As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. (verses 2-3)
It was Paul’s delight to take the Scriptures he had always loved (to which he had given years of devotion) and use them to open eyes and ears to perceive Jesus as the Christ, grasping that he had to suffer and then rise from the dead.
In this, he is following in the very steps of Jesus himself. Luke, recording this for us, uses a word that makes the connection clear. The word is “explaining.” It literally means “to open what has been closed,” often being applied to eyes and ears. It’s already been used this way in the Gospels when Jesus put his fingers in the deaf man’s ears and spoke the Aramaic command “Ephphatha!” – Mark translates for us, using this very word, telling us it means “Be opened!” (Mark 7:34).
Luke then uses this same word three times over at the end of his Gospel account, telling us about Jesus’ encounters with his followers on the day of his resurrection.
At the dinner table in Emmaus, with two of his followers alone, Jesus prays and breaks bread. It’s at that very moment their eyes were opened (same word) and they knew who he was (Luke 24:31). When he immediately disappears from their sight, they turn to each other and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us when he talked with us on the road and opened (same word) the Scriptures to us?” same word) the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:31).
Later, having appeared to the gathered disciples in the Upper Room in the heart of Jerusalem, Luke tells us, using the same word once again, that “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Jesus went on to tell them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:46).
This is Paul’s goal in Acts 17. He wants to open eyes and ears to perceive Jesus, to understand the saving implications of his death and grasp the incomparably great power of his resurrection.
May it be so for us. Ephphatha!
Dear Jesus, open my eyes and ears to you afresh today.
Reflect: Choose an Old Testament scripture that declares the Christ will suffer and die and rise again – write it out – call it to mind several times today. Give thanks.
(Possibilities: Isaiah 53:4-6, Isaiah 53:10-11, Psalm 22:7-8, Psalm 22:14-18, Psalm 16:8-11)