Friday, May 17, 2013

Opening the Scripture

Luke tells two stories that I really love. One is about Jesus appearing to two people after the Resurrection; the other is about Philip sharing the gospel with a man from Ethiopia.

In Luke 24:13 we read about two unnamed followers of Jesus who were walking along, deep in conversation. Earlier that day they had heard that the tomb was empty, and the women had told how they had seen an angel who said that Jesus was alive. While they walked, a stranger came and walked beside them. He asked what they were talking about and they poured out their hearts about the death and burial of Jesus. "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel," they told him (21).

When they were finished, Jesus responded. "'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?'" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (25-27).

I imagine myself on that road, brokenhearted, feeling betrayed. I long for answers but I do not understand. And along comes someone who does understand. I listen and soak in all the Scriptures as they are explained to me. I begin to understand, my heart beats faster, and I realize that surely Jesus is alive. And later, when he sits down to bread with us and our eyes are opened -- we recognize the risen Lord! -- I remember that my heart had burned within me "when he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us" (32).

Skip over to Acts 8. The young church was growing by the day. Again we meet an angel with a message. He told Philip, "Go south to the road -- the desert road -- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza" (26).  So he started off, and along the way he met a member of the court of Candace of Ethiopia who had been to Jerusalem to worship, and was now on his way home in his chariot. He was reading aloud from the book of Isaiah when Philip approached him. "'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him" (30-31).

"Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture [Isaiah 53:7-8] and told him the good news about Jesus" (35).

He did for the Ethiopian the same thing Jesus did for the men on the Emmaus Road -- he opened the Scripture to him! And in both cases the response was the same -- they received it with joy! When the downcast followers recognized Jesus, just as he disappeared from their sight, they ran to tell the others about him (Luke 24:33). Their doubt was replaced with belief and joy, and they could not keep it to themselves.

As for the Ethiopian, as they rode along he said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" (Acts 8:36). And so he was. Once he had his questions answered, he was ready to obey. He, also, was filled with joy. "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing" (39).

You may be hungry for more of God. You may be discouraged, even distraught, over the circumstances of your life. Or you may be seeking to know the truth but, like the Ethiopian, you are asking, "How can I [understand] unless someone explains it to me?" (31). To you I say, God knows your heart, your questions, your deepest longings. Tell him your concerns. He can open the Scriptures to you and give you the understanding and joy you so long for. He may enlighten you through the Scripture alone or he may send you a Philip. 

To all of us I say, keep your eyes and ears open. There are people all around us who are hungry for truth. Perhaps the Lord will use you as he did Philip in someone else's life. I pray that he will.

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