“Have Your Eyes Been Opened?”
Easter 3A – April 30, 2017
Acts 2:14a,36-41; Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
One of the phenomena that regularly occurred after the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the inability of people to recognize Him. The eyes of their hearts were not open to the reality of the resurrected Christ in their midst.
On the first Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene stood before her Lord and thought he was the gardener. It wasn’t until Jesus called her by name that her eyes were opened and she recognized who it was (John 20:16-17).
Jesus later appeared to his disciples gathered in the Upper Room. Mark says he appeared to the eleven as they were eating (16:14). John makes clear that Jesus was able to appear and disappear miraculously (20:19) – that alone opened the eyes of some and helped them to believe he had been resurrected. Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared to His disciples. When Thomas returned the other disciples told him about the Lord appearing to them. Thomas was skeptical, and said he couldn’t believe that was really Jesus unless Jesus appeared to him also, and he was able to put his hands into Jesus’ wounds. John records that a week later Jesus did just that: he appeared to Thomas and invited him to touch his wounds and believe. Thomas had the eyes of his heart opened and confessed Jesus as his Lord and God (John 20:27-28).
We shouldn’t judge Thomas too harshly about doubting in physical resurrection. Most people don’t easily grasp that reality. Luke’s Gospel says that when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women came to the disciples on that first Easter, and told them Jesus was alive, “… they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (24:11). To believe in bodily Resurrection is counter intuitive. It cuts across our observations about life. After all, how common is bodily resurrection? How many of us have actually seen someone die, then come back to life? How many of us want to see that? The eyes of our hearts have not been opened.
Resurrection, for those first disciples, and for people today, seems like nonsense. The greatest hang-up I had for becoming a Christian was accepting the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. I just couldn’t make my mind accept even the possibility that a dead man had come back to life – even by the hand of God. That’s why it took me so long to “find God”. I had to eliminate every other religion and ‘spiritual path to truth’ before I could admit the possibility that, if God wanted it to be so, Jesus could come back to life. But, eventually the eyes of my heart were opened and I saw Jesus and knew that the Bible is telling the truth about Him.
Our Gospel lesson contains another incredible story of eyes being opened. It is the story of
The Walk To Emmaus. (Read Luke 13-35).
Two disciples whose hearts were “burning within themselves while Jesus talked with them on the road and opened the Scriptures to them” had their eyes opened when he “took bread, broke it and began to give it to them” (:29). Their lives were never the same.
We never know exactly what will open our eyes to God’s truth about Jesus Christ. My eye opening experience finally came on a Monday night in May, at a home Bible Study when the leader asked me if it were possible, if God willed it, that Jesus could be alive. That night, I invited the risen Jesus Christ into my life, and He came. I met the Lord of all life, and have never been the same.
We’ve read and heard about different disciples of Jesus who had their eyes opened in different ways following his resurrection. If I asked each person here to tell us ‘when’ and ‘how’ your eyes were opened to the truth of God in Christ, we would hear many different stories. There is no one way to have the eyes of our hearts opened!
Why Does God Open Our Eyes in Different Way?
I think there are two primary reasons. First, we are all individual persons, and have the fingerprints to prove it. God created us as individuals, and God treats us that way. What works for me, doesn’t work for you. God respects our individuality, even to the point of allowing us to deny God’s love for us fleshed out in the person of Jesus Christ.
The second reason I think God opens our eyes differently is to prevent us from ‘litmus testing’ each other. Are you familiar with ‘litmus testing’? It comes from science. You dip the litmus paper into the fluid and it will turn a certain color depending on the acidity of the fluid. The term, “Litmus Test” has come into our culture to define the use of a “single indicator to determine an outcome or prompt a decision”. For instance, asking a political candidate whether he or she is pro-life, or pro-choice, and using that single answer to determine whether or not you will vote for them, is a litmus test.
God opens people’s eyes differently to prevent us from using our experience as a litmus test: “you didn’t meet Jesus the way I did; so I question whether your experience is valid.” We would end up with a congregation of clones; and none of us would enjoy that.
Our former Senior Warden, James Cobb, tells how his eyes were opened to the reality of the living Christ. He grew up in a religious family – they were frequent attenders at church. Like many teenagers, James became cynical about the Christian faith. There was a scandal in their church and James found that a good reason to no longer believe in Jesus and attend church. As a result he lived his adult life apart from an active relationship with Jesus and the church.
In the meantime James became a very good softball player who hit a lot of home runs. A friend recruited him to be part of a team that went into prisons to play convict teams, and then have a time of Christian fellowship with them. James agreed to be part of the team, less motivated by the Christian fellowship then to just playing softball. During one of those prison games, and the prayer time that followed, the eyes of James’ heart were opened and he saw the risen Christ. His life changed from that encounter and today he is a man who is completely sold-out in a relationship with the risen Christ. As a result James serves every year on one or two Kairos teams that go into Polk Correctional Institution to minister God’s love and the grace of Jesus Christ to inmates who agree to be present during the weekend. James can tell you many miraculous stories of prisoner’s eyes being opened during a Kairos weekend.
I am aware of stories amongst our children, how the eyes of different ones were opened through AWANA, or Children’s Chapel, or through being so very loved here at church that they begin seeing Jesus and now have a relationship with him.
I heard from different parents whose children’s lives were changed how their own eyes have been opened to the reality of Jesus and now He is part of their lives. The truth is, there is no one way God uses to open the eyes of our hearts so we can see Jesus in our midst. All this is to testify to the fact that God doesn’t allow us to use a litmus test to determine whose experience is real, and whose is not.
The qualifying questions cannot be “how”, or “when” our eyes were opened, for each of them implies a judgment on our part. Some eyes are opened outside Jesus’ empty tomb. Others are opened sitting at a table with Jesus, watching him bless and break the bread. Other eyes are opened when Jesus suddenly appears to us and startles us out of our complacency. Some eyes are opened sitting in a living room during a home Bible Study. Other eyes are opened standing at the bedside of a loved one being birthed out of this human tent and entering into the permanent dwelling place of eternal life in heaven.
The only important question is, “have your eyes been opened to the reality of the risen Christ”; and, is there anything we can do to help each other on this journey of coming closer to God?
In 1997, Paul Beloche wrote a song called, “Open The Eyes of My Heart, Lord”. It was made famous by Michael W. Smith. The lyrics are simple. They go like this: Open the eyes of my heart Lord Open the eyes of my heart I want to see You I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up Shining in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love As we sing holy, holy, holy. Holy, Holy, holy. Holy, Holy, holy. I want to see you.
When you come to the Communion Rail today and receive the consecrated body and blood of Jesus Christ, pray that the eyes of your heart might be opened to the reality of the risen Christ. He Is Alive, Alleluia!