There’s something (among other things) that Jesus did for his disciples after his resurrection that He didn’t do before it: He “opened” the Scriptures to them, that is, He gave them clear understanding of their meaning, especially in relation to Himself. This may have happened when He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit, though we hear of this “breathing” and this “opening” in two different Gospels, and in two different ways.
In any case, we see, whether it was concerning Jesus’ spoken words or the Old Testament Scriptures themselves, that the disciples were rather clueless before the resurrection. “They did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it” (Luke ). “When he was raised from the dead, the disciples remembered that he had said this” (John ). “His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered” (John ). “As yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).
Luke tells us clearly of the opening of the Scriptures to the disciples after the resurrection. As He walked along the road to Emmaus with two disciples (who still did not perceive who He was and hence did not yet understand the meaning of the Scriptures), “he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:27). When the disciples finally recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, they exclaimed: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (24:32). So this opening of the Scriptures brings not merely an intellectual understanding, but also enkindles a fire in one’s heart, a fire of love and joy and zeal to bring the Gospel to others.
Then when Jesus appeared to the other apostles gathered in the upper room, He spoke of the fulfillment of the law and prophets and psalms in Himself. “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (24:45). I have always found this a fascinating passage. What must it have been like for the disciples suddenly to see, to understand, to be overwhelmed by the loving wisdom of the great plan of God for our salvation, perfectly fulfilled in the glorified Savior standing at that moment in their midst? Suddenly it all made sense, all the pieces fit together, they discovered the promise and the fulfillment, and were about to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that they could take this revelation to the world, so that all hearts would burn with divine love and light as the Scriptures were opened to them.
I often pray that the Lord will open the Scriptures to me, that I may enter the mysteries contained therein—not only to know, but to live them, to be immersed in them, to walk in the same Spirit the disciples did after Jesus opened their minds and hearts. We all ought to pray that He open the Scriptures to us, for we have barely begun truly to understand and live them. May our hearts burn with the revelation of his truth and love!