The Barrel by John H. Pavelko

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With Open Minds

Luke 24:36b-48

A Closed Book

They leisurely wandered through the streets of Boston.Small shops lined the thoroughfare offering the discerning shopper a variety of merchandise.Gordon and Gail, however, were not shopping for gifts or clothes or knickknacks.They were in search of lost treasure, the forgotten kind that is tucked away on the back shelf of a secondhand bookstore.They entered one store and Gail went to the biography section.She found a copy of a biography of Daniel Webster published in 1840.The cover looked well worn.She thought that the book might have been the prized edition of a New England family for generations.She could almost picture the parents reading aloud the story about the life of the great statesman.To her surprise, when she began to leaf through the book, she exposed several pages that would not open.The printer had inadvertently failed to properly cut the paper.Until she took a knife and slit the folded paper, the pages could not be read, clear evidence that the book had remained closed, unopened for generations.The book may have been well used but only to adorn a shelf, serve to stop a door or provide height for a small child to reach the table.[1]
I wonder if any of us unknowingly have a Bible with uncut pages.The book may stand impressively on a shelf or adorn a coffee table but we have only read the New Testament, when we do read it.Maybe one or two pages in Hezekiah need to be separated.

Luke tells us that after Jesus appeared to his disciples he explained how beginning with Moses he explained how the entire Scriptures, the books we now refer to as the Old Testament all pointed to his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus did not want his disciples to neglect any portion of Scripture.He understood that unless his disciples were knowledgeable in the entire word of God, they would not be able to be effective witnesses.

The Third Appearance

This is the third and last resurrection appearance in the gospel of Luke.Grouping by three assists the readers’ memory and highlights the instructional lessons of the stories.Earlier in the gospel, Luke groups together three lost and found parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.At the end of the gospel, he employs a triad of resurrection appearances not only to bear witness to the historical reality of the resurrection but also to present three practical lessons for the Christian faith.Jesus’ appearance first to the women, demonstrates that they are as equal in importance to the spiritual health of the community as men.The second appearance occurs around a table.He earlier met two men walking to the village of Emmaus.They invited him to dinner.After he broke bread, the eyes of their hearts were opened and they recognized their Risen Lord reminding us that his Real Presence is revealed through the Eucharistic meal.And finally, this third appearance shows the community the importance of the Old Testament Scriptures.They are not to be neglected but read and studied because the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets all bear witness to his coming.
The Church needs to seriously consider the importance that Jesus placed on the early believers having a thorough understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures.Most surveys conducted to determine the extent of Biblical literacy present rather disappointing results.The Barna Research Group found that 12% of adults believe that the Catholic saint Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife and 38% of adults believe that the entire Bible was written several decades after the death and resurrection.[2]Hopefully these statistics would be much different if the survey was limited to people who attended church but I wonder how well we know the Old Testament.For example, 

Do you know who first predicted the coming of the Messiah? 

Which of Jacob’s 12 sons from whom Jesus descended? 

Do you know the name of King David’s father? 

Do you know whether it was Jeremiah, Isaiah or Ezekiel that delivered the text that we now refer to as the suffering servant predicting that the Messiah would not come as a conquering leader? 

Or which prophet predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? 

Or do you know the prophet that foretold the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the people of God? 

These are all very basic Old Testament facts.On the surface, they do not appear very important.It is possible to live a godly life without ever knowing these facts but by understanding their importance and symbolism we deepen our faith.By immersing ourselves in the Old Testament, we learn to appreciate the story of redemption.

The Story of Redemption

That story begins with Creation in which a loving and good God brought forth out of nothing a world in which his creation could live and enjoy the fellowship of his presence.But the power of evil was too tempting.The man and the woman would succumb to its seductive lure and fall into its enslaving, destructive power.Their relationship with one another, their God, and the created order would be destroyed.Tarnished by sin, humanity struggled to reestablish fellowship with their Creator but all their efforts fell short, so God initiated his plan of salvation.
It began with a promise contained in the message of judgment upon the serpent.

 
5 And I will put enmity 
between you and the woman, 
and between your offspring and hers; 
he will crush your head, 
and you shall bruise his heal 

Satan would inflict torment and pain upon the woman’s offspring but the day would come when one of her descendants would bring a crushing defeat to the power of evil.But that day was in the future and before it would come, God would need a people so, he called Abraham and Sarah and gave them the promise of a son.Both were very old. Sarah was beyond childbearing age.She struggled to believe but God was faithful and she gave birth to Isaac.Now the people of God needed a homeland, so God led Abraham and Sarah to Canaan.He showed them the land that their descendants would inhabit and Sarah and Abraham believed God. 

God continued to provide for his people by providing Isaac with a wife named Rebecca.They had two sons, Esau and Jacob.While Esau was the oldest, God loved Jacob and the promise of salvation was bestowed on him.Isaac’s family was torn with jealously, deception, and favoritism but God kept his word and protected Jacob when he fled from his brother’s vengeance.Jacob found safety at the home of his uncle, Laban and fell in love his uncle’s daughter Rachel.But now Jacob would become the victim of deception and treachery.Thinking he was marrying the youngest daughter Rachel, Jacob discovered the morning after that his drunken celebration had allowed Laban to switch daughters.Jacob had sealed the marriage relationship with the homely Leah.But once again, God remained faithful and while Jacob worked another seven years for his crafty uncle, he was blessed with 12 sons.Leah would give birth to his four oldest, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. 

Once again, conflict would mar the relationship of God’s family.Jacob would show favor to Joseph creating jealously and hatred amongst his other sons.Their animosity toward Joseph finally drove them to sell him into slavery and lie to their father.They showed the old man who was now called Israel, the blood soaked coat of many colors.They told him that a wild beast had killed his favorite son.They thought that they had put an end to their brother but they did know that God was using their deception to save his people.Joseph remained faithful to God and endured servanthood and prison allowing him to become the second most powerful man in Egypt.When a devastating famine struck the land, he was in a position of power to save the very same brothers who tried to kill him. God had remained faithful to his people. 

Jacob and his Eleven, sons journeyed to Egypt and survived the famine.They multiplied in numbers and thrived.But their prosperity threatened the Egyptians and God’s people found themselves in slavery until God would raise up a prophet to lead them back to the promised land.Their return to their homeland was not easy.They continued to struggle in their faith.They were not certain if they were willing to trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.They often rebelled but God always remained faithful. 

Once in Canaan, God raised up judges, military leaders and prophets to lead his people against their adversaries but they wanted a King.So, God found one man who sought after his own heart and anointed a young shepherd boy to rule over all of Israel.The nation became prosperous. The Law given to Moses insured that the rights of the poor, the widow and the powerless were protected.But the power of sin was too great and once again, the people of God were seduced.They ignored the Law and worshiped the idols created by their own hands.They oppressed the poor.The powerful twisted the law for their own economic advantage.God sent prophets to call the people back to the covenant but they stubbornly refused.So, God pronounced his judgment.But even in his wrath, his mercy provided a promise.A day would come when another man would restore the fortunes of Israel.He would heal the land and deliver her from her enemies.

Speaking through his servants the prophets, God told his people about the future coming of that man, Messiah.He would be born of a virgin, in the city of David.He would be rejected and despised.He would suffer and die but in his death he would deliver the people of God from her most powerful enemy. 

Such is the story is the God’s sovereign plan of history.It is a story marked by both the faithfulness and unfaithfulness of God’s people.It is a story of how God was able to use people who were obedient and even disobedient.It is a story of God persevering through human frailty.It is a story of God’s faithfulness.By reading that story again and again, we are reminded that we serve a sovereign God who is able to overcome any and all obstacles that we erect out of our disobedience, laziness and insincerity. 

What a powerful story.It is a story that deserves to be read over and over and over again.

The Story that Never Ends

In C. S. Lewis’ book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a little girl by the name of Lucy finds a magical book that tells about a cup, a sword, a tree, and a green hill.The story is the Narnian equivalent to the Gospel.Lewis writes, “She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too.”When she had gotten to the third page she came to the end and said, “that is the loveliest story I’ve ever read or shall read in my whole life.Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years.’”[3]
The same could be said about the story of salvation.Though we read the same story over and over, I would hope that we never grow tired of hearing it.I hope that we as a congregation become immersed in reading and reading and reading again, from Genesis to Revelation the story of God’s love.Because beginning with Moses, the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets all point to the love that God would reveal in his Son, Jesus Christ.


[1] Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), 100.
[2] Barna Research Group, Ventura CA, Online: May 2, 2003, www.barna.org.
[3] C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,

 


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