"Oh Lord, Let Us Dwell Together"
April 15, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. In today's reading of the gospels, "two disciples" are found. Yes, they certainly are called "disciples." They are disciples of Jesus Christ. However, today's reading begins with the figure in which they are distancing themselves from Jerusalem. They are distancing themselves from Jerusalem where the other disciples are assembled. As we see later, these men have lost hope because Jesus had ended up dying. So, they no longer had any reason to keep being disciples of Jesus. There was no reason for them to stay in Jerusalem as disciples of Christ. As a result, they put Jerusalem behind them. To them, their journey in leaving Jerusalem and going to Emmaus was a walk in which they were falling away from being a so-called disciple of Christ, that is, from being a Christian. In this way then, this story begins with the figure of these two persons in the process of not being Christ's disciples.
2. But, when we come to the end of the passage that we read today, what do you know it, they are in Jerusalem again. They are with the other disciples. They are there as disciples of Christ. What in the world made them go back to Jerusalem? That's what today's passage of scripture will tell us. Put another way, the narrative that we read today tells us: "What is it that makes a person keep being a Christian? What does it really mean to be a Christian, to keep being a Christian?"
The People Speak Of The Jesus Of The Past
3. To begin, please look from verse thirteen on down. "Right that day, two disciples, as they were walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus at a distance of sixty stadia away, were speaking with one another about all of what had happened," (verses thirteen and fourteen).
4. "All of what had happened" means the various events up to when this one called Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, killed, buried, and his corpse had disappeared. They were thinking that somebody had most likely stolen the corpse. [While] in that [thought] someone had come up to them. And [that person] asked them a question, "As you walked what was the subject of your conversation you were talking about with each other?" "With long faces the two stood still," says the text, (verse seventeen). And so since the man asked the question, they answered, "It is about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a mighty prophet in both deeds and words before God and all the people. Nevertheless, our chief priests and court members delivered him over to execution and crucified him," (verses nineteen and twenty).
5. Their memories had "a mighty prophet in both deeds and words" in them. A prophet is someone who speaks forth the word of God. Even after a prophet dies, his or her words remain. And indeed, it's not just the words. [The scripture] says "a mighty prophet in deeds." The deeds of a prophet also remain. Put another way, the way of life of the prophet also remains. Thus, the words and the deeds of this one named Jesus must have remained steadfastly within their hearts, even after Jesus had died.
6. But, they had long faces. It wasn't simply because of the sadness of bereavement. The following piece is written next. "We had put our hopes in him that he would liberate Israel," (verse twenty-one). That it says "we had put our hopes in him" means that their hopes were in "the past." The reason they had long faces was that their hopes had become a thing of the past. It [showed] that their hopes [for the future] made no connection to any probability that the words and deeds of Jesus might remain in their remembrances or to any likelihood that the influence that came from his way of living might remain on. Any way they might discuss with one another and talk about Jesus, as "a man of the past," there would be no salvation and no hope either. For that reason they could not continue to be disciples of Christ. With long faces they were walking the road to Emmaus distancing themselves from Jerusalem.
7. Well, the figure of the two persons we see here does show one very important fact. No matter how much great power the words and the deeds of Jesus had, the disciples of Jesus could not continue to exist in later time periods by them [alone]. By a Jesus of the past, the churches after the cross and the Christians after the cross could not possibly exist and this fact is being [plainly] given here in this text. This means, namely that, even we who are alive today could not possibly be Christians through just the words and the deeds of Jesus as a man of the past, by means of reflection upon his personal influence as an individual. So what in the world does it mean then, to be a Christian, to keep being a Christian?
The People Walk With The Jesus Of The Present
8. After that we encounter the following words in verse fifteen. "When they were conversing and debating with one another, Jesus himself came up to them, and he began to walk with them." The risen Christ had, in fact, walked with them. But, they had not realized that it was Jesus. Why [hadn't they realized it]? We really don't know why. The scripture just explains that "the two men's eyes were blurred." This has a relationship to verse thirty-one. It is written there that "the eyes of the two men opened and they understood that it was Jesus." It means that the Christ of the resurrection, walking with them, had opened their eyes and then began to be recognized [by them].
9. However, the two men still don't get it, yet though, the first series of work the Christ of the resurrection did is recorded here. Before they ever know it, the work of Christ for them is already begun. Christ came up to them. He had begun to walk with them. [They] asked [each other] questions. And something important is written in verse twenty-five and following. "'Alas, [you] men so slow to understand, dull in heart, unable to believe all that the prophets have said, wasn't the messiah supposed to enter into glory after receiving such suffering?' And beginning from Moses and all the prophets, spanning the entire body of scripture, he explained what was written concerning him," (verses twenty-five through twenty-seven). Christ clarifies the words of scripture [to them].
10. Then, the two men enter a house with Jesus. They come to the dinner table together. Yet interestingly enough, Christ acts like he is the master of the house. In effect, even here, the Lord is not doing things as a guest but as the master. Then Christ takes the bread, recites a prayer of praise, and after breaking the bread he hands it out.
11. In experiencing the series of work for them by Christ, their eyes are opened. "Whereupon, the two men's eyes were opened, and they understood it was Jesus, but then his figure became invisible," (verse thirty-one), says the scripture. This is a terribly strange thing. We will understand the reasoning in this if "Their eyes opened and they became able to see him." But, it is the opposite of that here. [Their eyes opened and] then they couldn't see [him because he vanished]. Since that is the case, in conclusion, whether Christ appears to our eyes or doesn't does not seem to be what is most important. The main thing is that Jesus has been walking with [us] to this point so far, and that we understand that he is still walking with [us] after that. It is important that we believe that very fact.
12. And when they believed it, they turn back around and say, "When he was speaking to us on the way, and also when he explained the scriptures to us, didn't our hearts burn?," (verse thirty-two). They were desperate, but [Jesus] lit the fire of life in them. Though they were truly dead, [Jesus] rekindled the fire of life in their hearts. And that flame began to blaze up mightily.
13. What became of the hopes that they once embraced? They still were not yet set free. Just as ever they were under the government of the Roman empire. Not one thing visible to them had changed. But, they were no longer persons who had lost their hope and walking with long faces. They were no longer persons as if dead with despair because they knew that the Christ of the resurrection was accompanying them and that he would accompany them from here on out and because they had received within the flame of life from Christ. So, they retrace their steps back to Jerusalem. They go back to the company of disciples. There they begin to live anew as disciples of Christ. In the process of witnessing the works of Christ they begin to live as disciples of Christ.
Oh Lord, Let Us Dwell Together
14. [I am] going back to the question from before. What in the world does it mean then, to be a Christian, to keep being a Christian? Today's passage of scripture clearly gives an answer to that question. Christian doesn't merely mean a person who lives putting into practice the words of Jesus from two thousand years ago. It isn't just a person who lives modeling the actions of Jesus. That's not it at all, rather [I] would define a Christian as someone who lives with the Christ of the resurrection. Jesus doesn't want to just be remembered and revered all the time as a "man of the past." He wants to live with [us] in our real worlds.
15. What is written here in this text is not just the unique experience of Cleopas and those with him. It is a gift that is given in church to us as well today. Here in this text is recorded what can and does still take place within the church today. Whether the scriptures are explained and the significance of the cross and the resurrection are made clear, or whether the presence of the Christ of the resurrection is demonstrated in the Lord's Supper, or whether [we have] a joy and a praise song that swells up when [the presence] accompanies [us] there [in the Lord's Supper], or the fire of life blazes up in our hearts that have sunk from grief and loss of hope, all of it is the work of the Christ of the resurrection, it is the gift of the Christ. Thus, as [a person] receives the work of the Christ of the resurrection that he did for him or her, [one can] claim that he or she is living with Christ and that as [being] a Christian.
16. And when we claim that we are living with Christ, as I stated earlier, whether we have seen the Christ of the resurrection like they did is not so much important because more important than [his] "being visible" is Christ's work in and of itself, and because it is more important that our eyes be opened unto the fact that Christ is with us and that he is walking the journey of our lives [with us] and we come to believe it.
17. So, how do our eyes get opened to the Lord, who is walking with us? How can we live constantly as that kind of person?
18. There is one thing that we mustn't overlook with this. It is written in verse twenty-eight and on as follows. "The group drew near to the village they were aiming for, but the situation was that Jesus was still wanting to go on further. The two men said, 'Please stay over because it will soon be evening, and the sun is already going down,' and just about forcing him to stop, Jesus went into the house to stay with them," (verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine).
19. Every good thing that happened among them was the gracious workings of Jesus, totally from him alone, nothing they did. But, in coming to where their eyes were opened to these gracious workings of the Lord, there was something that they had done on their part. It was [their] "stopping" the Christ of the resurrection. "Please stay over." This was [their] supplication to the Christ of the resurrection. In The Gospel Of Luke, Luke repeatedly speaks about "supplication, prayer," and this is "the prayer" which is recorded last.
20. This prayer is repeated in hymn number thirty-nine, which we will sing later, with the words "Oh Lord, let us dwell together." On that evening of the day of the resurrection, just as the disciples stated to the Lord, on this day we, too, want to make supplication together unto the Lord, "Oh Lord, let us dwell together." And until we come to the day of the end, until we come to the day of the end when it will no longer grow dark, we will continue to pray, "Oh Lord, let us dwell together."