Jesus, when he appeared to the disciples in the locked upper room, gave them “peace.” After he had eaten some fish from the charcoal grill he opened their hearts and showed them how the read the Bible in such a way that they understood how the Hebrew Bible supported the coming of the Messiah. After all they were the first to see and hear him. They were witnesses to the fact that he was a living, breathing, fish eating person with a real body that could be touched and seen. They looked at his hands and his feet and knew that it really was Jesus.
So what, you say! This gospel account was written so long ago, how can we know that it’s really true? Luke wrote it almost 2,000 years ago. How can we trust that what we’ve heard and read in the Bible is the truth? What proof do we have today that Jesus rose from the tomb and is alive and lives in people’s hearts? Who will be a reliable witness to us? Who will provide us with irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? Who or what will open our hearts to the understanding of the Word of God. Who will show us how to read the Bible in such a way that we believe?
Now that we’ve laid it all out on the table that we are nothing but skeptics with maybe just a little bit of cynicism thrown in for good measure where do we go from here? How do we help our unbelief or maybe a better way to put it would be how do we strengthen our faith in what we read in the Word of God? How can our hearts be opened? How can we improve our understanding of God’s Word for us today?
Friends, don’t you think it all boils down to God’s grace? Through God’s good grace we have been adopted into His family as children of God. Through God’s graciousness Jesus died for us and all of our sins have been forgiven. Jesus died for us and our sins have been forgiven. It needed to be repeated because it’s important for us to hear.
Through God’s grace His Word has survived and is read and studied more than any other book ever written. And because we still hope for a better world we come to hear the Word read and proclaimed every Lord’s Day. Through God’s grace when we study God’s Word daily we are given understanding through the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts to God’s goodness. It’s because of this that we are able to be witnesses for Jesus. The more we read, study, and reflect on the Word of God the more capable we become in sharing the meaning of God’s word for us today with our family, friends, and neighbors.
This week there was a letter to the editor in the Walnut Bureau that said in the very last paragraph something that may very well be true. There are more people who don’t know the Word than do. This letter was addressed to the pastors of the churches in Walnut which is where the ultimate responsibility lies. Pastors shouldn’t carry the full burden of this illiteracy by themselves though. I believe we are all responsible. God gave all of us eyes to read, brains with which to reason and question, and tongues to discuss. So let’s ask ourselves, when was the last time we sat down and read the Word? When was the last time we participated in a study group? When was the last time we asked God to help us understand what we just read?
Pastors can teach that’s true. But if there’s no one there to listen how will anyone’s mind be opened to better understand the Word of God?
The Eleven and those gathered around them were the first to see. They were the one who were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. They saw and they believed. It all began in Jerusalem and then was spread throughout the world.
Because of their witness others have believed and gone on to give their testimony to others. They have devoted their lives to serving God’s adopted children by sharing what they have unselfishly with the world.
In the Word we read that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Therefore we are commissioned by Jesus, Matt 28:19-20, to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations. In the Word, Matthew 22:38-39, we read that the sum of all the commandments is this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”…And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
In the Book of Order for the PCUSA “The Great Ends of the Church” states that, “The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.”
By these three statements we are called to live as children of God. We are convicted by these statements that come to us from those who have gone on before us.
Why do we wonder; why do we doubt. All we have to do is look! Look in the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to increase our understanding. Just sit back and let the mysterious Being of our Father and His Son, Jesus wash over us. Let it refresh our souls so that we can be witnesses to the wondrous nature of our God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.