The Easter Mind, Heart and Will

Together the two men plodded on, a dejected pair.

They had reasons to be.

Their hopes were crushed, their minds confused,

their hearts heavy, and all the light had gone out of their sky. No need to hurry now, and so they plodded on.

But then it happened.

It was the Stranger who joined them in their walk and talk and at their table who made all the difference. “Their eyes were opened, and they knew him,” and suddenly the reality that their Lord was risen burst upon them. What an Easter that turned out to be!

It changed the dark night that had engulfed Cleopas and his companion into the glorious light of day. Their risen Lord had graciously given them the Easter mind, the Easter heart, and the Easter will. And that’s what it takes to make our Easter genuine instead of phony.

We blunder so badly at Easter time when like so many we join thc secular throng who ruin the big day by majoring in the minors. The men of Emmaus did not find the glory of their Easter at the haberdasher, at the marts of fashion, at the supermarket and the delicatessen, or at the Aorist. And neither will we. All the finery, feasting, and flowers in the whole world are but trivia or even less for Easter unless they are solely and sincerely used as symbols of the true meaning of a happy Easter day. As an anonymous writer once said:

May Easter Day, To thy heart say, “Christ died and rose for thee.” May Easter night On thy heart write, “O Christ, I live to Thee.”

Splurge as we will in availing ourselves of the externals for Easter, all will he much ado about nothing unless in the inner chamber we receive from our risen Lord the Easter mind, the Easter heart, and the Easter will for the inner man. And here too, the word of our Lord is: “Ask, and ye shall receive.”

1. The Easter mind is the open mind.

That is, open to the Scriptures. And that is a far cry from “the open mind” so often extolled by freethinkers who stand for nothing and fall for everything. The late Dr. Ralph Stob, our esteemed Greek professor in college days, had little or no use for those who were so broad-minded that it was as if a steamroller had gone over them to flatten them out. Obviously, Stob had no time for a mind open at both ends, either incapable or unwilling to hold and to cherish any firm religious convictions.

And the German philosopher Goethe was not beside the paint when he once said: “Give me the benefit of your convictions if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own.” As believers in the crucified and risen Christ, we owe it to the Goethes of this world—and not the least at Easter time—to confront them with our bold and unequivocal convictions.

I remember hearing the late Dr. Ralph W. Sackman, nationally known radio preacher in his time, say when he appeared on a panel with a Rabbi Bernstein that he refused even to use the term “tolerance” (which was to have been the subject of their discussion) because that word implied “condescension.” Sackman said he preferred to speak of “hospitality of mind” which he exercised over against those with whom he disagreed. He chose to entertain those differences with “hospitality of mind.” The rabbi showed that he had better sense and firmer convictions when he pointed out to Sackman that they differed in their view of Christ and that he could not conceive in that case of a “hospitality of mind” and was convinced that they could only tolerate each other.

The Easter mind is the open mind—open not to every wind that blows, but open only to the tried and tested teachings of Scripture about the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.

The sacred record makes this so beautifully and abundantly clear. Keeping Himself incognito for the moment, the risen Lord began by opening the minds of His dejected followers, Cleopas and his companion, to the great truths of Scripture about Himself. Notice:

And he said unto them, O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning from Moses and from the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27).

Also the eleven gathered together at Jerusalem and those that were with them needed to have their minds opened to the Scriptures. And that is just what the risen Lord did for them when suddenly He appeared among them after Cleopas and his companion had found them. To this terrified little band He said:

These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets and the psalms concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke 23:44, 45).

True Christian faith is a matter of the mind and understanding as well as of the heart and trusting. Of Lydia we read that the Lord opened her heart “to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). When the risen Lord appeared to His bewildered and terrified disciples He opened their mind to an understanding of what the Scriptures say about His death and resurrection.

If our Easter celebration is to be one with the risen Lord at the very heart of it, the entrance to our minds must be cleared of the secular clutter that piles up so easily as a barrier between us and our children and a proper understanding of what the great day is all about.

As we expose ourselves to the unmistakable teaching of Scripture and ask to be guided by the Spirit, the literal, bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior as an unassailable fact shines forth in all its splendor with a radiance to comfort and encourage us in all our days and nights, in life and in death, for time and for eternity.

Blessed is the man of the open mind who knows that our Lord is risen indeed. To all who pretend to be celebrating Easter while they willfully close their minds to the fact of His resurrection we may address the lines of John Greenleaf Whittier:

Foul shame and scorn be on ye all Who turn the good to evil, And steal the Bible from the Lord And give it to the Devil. (from A Sabbath Scene)

2. The Easter heart is a burning heart.

“Get on fire for God,” John Wesley once said, “and men will come to see you burn.” As believers and His witnesses, our business is to impress others, not by our finery, feasting, and flowers, but by a burning conviction in our hearts that our Lord and Savior is truly risen from the dead and that we are alive with Him forevermore.

When Cleopas and his companion had suddenly recognized the Stranger who had walked and talked and dined with them as the risen Lord and He had vanished out of their sight, “they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spoke to us in the way, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 23:32).

William James is quoted as having once said that “religion is always a dull habit or an acute fever.” We know that it is a living faith in the risen Lord that makes all the difference.

Without realizing himself, a Mohammedan hit the nail right on the head when he reportedly once taunted a Christian by pointing out to him: “You Christians do not even have a tomb to which you can point, where your Jesus lies buried. We have the tomb of Mohammed in Mecca.” “That is just the point”; the Christian is said to have replied, “your prophet is dead and lies buried; our Christ is risen and is with us always.”

Hearts are not set aflame when they have nothing to cling to but a corpse in some far-off tomb. The sure knowledge and comforting assurance that we have a Savior and Lord who is risen and alive forevermore kindles a fire in our hearts that burns brightly in sickness and in health, in tribulation and in triumph, in the vigor of youth and also when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

The Easter heart is the burning heart that throbs with enthusiasm, excitement, zeal, and a contagious joy which all the treasures and pleasures of this world cannot even begin to afford.

The hearts of the men of Emmaus were set on fire, as they themselves testified, when their risen Lord spoke to them and opened to them the Scriptures. Merely reading and hearing the Word as a dull habit will do nothing for us. When the Spirit opens our cars and minds and hearts so that we read and hear in faith, a spark is kindled and the flame of heaven will burn within us and become ever brighter until at last we arise at home in the land of endless day. Isaac Watts once said it so well:

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, With all Thy quickening powers; Kindle a flame of sacred love In these cold hearts of ours.

3. The Easter will is a ready will.

Cleopas and his companion had that too. Overwhelmed with the realization that their Lord and Savior was truly risen, immediately they sprang into action. We read: “And they rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them . . . . And they rehearsed the things that happened in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:33, 35).

Any concession to the so-called post-Easter slump is a dead giveaway that one’s annual Easter celebration with all of its pomp and pageantry adds up to nothing else than an exercise in futility. Unless our will is wholly consecrated to the service of the risen Lord, all our words without deeds are in His sight like the proverbial garden full of weeds.

Fired with the conviction that their Lord was risen indeed, the disciples knew only one rule for their lives:

O Master, let me walk with Thee In lowly paths of service free; Tell me Thy secret; help me bear The strain of toil, the fret of care.

For Paul, according to that great chapter on the resurrection, it meant this: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

Easter finery is so soon discarded, the feasting is but a fleeting pleasure, and all the flowers will soon fade and die.

Blessed are they who by God’s grace may celebrate with an open mind, a burning heart, and a ready will. For them the joys of Easter go on and on forever.