As the church continues to celebrate the Easter season, the lectionary presents an interesting series of texts for preachers to proclaim and hearers to receive. Some passages go backward into the ministry of Jesus before his mission of death and resurrection was totally apparent to even his disciples. It may seem strange to so quickly jump backward in the text of Scripture. After all, don't we want to hear and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord just a bit longer? However, the reality is that our jumping backward and forward through the text of Scripture is only possible because of the very death and resurrection we celebrate.
In fact, this is the lesson taught and proclaimed to us in Luke 24, "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:26-27). Of course, Jesus referenced the Old Testament as the Scripture to the disciples, but the church today takes him at his Word and knows that we must take up the Apostolic words of the New Testament with the same credibility. We must believe the entire text of Scripture is meant for handing over Christ's death and resurrection to and for you.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus walked with his disciples and taught the greatest Bible study of all time. We hear in this text how he opened up the entire Scripture and likewise opened up his disciple's eyes to see and ears to hear that all of God's Word was about him (Luke 24:27). This revelation from Christ proclaims to us that the key to the Scripture is the exclusivity of Christ and his salvation. This emphasis on Christ being "exclusive" is extraordinarily similar to Jesus' Words earlier in his ministry, the words that the church meditates on during the Easter season from John 10. Here again, Jesus is teaching his disciples, "So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:7-10).
God breathes the Scriptures to life so that Jesus Christ might be delivered to you.
While not necessarily apparent at first glance, these two Easter readings share one significant similarity: Jesus makes claims of exclusivity in both texts. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus revealed that he is the sole and central material of the revealed Word of God. God breathes the Scriptures to life so that Jesus Christ might be delivered to you. This type of exclusivity not only makes the positive assertion that Jesus Christ is present for you in all the Scripture but also eliminates other possible interpretations and uses for Scripture. In particular, it eliminates the reframing and reconstruction of the Christian Scriptures as a book with meaning similar to and consistent with other ancient texts and worldviews. It means that though the Bible contains fantastic and amazing stories, it is not just an ancient storybook. It means that though the Bible has lessons for your life, it is not just a code of ethics. That is not to say that stories or lessons are inherently bad, but instead that Scripture possesses a far greater purpose. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament deliver the crucified and risen Christ to you for the forgiveness of your sin.
Despite this admonition from Jesus, many disregard the seriousness of Christ's remark that the entire Scripture testifies concerning him. Instead, they alter and downgrade the purpose of the Bible. They strip the text of this gospel proclamation that Christ is the only way and examine and dissect it purely as ancient literature. In doing so, they relativize the Scriptures searching for personal meaning that can provide a leg up. They search for and preach earthly prosperity, improved relationships, better results at work or in retirement, or any other potentially prosperous and vague meaning. In the verses from John 10, Jesus calls this blatant disregard of God's narrow door of salvation "theft." He rightly identifies those who find purpose, use, or identity in religion, ethics, story, or even the Bible apart from Christ, thieves, and robbers. They are thieves because they come and remove the heart of Scripture and thus remove something more precious from our ears and our lives than silver and gold; they take the blood of the lamb shed for the forgiveness of your sin.
For this reason, Jesus tells us that the thief does not only come to steal but to kill. And here, the thief puts us to death in the most effective way possible by concealing Christ and his gospel and leaving behind nothing but the law. The thief leaves us with nothing but good stories, motivating lessons, and the tools we think will make us pleasing to God. Yet nothing in the Scriptures apart from Christ is truly pleasing to God. No, the law left behind when Christ is removed from our ears is, as the Apostle Paul declares in Romans 8, a "law of sin and death." When Christ is removed – when the sheep have no shepherd – no gate remains to shield them from the certain death of wolves and hunters, and no entrance to green pasture can be found.
Christ's words of exclusive salvation are not just a warning but a sure promise for you. You are not the gate. Your sinful behavior is no longer the barrier between you and God. The death and resurrection of Christ Jesus alone is the way to God and the means of your salvation. He has taken the wide-open revolving door of your sin upon himself. And having been buried with your sin and conquering its curse in his resurrection, he gives you his holiness, his righteousness, and his salvation. In this great exchange, you trade endless entry points of sin into your life for one door into righteousness.
The Shepherd is calling you and delivering you. He shields you from the thief and the murderer. Christ is the door of righteousness that has been opened to you and is also the door that completely shuts out your enemies. He keeps out the power held against you by the world, your sinful flesh, death, and the devil. He faces these enemies and lays down his life for his sheep. Christ, our Good Shepherd, laid down his life so that you might have yours eternally. And now, the good news of the Easter season transcends this one time of year as an exclusive promise that Christ in all Scriptures, in all places, and throughout all time remains the door of eternal life standing guard for you here and now as you receive his Word of promise.