Their Eyes Were Opened
A Biblical Study for the Easter Season
Based on the Gospel of Luke
The seventh week of Easter (May 8). For this page in PDF format click on the title, below.
Easter 7 by the Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson
LISTEN to the audio interview or read the transcript below. The interview is based on this verse and the following question:“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8).
Question for reflection: Can you tell a story about a time when you felt empowered to witness to Christ in an unlikely place or in an unlikely way?
Listen to a reflection by Ben Powers of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX.
Or read Ben’s reflection here: Witnessing Christ by Ben Powers
I. READ and STUDY the Scriptural Passage:
Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Commentary on the Passage
This passage is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of Luke’s story of Jesus and the beginnings of the church. It begins with a brief recap of the end of the Gospel, and then anticipates what will happen when the Holy Spirit descends upon the gathered disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem.
The disciples ask the risen Christ, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Like many of us, they are looking to God and God’s agent, Jesus, to bring about the healing of the world. As yet, they probably do not understand the import of Jesus’ answer, that the Holy Spirit is about to come upon them, to inspire and fuel their witness in all the world. Some scholars call the Holy Spirit the main character in the Gospel of Luke. If you read the Gospel all the way through, you will quickly see why careful readers would notice the Spirit’s prominence—the Spirit is powerfully present when just about anything happens.
The descent of the Spirit will make the disciples the true heirs of the ministry of Jesus, and now we, too, are the heirs of the reconciling ministry of Jesus. The Spirit not only inspires us, but empowers us and gives us the discernment to discover our most powerful ways of living out our Baptism into Christ in our time and place, among the people we serve. At the end of the passage, the two men in white robes ask why the disciples are just staring up into heaven, looking for a Christ who has passed from their sight. In essence, they counsel the disciples not to look toward the past, but to look for the Christ who beckons them from the future. This is the Christ whose ministry they will be empowered to join in.
III. RESPOND to the following questions:
- Find the connections between the interview and the biblical story.
- Is there a connection between the interview and your story?
- In book after book of the New Testament, we find a very high understanding of what it means for followers of Jesus to be baptized into him and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Can you tell a story about a time in the last week when you felt a glimmer of the Spirit’s empowerment? Where were you? How did you know it was the Spirit of God? What have you done about that occurrence since?
- Sometimes our high ideals or our deep concerns about the world can feel overwhelming. What is the one single smallest step you could take to test out a way that you may be called into Christ’s ministry of reconciliation in your own context? Initial steps include such things as learning more about a situation that concerns you, deepening your prayer for that situation, and looking for people who are engaging the situation near you.