When I was 10, I began wearing glasses. What a thrill it was to see the baseball clearly from across the diamond and read the blackboard from the back of the classroom! At each eye exam since, the optometrist has tested my vision and corrected my prescription to ensure I can decipher the small letters on the eye chart. I’ve known for many years I need the proper lenses to see clearly.
Just as many of us wear corrective lenses to help our vision, we also need proper “lenses” when we read God’s Word. Throughout the Gospels, the disciples often fail to grasp Jesus’s true identity and God’s unfolding plan of salvation. These details come into focus only when the risen Lord opens their minds to understand. Jesus is the master optometrist who fits the disciples with the spectacles they need to see him and his purposes.
Just as many of us wear corrective lenses to help our vision, so we also need proper ‘lenses’ when we read God’s Word.
In Luke 24:44–48, the risen Lord summarizes the Bible’s essential message and offers us a model to faithfully read the Scriptures with the proper focus on the Messiah and his mission:
“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 the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
The risen Lord clarifies the central thrust of the biblical story, gives his people the capacity to understand, and provides them a new identity as his witnesses.
Bible’s Central Focus
Jesus claims that the Bible finds its central focus and climactic fulfillment in his death, resurrection, and mission. His summary of the Scriptures doesn’t stop with the cross and empty tomb but also anchors his mission to the nations in what has been written. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus interprets “in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Then for his gathered disciples he states “that everything written about me . . . must be fulfilled” (v. 44). After the divine Son rises, he instructs his followers to see everything in his light.
“Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise . . . and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (v. 47). The word “and” shows that Christ’s scriptural summary continues beyond his suffering and resurrection to the mission that goes forth in his name. Jesus effectively previews the mission of his witnesses, who call Jews and Gentiles alike to repent and believe.
Receptivity and Understanding
Luke 24 also stresses that people need spiritual sight to recognize Jesus’s true identity. The disciples’ journey with Jesus on the road poignantly illustrates this crucial point. Even though Cleopas and his companion converse with Christ himself, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (v. 16).
The passive construction, “were kept,” means that someone or something prevents these disciples from grasping their fellow traveler’s true identity. Elsewhere Jesus joyously praises the Father because he conceals and reveals according to his gracious will (Luke 10:21–22). Thus, God is the one who prevents the disciples from initially grasping Jesus’s true identity until the risen Lord himself removes their blinders.
The word translated “opened” is used three times to highlight our dual need for revelation and receptivity. When Jesus breaks bread with Cleopas and the other disciple, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (Luke 24:31). They marvel over how Jesus “opened” the Scriptures (v. 32). Then, verse 45 explains that Jesus “opened their minds to understand.” We see that Jesus brings clarity to the Bible’s central message and gives his disciples the spiritual capacity to grasp his teaching. We need Jesus to open God’s Word to us and open us to the Word.
Identity and Power as Witnesses
Jesus also gives his disciples a new identity, promising them divine power to accomplish their mission. He declares, “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48, alluding to Isa. 44:8). Then, in Acts 1:8, the risen Lord says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus doesn’t emphasize their activity of bearing witness but their identity as his witnesses. “Witness” is a legal term in the Bible for someone who testifies in court to what he has seen. The disciples aren’t just spectators to the facts of the Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection, but they must speak truthfully about what they’ve seen and heard.
We need Jesus to open God’s Word to us and open us to the Word.
Finally, Jesus promises to send the Spirit to empower his witnesses for their mission: “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” (Luke 24:49). Jesus calls the Spirit “the promise of my Father” to stress the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy that God would pour out his Spirit in the last days when he would accomplish salvation for his people (see Isa. 32:15; Joel 2:28–32). The disciples don’t need to wait long, as Christ sends the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Thus, Jesus provides his followers with a new identity and supernatural power to carry out his mission.
The risen Christ is the great eye doctor, supplying us with corrective lenses to see that his death, resurrection, and mission are the big letters on the Bible’s “eye chart.” In Luke 24, our Lord summarizes the Scriptures’ essential message and offers disciples an interpretive lens for reading the Bible with the proper focus on the Messiah and his global mission.
This article is adapted from After Emmaus by Brian Tabb (Crossway, 2022) and a version previously appeared at the Crossway blog. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.