May 18, 2023: Ascension Day? Or a birthday?

Reading: Luke 24:44-53

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.



I know today is Ascension Day and probably this devotional should be about that, but I can’t get my mind off another detail in today’s reading. Luke writes that “[Jesus] opened [the disciples’] minds to understand the scriptures. He opened their minds.

What does that mean? How did he do it? Did he give them a well thought out rational argument that not only made sense in the context of their worldview but also introduced them to another, more “elevated” worldview? Did he go and touch their foreheads and say, “be opened!” Or maybe he silently commanded their brains which, like the opening of a levy, flooded their minds with a new way of seeing. What happened?

There are two words here worth looking at. The first is the Greek word for “mind” which is nous. It might be better translated as “awareness” and, in Greek philosophy, it refers to the rational faculties (as opposed to pneuma, the spiritual ones). Jesus broadened the disciples’ awareness. This means that while Jesus may have very rationally explained the scriptures to them, something deeper was happening within them. As Jesus spoke, he also bestowed on them a brand new way of seeing, hearing, and touching the world.

Which brings us to the other word. We read that Jesus “opened the disciples’ minds”; the word for “opened” here is dianoigo and “opened” seems like a rather tame translation. It can also mean “firstborn.” Dianoigo evokes a rather visceral image of the emergence that occurs in childbirth: a woman’s body literally opens to birth something new. This is not just taking the lid off a box or unwrapping a present or swinging a door—this is a far more powerful, meaningful kind of “opening.”

So we could say that Jesus “opened their minds” or we could say that he “birthed new awareness” for them. I like that second translation better because I think it connects to the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come when we are struck with something truly life-altering. We feel reborn, we feel like we are new in the world, we feel like we’re seeing as we have never seen before. And the new thing that has come to live within us didn’t come easily but through a sort of labor.

Have you ever had that happen? Maybe it came from a book, a movie, a sermon, or a conversation with a friend. It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then, our worldview is expanded, our consciousness is elevated, a new awareness is born within us.

And most of the time, it doesn’t come from any work of our own but as an inspiration, a free gift from God.

Isn’t that a beautiful gift for Jesus to give his disciples before he departs?

Praise God it’s a gift he still gives.

–Jim Vitale



Gracious God,

Birth within us a new awareness of your goodness, your mercy, your grace, and your kingdom.