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Recognizing the Risen Lord: Part 2

            In the first of this series, “Recognizing the Risen Lord,” I argued that the earliest disciples recognized Jesus as the risen Lord by identifying him with the crucified Christ.  I concluded that the fact that the risen Lord is the crucified Christ is a truth so radical that it challenges human religion, reason and politics and thus calls for a change in the human heart that only can come about by God’s grace.  In this post I want to discuss the need for God’s grace to affirm that the risen Lord is the crucified Christ.  The discussion will again center on Luke 24.

            The eyes are twice mentioned in this chapter.  The eyes of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus “were kept from recognizing” Jesus (v. 16).  After Jesus broke the bread in front of them, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (v. 31).  The disciples’ eyes, the faculty of vision, were not operating according to their own powers.  The problem was not that Jesus appeared in some unrecognizable fashion.  Rather their eyes were kept from recognizing him and then were only allowed to recognize him after the breaking of the bread. 

            Why could they not recognize him?  First, the use of the passive voice implies that God prevented them from recognizing Jesus.  The second reason is the condition of their hearts.  After they have told Jesus about the crucifixion and the reports concerning his resurrection, Jesus castigates them for being foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke” (v. 25).  Here, as in much of the Bible, the heart refers neither to the physical organ nor to the seat of the emotions only, but rather to that which directs the thoughts, emotions and actions.  In the center of their being, “their heart,” they resisted believing what the Old Testament prophets had said about the Christ.  The eleven disciples were no better.  They had been taught the meaning of the Scriptures by Jesus (v. 44).  Yet, even after all the reported appearances of the risen Lord, when Jesus appeared to them, doubts arose in their hearts (v. 38). 

            God’s grace changes all of this.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus are delivered from their unbelieving hearts by God’s grace.  “Their eyes were opened” (v. 31) points to God’s action that enabled them to recognize the risen Lord as identical with the crucified Christ.  God’s grace also opens the Scriptures to the disciples.  Looking back on Jesus’ explanation of what the Scriptures said about himself (v. 27), the two disciples exclaim in verse 32, “Did not our hearts burn within us … while he opened the Scriptures to us?” After the eleven were convinced that Jesus was the risen Lord, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (v. 45).  Apart from the grace of God, the human mind is unable to understand the scriptural testimony to the crucified Christ.

            Clearly, to recognize that the risen Lord is identical with the crucified Christ runs counter to the impulses of the human heart, impulses that can only be overcome by God’s grace.  In the next post we’ll look at why human religion resists this identification.

4 thoughts on “Recognizing the Risen Lord: Part 2

  1. God’s wonderful grace => Giving me fine Christian parents who took me in July 1950 to the DVBS (Daily Vacation Bible School) at our church in Pasadena, CA, where He enabled me to confess my sinner’s need for Christ and invite Him into my life as my Savior… => And placing fine Christian friends like you in my pathway…

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