to obey. And having risen with You, we shall raise our desires to heaven, seeking the things that are above, relishing the things that are above. Grant, O Lord, that the virtue of the Easter Communion which we have received may ever remain in our souls! Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
Based on “Meditating the Gospels” by Emeric Lawrence, O.S.B.
Luke 24: 36 — 49
Third Sunday of Easter Year B
36 9 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their
37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they
38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do
39 10 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me
40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
42 They gave him a piece of baked fish;
43 he took it and ate it in front of them.
44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
46 11 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah
47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father 12 upon
9 [36-43,44-49] The Gospel of Luke, like each of the other gospels (⇒ Matthew 28:16-20; ⇒ Mark 16:14-15; ⇒ John 20:19-23), focuses on an important appearance of Jesus to the Twelve in which they are commissioned for their future ministry. As in ⇒ Luke 24:6, ⇒ 12, so in ⇒ Luke 24:36, ⇒ 40 there are omissions in the Western text.
10 [39-42] The apologetic purpose of this story is evident in the concern with the physical details and the report that Jesus ate food.
11  See the note on ⇒ Luke 24:26.
12  The promise of my Father: i.e., the gift of the holy Spirit.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised