As I studied this text this week, I thought about the words of verse 45.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
This week we remember that after 40 days, Jesus ascended to heaven. He sits at the right hand of God. In that time on earth, he taught and prepared the disciples for the time where he would ascend to heaven, knowing that the next time he would physically come to earth, it would be when he came again.
In that preparation time for the disciples, it made me think, if Jesus were here, preparing us, what would he open our minds to?
What would we understand that we couldn’t before?
What is there to understand?
It’s pretty simple, and I think we understand it.
He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Pretty simple. Jesus suffered and died. After three days he rose again. After that, people will preach repentance for forgiveness, in Jesus’ name to everyone, all over the world including Jerusalem.
It’s all pretty simple.
So, I wonder, why should I have to be here? If it is all so simple, if you believe in Jesus, why do you need me to stand in front of you on Sundays preaching?
Maybe what we should be doing, because it’s so simple to understand, is not here this morning. Instead we should be walking through the neighborhood, seeking out those who don’t know Jesus yet. Preaching repentance for forgiveness.
Open ears; soft heart.
Open ears; soft heart.
It’s pretty simple.
If we recognize our failures and our sins, we do two things—we say we’re sorry, and we do all we can to stop doing it anymore, we can be forgiven, because Jesus paid the debt we ran up when we sinned. All we have to do to claim that promise is to be honest with ourselves and others.
It’s so simple to understand, but we don’t.
We keep sinning. We don’t repent. We don’t say sorry. We don’t understand. We keep doing the things we know we’re not supposed to do. We don’t get it.
There is different kinds of understanding. I can understand that one plus one equals two. That’s a pretty basic level of understanding. It’s objective and measurable.
For another type of understanding, I think of our experience. Take Gina and David, for example, they loved Natalie, even before she was born, they loved the thought of being her parents and what it would mean that they she would be a part of their family.
Then she arrived and that love was more than just a concept. It was real and deeper than what they could have imagined.
They understood before, but they really understood after she was there, present in their arms.
It’s the same kind of understanding that we need from Jesus. We can understand at a surface level that we say we’re sorry for our sins and we can be forgiven by Jesus, but it’s a whole new level when we actually do it and truly experience forgiveness.
We need Jesus to help us understand what real repentance looks like.
Real repentance isn’t just saying what we want other people to hear so that they leave us alone.
Real repentance isn’t about being sorry that we got caught or having regret about the consequences of our actions.
Real repentance is understanding the hurt that we’ve caused another person and feeling the weight of how our words, actions, or lack of action has hurt someone. Real repentance is doing what we can to make it right, even though what we might have done can never entirely be paid back.
When we grieve the offenses we have made against God and others for no other reason than we understand the wrong we have done, then we show we understand.
Forgiveness is even harder to understand. We need to understand what it means to be forgiven and also to forgive.
To be forgiven means that we’ve been released. Forgiven means that someone has told us that we don’t have to carry the guilt anymore. Forgiveness means that we have been set free to live our our lives, moving forward, rather than be stuck in something that is past.
On the other side of that is to truly understand what it means to forgive. To forgive is to release someone from the debt they owe you. We say we forgive, but sometimes we forget what that means. Forgiveness means that we let go of the power to punish or hold on to hate. That’s hard to give up. To forgive means that we wish someone well. Forgiveness means that even though things might never be the same, you want someone to be free and released.
It’s so simple, right? It’s also so hard to understand.
Messiah: suffer, rise,
This is why we read Scripture. We see that Jesus embodied forgiveness in its purest form. Even though he didn’t need to repent of anything, he paid the debt we couldn’t pay. We are...
repentance AND forgiveness—we are good at demanding repentance but forget repentance
to all nations
We are witnesses of grace.
We are witnesses of grace.
Jesus opened the minds of the disciples so that they could understand Scripture.
We need Jesus to open our minds to this too.
If any of you have really thought about what it means to be repent and be forgiven, or to forgive someone ourselves, we understand that this is something that only can be done with help of God. And, when there is something that only God can do and we can’t do it ourselves—this is nothing short of a miracle.
A witness is someone who has seen or experienced an event and is able to tell someone else about it. Witnesses in court share what they’ve experienced. A witness for Jesus tells others what they have seen for themselves.
The question for us is this then…Jesus said this...
You are witnesses of these things.
Is it true for you? None of us were there in 1st C. Palestine. We weren’t there when the grave was emptied and Jesus appeared before them. We wish we could have been there, but we weren’t.
But, because the grave is empty, are we witnesses of forgiveness that comes through repentance?
Have we been released? Are we living freely? There is such release, such freedom that comes through forgiveness. When we truly experience it, it is impossible for others not to see it or hear it in us.
This message of Jesus is hard for us to wrap our minds around. We struggle with this truth that is to be preached all around the world. Know that we can only do this when we are...
Sent with power.
Sent with power.
Jesus says in vs. 49
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
We cannot do this alone. Why?
I know in myself as well as talking to others as I work as a pastor that for many of us repentance and forgiveness is hard to believe. It’s hard to accept that we can be forgiven in spite of what we’ve done. Or, it’s hard to believe that someone else can change because of what they’ve done.
Too many times we’ve seen ourselves go back to the same bad habits and practices. We’ve been hurt over and over again by someone who keeps doing bad things to us.
We begin to think that true forgiveness and repentance are things we read about in a storybook, but really don’t happen in life.
That’s why Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit.
We can’t do this by ourselves. We need to be clothed in power by the Holy Spirit as well.
We need open ears and soft hearts. Too often we’ve closed our ears to any possibility of change. Our hearts are hard to God and to others to consider the option of forgiving or being forgiven.
We need the Holy Spirit to change us.
This morning, we understand that we need to be here, that we need to hear. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will open our ears and soften our hearts that we might witness and be witnesses to the grace we have in Jesus Christ.
Sent with what is promised, the HS
sent with Holy SPirit