“How Can We Distinguish a Good Shepherd from a Bad One?”

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John 10:1-11

One of the easiest things to do is to twist a scripture around to suit our own needs.

When we read Matthew 7:7, for example, it is tempting to mold the scripture around our own desires. If we look at the context of the passage, we understand that this scripture refers to the gospel message. However, if we look to our own fallen hearts, we might misunderstand the passage to be an invitation to “speak into existence” the things we want.

By doing this, however, we limit the nature of God to a subservient being who unthinkingly bows to our fallen desires; rather than a God who frees us from them.

Of course, our fallen nature prefers the twisted version of God; a truth that cult leaders and false teachers know all-too-well. Cult leaders and false teachers are renowned for molding God in the shape of our own desires. They play upon our desires for prosperity, security, and secret knowledge; using these desires to lead us astray.

None of us wants to fall victim to a false teacher, but how can we distinguish the genuine from the false? One true sign of a false teacher is originality. If a teacher boasts, “Only I can interpret the scriptures correctly,” they are almost certainly a false teacher.

Run far away from that teacher.

Scripture tells us that upon baptism, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us—regardless of our education, our age, or our charisma. It is the Holy Spirit—not our own desires or ingenuity—that reveals the true meaning of the scripture to us. God does not limit understanding to any one person.

Of course, this does not mean that all of the conclusions we reach while reading the Bible are “spirit led.” One way to know if we are reading the scripture correctly is to see if our understanding matches that of the faithful church throughout all of history. Another is to ask two very familiar questions:

  • What does this scripture tell us about the character of God?
  • What is the context of this scripture?

If we answer both these questions, the true meaning of the scripture will become clearer to us.

To understand the context of John 10:1-11, we must turn back to John 5. In John 5, Jesus heals a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years. Could you imagine how the man must have felt? For several years, this man had to beg in the street. He lacked everything—even someone “to help [him] into the pool when the water stirred.”

Then Christ healed him.

Although the man was ecstatic, the Pharisees were outraged: Jesus had worked on the Sabbath day. In fact, they became so upset that made plans to murder him.

We see this again in John 9 when Jesus heals a man who had been born blind. Instead of sharing the man’s joy, the Pharisees kicked the man out of the synagogue.  Again, the Pharisees are fighting God’s work rather than rejoicing in it.

Why?

In Ezekiel 34:2-4, God says:

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled over them harshly and brutally.”

This is God’s charge against the Pharisee, the cult leader, and the false teacher: that God entrusted them with his own flock, but they betrayed this trust to please themselves at the cost of the flock’s own well-being.

Cult leaders are famous for living in splendor while their followers barely scrape together money to send them. Several false teachers boast massive houses, expensive cars, and private helicopters. Some have even been accused of sexual and physical abuse!

These are the thieves and the robbers that Jesus refers to in John 10:1. Instead of entering through the door, these individuals try to lure the sheep to them by twisting the scripture. They do not come to care for the sheep; they come to care for themselves.

This leads us back to the first question: what does this scripture show us about the character of God?

John 10 is filled with descriptions of God’s character:

  • “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

The function of a gate is to keep the wrong people out and allow the right people in. Jesus, then, is our protector.

  • “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14)

First, Jesus reveals that he is not elusive: his sheep know him. It is possible for any of Jesus’ sheep to know him—truth is not limited to one person. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth to all who earnestly seek it.

Second, Jesus says that he is the good shepherd. This should remind us of Psalm 23, a scripture passage filled with a description of God’s character.

  • “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

The false teacher sacrifices the sheep for his own life; Jesus sacrifices his own life for the sheep. He is truly selfless.

The most important revelation of God’s character, however, can be found in verse 30. When Jesus refers to Ezekiel, everyone understands that he is claiming to be the Messiah. However, in verse 30, Jesus claims to be something more than the Messiah: he claims to be God.

Knowing this, then, what must we do?

When we look through this scripture, we will find that there are no direct commands. However, scriptures without direct commands are not scriptures without commands. If we read more about the context of the scripture, we can easily understand the indirect commands given in a passage.

For example, if we read Acts 20:28, Paul instructs us to “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Christ is the good shepherd, but he has called us to follow his example, caring for the sheep that he has entrusted us. This is the indirect command in John 10:1-11.

The question is not whether you wish to be a shepherd: regardless of your choice, Christ has entrusted people to you. He has given you family, friends, and co-workers that he trusts you will take care of in the same way that he cares for you.

The question is what we will do with these people. Will we follow the path of a false teacher and use these people to benefit ourselves? Or shall we follow Christ’s example? Knowing that God will destroy “the fat and the strong”, we should carefully consider our answer.

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Four Ways To Deny Yourself And One Way To Carry Your Cross

 

Korean culture has always considered it good and right for parents to make great sacrifices and undergo superhuman suffering so that their children can have a better life. For example, parents may work dangerously long hours and even lose their health in order to send their children to a “good school” in order to guarantee them a “good future.”

It is easy for us to think of Jesus in this way, dying on the cross in amazing suffering and pain so that those who believe in him may have not only eternal life but also a better and more successful one. We want to think that Jesus died on the cross so that we would not have to.

But Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 remind us that Jesus does not think like a Korean parent. Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

In other words, Jesus did not die on the cross so that we would not have to. Jesus died on the cross so that we would choose to do so also.

Jesus does not call us to take up our cross temporarily. He calls us to take it up daily. In Luke 9:23, he is not giving us a strategy for enduring difficult times while we wait for God to resurrect us to greater blessings in this lifetime. He is calling us to lose our lives permanently for his sake and the sake of the gospel. In the words of contemporary theologian John Behr, “The life of the baptized [Christian]…is one of ‘learning to die.’”[1]

So, in our final message today, we will be learning how to deny ourselves and take up the Cross of Christ.

There is a saying that the best way for a preacher to grow spiritually is to listen to his own preaching and then follow his own advice. That is certainly true with this message. I am far more qualified to preach on how to deny the cross and take up my self daily than I am to preach on how to deny myself and take up the cross.

Yet this message of denying self and taking up the cross must be preached because Jesus says that denying self and taking up the cross are the basic daily requirements for all disciples. For most of us, there is no one big moment presented to us where we must take up the cross once and for all. Instead, every day and every hour, in every action and every conversation for our entire lives, we must choose whether we will deny ourselves or deny the cross. The decisions we make in each moment add up to a whole life direction—one that either leads toward the cross or away from it. Even when we fail to deny ourselves and take up the cross in one moment, we are immediately faced with the same decision again in the next moment.

So, I am not only the preacher of this message but also the most eager listener and student—the person who most needs to hear it and learn from it, so that in the next moment, in the next conversation, I will choose as Jesus commands and not as my self demands.

An important starting point for us in living out this command of Jesus is to recognize that there are actually two commands here, not one: deny yourself, and take up your cross. The order of these commands is important. First, we must empty ourselves of something: Our self. Then, once we have emptied ourselves, we must put on something: The cross. We cannot carry both the cross and the self. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, no man can have two masters; he will hate the one and love the other. And as long as we are carrying the self, we will hate the cross.

The cross is life-giving. It should not be feared. It has only ever brought us eternal life. It is itself the tree of life. On the contrary, it is our own fallen self and will and heart that we should always fear, since these are the things that perpetually put us in danger of the fires of hell. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the human heart is deceitful above all things. But the cross has never deceived us. In Matthew 5:30, Jesus says, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell.” If that is true, should we not cut off our will and cleave only to the cross as the tree of life?

That is what Jesus has in mind when he commands us to deny ourselves. But how do we cut off our self and throw it away?

As I mentioned earlier, it is not one thing but many things, not just a one-time decision but a decision in each moment. So let us consider now the many ways we must deny self and create the space to carry the cross in our lives and hearts. We will start with perhaps the easier ways, if there be such a thing, though what may be easier for one person may be harder for another. But it may be easier to start with external forms of self-denial and work inward, especially so that we may “fence our heart in” and limit its ability to deceive us.

First, we can deny ourselves by dying to the delights and pleasures of this life. Please note that we are not called to die to all delights and pleasures, but instead to the delights and pleasures of this life. As the great church father Clement of Alexandria said, “Dying to ourselves means being content with the necessities of life. When we want more than these necessities it is easy to sin.”[2] We must learn to take delight and pleasure in simple daily bread. Or as Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:8-9:

If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Dying to the delights and pleasures of life is a necessary part of denying self, but it is of course not sufficient. Even if we remove every delight and pleasure of this life that surrounds us, sin can still reign in our bodies. As Jesus says in Matthew 15:11, it is not what goes into us that is our main problem; it is what comes out of us from the inside.

And so that leads to a second step we can take in denying ourselves: We can learn to ignore ourselves. The great church father Theophylact wrote, “We can learn what it means to deny oneself if we understand what it means to deny another.”[3] Last weekend Dr. Foley and I were in Yoido to see the cherry blossoms. The sidewalks were of course completely filled with people. But there was an old and haggard man lying on a wheeled cart, pulling himself forward by his hands, his stereo blaring out old-time music very loudly, while he hoped to receive donations. All of us are of course accustomed to seeing men like this in every large crowd, and we all did what we always do: We ignored the man. We stepped around him.

And yet, even in the middle of the night, I listen carefully to every thought in my own head. At every moment I am paying attention to what I think, what I feel, and what I want. I need to think of my self like I thought of that beggar. Like that beggar, my thoughts and feelings and needs never leave me alone. They are always there, playing their music loudly in order to get my attention and my sympathy. I need to think of them as being like a beggar on a cart pulling itself through my mind. Over time I can learn to ignore them.

Part of learning to ignore ourselves is to learn to ignore what others think of us. That is a third way we can deny self: By dying to the desires of others and being alive only to the desires of Christ. The contemporary theologian Thomas Hopko tells a story about this from the desert fathers of the early church:

One man asks an old man, “What is this Christian perfection we are seeking for?” The old man replied, “Come, I will show you” and took him to a fresh grave in a cemetery and said to the dead man, “Brother, you are the worst pig that ever lived. No one is as rotten as you”. Then the old man asked the young one, “What did he do?” The young man said, “Nothing, he is dead”. The old man looked again at the same grave and said, “You are the greatest person who ever was. No one is like you. You are the most wonderful, perfect person”. He then looked at the young man and asked, “What did he do”. The young man again replied, “Nothing, he is dead”. The old man then said, “Perfect”. He lives only before the face of God. He is not living for what people say whether they flatter, curse or bless him; he lives before the face of God. Therefore, he is free and he already reigns.[4]

We think (wrongly) that denying self means denying our own needs so we can be attentive to the needs of others. But Jesus himself is not attentive to the needs of others. He is solely attentive to the Father. He says in John 5:19 that he only does what he sees the Father doing. And watching the Father does not mean that Jesus is in the church building all day. The Father sees every hair that falls from our head. But in Mark 1, after Jesus spends the day healing people, the next day Peter lines up a whole new group of people waiting to be healed. But Jesus says to Peter, “Let’s head in the other direction so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” The needs of others can blind us to God just as much as our own needs. To deny self means even to deny self the right to meet the needs of others. We serve God alone, and when we serve others, we do so because he directs, and we do so as he directs.

This is a fourth form of denying our self: Dying to our self-trust. The Bible consistently teaches us that our self-will is fallen. It deceives us precisely at the moments when we are convinced we see clearly. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” We (wrongly) think that being saved somehow heals our judgment and makes it good.

But we should note that Christ’s self-will was never fallen—it has always been perfect—and yet he is still dead to self-trust. He simply disregards his will for the will of the Father. In Luke 22:42, in the Garden of Gesthemane, Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:7, that even in extreme situations like being sued in court by a fellow Christian, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” In Romans 14:4, he is writing about conflicts between believers about Christian practice. He says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

Contemporary theologian Michael Reagan says it like this: “Self-will is the source of all human conflict in the world, and certainly in the church as well.”[5] God does not heal our self-will and then re-deploy it so that we can bless the world with our improved judgment. God heals the world by crucifying our self-will. As Reagan says, “Only when I am firmly nailed to my own cross will the world know peace.”[6]

Or as the great Russian Orthodox church father Ignatius once said:

Whatever you do, on no account condemn anyone; do not even try to judge whether a person is good or bad, but keep your eyes on that one evil person for whom you must give an account before God: yourself.[7]

Where we are given opportunity to practice this most is in marriage. Lynn Roush, a contemporary spiritual writer, says, “God specifically uses the marital relationship to reveal the sin of self-righteousness.”[8] Certainly, no one is exposed to my self-righteousness more often or more fully than my wife. My selfishness certainly creates problems for my wife, but it is my self-trust—my confidence that I am right and that my wife needs to know that—that creates more problems and bigger problems for the two of us. Roush says that in marriage, “we will always rise to our own defense and succumb to blaming [our spouse] and believing the best about ourselves.”[9] Biblically, of course, that is ridiculous. As Roush says, “The Bible continually warns us of our own self-deception and requires us to accept that we do not see ourselves the way God sees us.” That’s why Roush says, no matter what it may look like or feel like in any given conflict with our spouse, no matter how certain we are that we are right and our spouse is wrong, “our greatest marital problem is ourselves.”[10]

But this is what makes marriage a great teacher of self-denial: Either you die to self, or your marriage dies. Roush says:

Two people pursuing their own kingdoms throughout a marriage will eventually end in bloody battle. But what if both people decide to submit to God’s kingdom, where Christ reigns supreme and where joy, meaning, and life are found? A heart reorientation of this magnitude is where real change begins, and the conflict of a marriage becomes an “opportunity to exit the small space of the kingdom of self and to begin to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the kingdom of God.”

I’ve written two books on the Sexual Revolution and the challenge it creates for the church. There are many aspects of the Sexual Revolution, but the one that Christians are usually interested to talk about is gay marriage. What most Christians see as the main problem with gay marriage is the gender of those marrying. And certainly that is a problem, since as we shared in our first message, Eve being drawn from the side of Adam—the first marriage—is intended as a type, or foreshadowing, of the one true marriage, which is the church being drawn from the side of Christ on the cross. In Christianity, each marriage is intended to point to that one true marriage, and so Christian marriage has always been the union of one man and one woman.

But that is not the only problem with gay marriage from a Christian perspective, and it is not the deepest problem. The deepest problem with gay marriage from a Christian perspective is that marriage is understood and undertaken as a means of self-fulfillment: I marry a man because it is in marrying a man that I am most fulfilled. But in the one true marriage, the marriage of Christ and the church, marriage is not a means of self-fulfillment, but of martyrdom. Christ does not need the church for his fulfillment. In fact, Christ needs nothing for his fulfillment. As Paul says in his speech on the Areopagus in Acts 17:25, “He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

Unlike Christ, we human beings do have needs. But Christianity has always insisted that Christian marriage (as different from other forms of marriage) does not exist for the purpose of meeting our needs. Instead, it exists to embody and display Christ’s selfless love for the church. This is why it has its foundation in self-denial and martyrdom. My spouse is not my partner in having my needs met; in fact, my spouse may be my enemy in that regard. Instead, spouses in Christian marriage are living sacraments of Christ and the church, and they are commanded in Ephesians 5 to receive each other accordingly. In the Eastern churches this is even signified in the wedding service by the husband and wife receiving martyrs’ crowns.[11]

But it is not only gay couples that have distorted Christian marriage into a means of self-fulfillment these days; it is Christian husbands and wives in general that have distorted Christian marriage in the same way. But it is not only Christian husbands and wives in general that have distorted Christian marriage in the same way; it is I myself that do so in my own marriage. So as Father Ignatius says, the one evil person I really need to keep my eye on with regard to the distortion of Christian marriage is myself.

These are easy things to say in a sermon, these five ways of self-denial, but the real test comes for me—and for each of us—in the next encounter we have with our spouse…and in the next encounter we have with the needs of others…and in the next encounter we have with our own needs and desires…and in the next encounter we have with other’s opinions of us…and in the next encounter we have with the delights and pleasures of this life. In each of those encounters we will face the challenge of denying ourselves or denying the cross.  In each moment our hearts will demand that we assert ourselves. Our hearts will insist that those we are encountering will be impoverished without the full expression of our good judgment.

In such times we should recall that Christ does not save the world by subjecting the world to his judgment. He saves the world by subjecting himself to the world’s judgment, by dying on the cross.

And even that is not quite correct. Christ does not actually save the world by dying on the cross. He saves the world by placing his trust not in himself but in his Father. That includes the Father’s instruction to Jesus to take up the cross.

In the same way for us, self-denial means death to our exercising any form of control or judgment or self-will and instead our exercising absolute trust in God. It means us accepting everything that comes to us as coming to us from the Lord’s hand—not because he causes it, but because he permits it, for his purpose and for our learning perfect obedience and trust in him. This is where self-denial begins to become the taking up of the cross.

The church father Nicholas of Žiča defined taking up your cross like this:

What does it mean to take up your cross? It means the willing acceptance, at the hand of Providence, of every means of healing, bitter though it may be, that is offered. Do great catastrophes fall on you? Be obedient to God’s will, as Noah was. Is sacrifice demanded of you? Give yourself into God’s hands with the same faith as Abram had when he went to sacrifice his son. Is your property ruined? Do your children die suddenly? Suffer it all with patience, cleaving to God in your heart, as Job did. Do your friends forsake you, and you find yourself surrounded by enemies? Bear it all without grumbling, and with faith that God’s help is at hand, as the apostles did.[12]

Jesus does not say, “Search for your cross.” He will bring it to you daily. You need only take it up in whatever form he brings it, with full trust in God.

 

[1] J. Behr. 2013. Becoming Human. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 64-66.

[2] “Selected Quotes of the Fathers on the Holy Cross.” Full of Grace and Truth. http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.kr/2010/03/selected-quotes-of-fathers-on-holy.html.

[3] Theophylact. “On the Veneration of the Holy Cross.” Mystagogy Resource Center. http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2013/04/let-him-deny-himself-take-up-his-cross.html.

[4] T. Hopko. 1999. “Life after death… Mysteries beyond the grave.” Orthodox Christian Info. http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/afterdeath.htm.

[5] M. Reagan. 2011. “Take Up Your Cross.” The Abandoned Mind. http://theabandonedmind.blogspot.kr/2011/09/take-up-your-cross.html.

[6] M. Reagan. 2011.

[7] Ignatius Brianchaninov. n.d. “St. Ignatius Brianchaninov: Speak will of those who speak evil of you. . . .” Orthodox Church Quotes. https://orthodoxchurchquotes.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/st-ignatius-brianchaninov-speak-will-of-those-who-speak-evil-of-you/.

[8] L. Roush. 2010. “Marriage: A Dying to the Self.” Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2010/may/marriage-dying-to-self.html.

[9] L. Roush. 2010.

[10] L. Roush. 2010.

[11] J. Meyendorff. 1975. Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

[12] N. Velimirovich. n.d.  “Selected Quotes of the Fathers on the Holy Cross.” Full of Grace and Truth. http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.kr/2010/03/selected-quotes-of-fathers-on-holy.html.

 

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Why Did Jesus Need to Explain the Scriptures to Cleopas?

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Luke 24:13-35

If you were walking with Cleopas along the road to Emmaus, you would think that the story of Jesus was a tragedy. After all, Jesus was crucified.

Crucifixion was the most shameful and disgraceful way to die. It was a method of torture reserved for the most despicable kind of criminals—slaves, thieves, pirates, and traitors. The goal? To dissuade the public from following in the traitor’s footsteps. To this end, an individual’s suffering was prolonged and their exposure to the public was maximized.

Nothing was more shameful than the cross.

Seneca once said, “It is better to commit suicide than to go through crucifixion.” Another Roman concurred, adding that Romans should keep the crucifixion far from their bodies, the minds, their eyes, and their ears. In other words, even thinking about a crucifixion was shameful! Especially because it wasn’t only the crucified individual that was shamed; anyone affiliated with the individual was humiliated alongside them.

If you were walking alongside Cleopas, Christ’s crucifixion would truly be a tragedy.

Christ’s crucifixion was shameful, but the fact that his body was missing only rubbed salt into the wound. Of course, Cleopas tells us that the women came to the disciples with news of Jesus’ resurrection, but the disciples had not believed them. After all, without the Holy Spirit, it would be very difficult for them to believe the women’s testimony!

As if this was not tragic enough, Cleopas and the disciples had high hopes for Jesus. Of Jesus, Cleopas said, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” This is reminiscent of Zechariah’s song in Luke 1: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel / because he has come to his people and redeemed them!” Jesus was their great redeemer. He was the one who they hoped would redeem Israel. Instead of watching him redeem Israel, however, the disciples watch him suffer the most shameful of executions.

To the disciples, this was truly a tragedy. But to us, Luke 24:13-35 is more than a tragedy—it’s a tragicomedy.

Jesus appears to these despairing disciples, but they cannot recognize him. Furthermore, Jesus doesn’t reveal himself immediately. This allows for several comic moments. Especially when Cleopas says, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened here?” and Jesus replies, “What things?”

But this exchange between Jesus and Cleopas is more than entertaining—it is enlightening. We can see God’s character through the way that Jesus speaks with Cleopas. Foremost, we can see that God is patient. Jesus does not introduce himself immediately. Instead, he walks and speaks with Cleopas. He listens. Despite Cleopas’ ignorance, Jesus never once smacks Cleopas on the head. God is patient. He is also compassionate and forgiving.

Do you remember what the disciples did when Jesus was arrested? They ran. The apostles locked themselves in a room. Even now, the disciples are not looking for Jesus’ body.

But Jesus is looking for them.

Although we never see the words “I forgive you,” we can sense that Christ has already offered his forgiveness to Cleopas. He walks with Cleopas, talks with Cleopas, and even accepts Cleopas’ invitation to stay in the house. Despite Cleopas’ betrayal, Jesus has forgiven him. Our God is forgiving.

What does God do in this passage? He walks alongside the disciples, he speaks with them, and—most importantly—he explains the scripture to them. But why would Jesus need to explain the scriptures? The disciples spent three years with Jesus. They heard him teach many times. After Jesus told a parable, he turned to the disciples and explained the parable to them. The disciples saw Jesus heal people and exorcise demons. They even saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead! Yet the disciples still cannot understand the scriptures. Why is this?

Was it because they were not well trained in the scriptures?

The scribes and Pharisees knew the Old Testament like the back of their hands. They were experts on both Jewish history and Jewish culture. They knew the nuances of the Hebrew language. Nevertheless, even the Pharisees could not understand the scripture!

Often, we think that if we (1) had lived with Jesus or (2) if we understood Jewish culture better, we would be able to understand the Bible better. The disciples and the scribes show us that this is not the case. While both are helpful, neither can supply us sufficient understanding of the scripture.

Jesus is the key to understanding the scripture.

Talented mystery authors often explain that they plan the crime before writing. While writing, they will scatter several clues throughout their novel that indicate this solution. If you are reading the novel for the first time, these clues might not stand out to you. But if you have read the book, learned the solution, and read the novel again, the clues become obvious.

Jesus is the solution of the Bible.

If we read the Bible with Jesus in mind, we will be able to understand the scripture. However, if we read without considering him, we will likely overlook or misinterpret a clue that God has left for us! This is what the disciples and scribes did.

However, even when Jesus explained the scriptures to the disciples, they were still unable to recognize him. They understood the scriptures, but they could not recognize him. This is what makes the end of the scripture so important.

After entering the house, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to the disciples. The words used in this verse are very similar to the words of Luke 22:19. In the upper room, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to the disciples. He tells them, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus chooses to reveal himself through Communion.

When Jesus broke the bread and handed it to Cleopas, his eyes were opened. In the same way, when we do Communion, our eyes are open anew. This is why we call Communion a sacrament: Christ has chosen to reveal himself to us through Communion. When we partake of the bread and the cup, we are meeting the risen Lord—just like Cleopas!

There are no direct commands to us in this passage, but Jesus’ interaction with Cleopas shows us that God has indirectly asked something of us: to rely on Christ. The primary way of understanding the character of God is through the scriptures. Without Christ, we cannot understand the scriptures. So we must come before Christ. Through Communion, Christ has given us a way to do this. All we are called to do, then, is to be willing to listen and break bread with him.

The Romans considered the cross a tragedy. They recommended that citizens avert their eyes—and their minds—from crucifixion. However, through this passage, we learn that the cross was not a tragedy: it was Christ’s glory.

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