When You Have a Slow Heart
Jesus was crucified. He died and was buried. But on the third day, He rose again. These events are well attested to by eyewitnesses. And there are other convincing proofs that attest to the reality of the literal, physical resurrection of Christ. So why do so many not believe, or live as though they do not believe?
I used to think that if we could point to the evidences of Jesus’ resurrection, that’s all it would take to convince the skeptics. But believing in the resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of the mind; it’s a matter of the heart.
For the past several weeks we have been talking about the heart, about what we should do if we have a hard heart, or a self-centered heart or a thirsty heart, or a rebellious heart. This week, in light of Jesus’ resurrection, we’re going to determine what we should do when we have a slow heart.
In Luke 24, the beloved physician relates the account of two followers of Jesus who encountered the risen Lord on their way to Emmaus. It’s obvious that these two companions do not recognize Jesus (v. 16). The Lord joins them and wants to know what they are talking about. One of them, Cleopas, expresses surprise that this stranger who has joined them hasn’t heard about the events in Jerusalem that led to the crucifixion of the one they believed would redeem Israel. Cleopas goes on to talk about reports that some women claim to have seen Jesus alive. have heard the news, but they are not convinced. And they are not investigating.
Then Jesus takes control of the conversation, saying: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (v. 25).
Why are their hearts slow to believe? The Scriptures clearly point, with minute detail, to the coming of the Messiah. But when the Messiah came, the nation of Israel as a whole did not recognize him. Their hearts were slow to believe. Why? For the same reason so many people today are slow of heart to believe—a culturally conditioned belief system and an incomplete understanding of Scripture. The resurrection solves both of these problems. The resurrection is a paradigm-shattering historical event, and the resurrection is the key to understanding all the Scriptures. In other words, the resurrection transforms slow hearts into burning hearts. Here’s a sneak peek into how that happened:
Jewish people are the last people on the face of the earth to be open to the idea that a human being could be God. God would never become a man. That was impossible. So when Jesus bursts on the scene performing miracles and forgiving sins—the things that only God could do, the Jews were resolute. Jesus could not be the Son of God because it is impossible for God to become a man. And besides, the Messiah would come as a strong warrior king and overthrow the Romans. Jesus didn’t come as a strong warrior king. He came in weakness to save those who admit their weakness and their need of a Savior. And besides, doesn’t Deuteronomy say, "Cursed is he who is hung on a tree." And didn't Jesus actually cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
So here's what most of the Jews were thinking: Christianity makes no sense because the Messiah would be blessed by God, would be supported by God, would be accompanied by God. And this guy, Jesus, was abandoned by God. He was cursed. What kind of salvation could a series of events like that bring?
But then something happened. Some of those who followed Jesus saw him raised from the dead. Wait a minute, they think. If Jesus was raised from the dead then God did vindicate him. God is pleased with him. God does love him. But wait another minute. If God does love Jesus and is pleased with him, then when he was cursed and abandoned he must have been cursed and abandoned for somebody else's sins, not his own."
Once these slow of heart followers of Jesus understood the resurrection, they understood the cross. The two were inextricably entwined. And once they understood the resurrection and the cross together, the whole Bible opened up to them. And then their hearts were no longer slow. They were on fire.