Editor’s note: The following article was originally delivered as a Discover Emmaus chapel message on the campus of Emmaus Bible College. The sermonic tone and style are here intentionally retained.
On the front wall of the David A. Glock Auditorium on the campus of Emmaus Bible College is a college seal with the words of our motto taken from Luke 24:27: “The Things Concerning Himself.” The Glock Auditorium is used daily for classes and chapel, and thus students encounter these words often. The words, however, are not a meaningless slogan, as the historical mottos of many schools have become. No, these words still reflect the heartbeat of Emmaus Bible College.
In Luke 24, two disciples were walking toward a village called Emmaus. They were deeply discouraged because they were followers of Jesus, but Jesus had been put to death. As they are walking along the road, Jesus, who has risen from the dead, joins them. But he does not immediately reveal himself to them. Instead, he leads them in a Bible study. He wanted to show them from Scripture that all the things that happened were part of God’s redemptive plan. Here’s what the text says: Luke 24:25-27 (ESV):
“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And then our verse, verse 27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The founders of Emmaus said, “That’s it! We want the heartbeat and focus of this school to be ‘the things concerning himself.’ We want this to be a Christ-centered place.”
That was 75 years ago. Since that time we’ve added a lot of new programs and activities, but that is still our focus. In everything we do, we want to do it for the glory of Christ. We want Jesus Christ to be at the center of everything.
Now here’s the question: Why? Why should Jesus Christ be the center of an institution of higher education? Sure, he might be the center of a church, but a college? Shouldn’t the focus be about preparing students to make a lot of money, or to become a person of influence in this world?
That is what many colleges have become. It is no longer about the search for truth and the formation of character and the love of God with our minds – those were the goals of the early universities long ago. But things are different now. I remember a painting that hung in the entrance of my high school. It was of a beautiful house on a hill by the ocean. Down a short distance from the house was a five-car garage loaded with expensive cars. The caption at the top of the painting read: “Justification for Higher Education.” Apparently the administrators at my high school thought that would motivate us to go to college.
You won’t find that painting here. What gets us excited at Emmaus are the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because he is the Son of God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is our great Redeemer, who gave himself for us and our salvation. And one day he will return as King of kings and Lord of lords – and of his eternal kingdom and reign there will be no end.
He is the one who created our minds and gave us the ability to think and reason and solve problems and formulate ideas and produce creative works. So we want to engage in our studies and learn in our classes for his glory. We want to offer our work to him as an act of worship. We want to grow in wisdom and knowledge so that we will be more effective servants of our Maker.
This is true whether we are studying Bible and theology or science or history or computers or intercultural studies or teacher education or anything else – because we recognize that Jesus Christ is Lord of it all.
We do our work as his children, to glorify our Redeemer. Again whether that is in nursing or business or youth ministry, we want to do all for our great Savior. We do not want to waste our lives merely chasing ocean front houses and passing pleasures because God has placed eternity in our hearts, and we want to focus on things that will endure beyond this life into eternity. So we are not ashamed to have our focus be “the things concerning himself.”
With that in view, I would like to direct your attention to John 8, a passage that highlights the supremacy of Christ. In this passage, not unlike in our own day, Christ’s claims are met with intense opposition.
In John 8, Jesus was having a serious conversation with some religious leaders. They thought they were right with God because of their religious traditions. They viewed themselves as children of Abraham and even children of God. But Jesus reveals that in rejecting him, they were not children of God, but were aligned with the devil.
Christ’s Glorious Person Despised and Rejected
John 8:48-59 (ESV)
48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Richard Phillips suggests that in this passage we have “some of the Bible’s most sublime teaching on the person of Christ.”1 But again, it comes in the context of intense opposition.
Jesus dared to question their status as sons of Abraham and sons of God, so they respond with a racial slur: they call him a Samaritan. They hated the Samaritans and viewed them as half-breeds and heretics. But that’s not all. They accused Jesus of being crazy, of being demon-possessed. What blasphemy against the Son of God! He revealed God to them. He lived to honor the Father, and they despised and rejected him, just as Isaiah 53 had predicted.
We should not be surprised when Christians – followers of Christ – are called names and despised and thought to be crazy. Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” We should expect it. But in light of who Jesus Christ is, opposition should not stop us from living for him. In fact, we should pray for grace to respond like the apostles in Acts 5. After they had been beaten for speaking in the name of Christ, they went out from the council “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).
1 Richard D. Phillips, John, vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2014), 567.
Mark Stevenson (PhD, University of Wales) has been teaching in the Bible and Theology Department at Emmaus since 1999. He is the author of the book "The Doctrines of Grace in an Unexpected Place." He and his wife Tonya have 4 children and live in Dubuque, IA.