The Stranger on the Road, Part 2: A New World, An Alternative Reality, A New Way to Be Human
by Pastor Gene
On the Road to Emmaus
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Good morning, Church. Well, this morning is the first Sunday after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Last week I mentioned that Resurrection Sunday was the glorious end to the worst week the world has ever experienced: the week when the Son of God was put to death at the hands of sinful men.
Easter then beckons to both believers and unbelievers alike. To unbelievers – those who have not yet believed in Jesus – it beckons them to come to Jesus so that they might live. To believers, though, it beckons to us to come to Jesus again so that we might die.
It’s a deep and ponderous thing, the Resurrection! While it calls unbelievers out of death into life, it calls those who have found life to die in order that they might truly live – in what Paul calls, “resurrection” life or “the newness of life in Christ Jesus.”
So, let’s revisit where we left off last week.
I mentioned last week that the Resurrection has much to say to us on many levels – especially to followers of Jesus.
1) One of the most dangerous things we can do as disciples, is to begin to imagine that we’ve somehow got Jesus or the Christian life figured out. The truth is, if we think we do, we haven’t even come close to knowing Him. The Apostle Paul knew God in a way that we will never know Him in this life, yet, in 1 Corinthians, Paul fired what I’ve called a ‘shot across the bow of every believer’s boat!’
It’s in 1 Corinthians 8:2-3. “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3). Just previous to this, Paul made reference to something that the Corinthians had apparently said in their letter to him: namely, that “all of us possess knowledge.” ‘Sure,’ Paul says, “all of us possess knowledge,” but, without the love of God circulating through our spiritual life, any knowledge we have will lead only to sin, specifically, to the sin of pride.’
But it’s in verse 2 that the apostle gives them (and us) the BIG reality check: “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2).
The point is, if I think I have anything about the Christian faith – especially Jesus – figured out, I’m wrong. That tiny word, τὶς, is an indefinite word that refers to anyone or anything. And it’s followed by the negative adverb, οὔπω, which indicates the “negation of extending time up to and beyond an expected point.” In other words, not yet. 
It pictures a journey to a place that has not been reached. We think we know something, but we still have much to learn. We think we know something, but we have a distance to go still. We think we know something, but we’re still on the way to knowing it as we need to know it – we haven’t arrived. In fact, the Apostle Paul made it clear that he had not arrived! (cf., Philippians 3:12)
The HCSB translates nicely indeed: “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it” (1 Corinthians 8:2).
The truth of the matter is this: the wisest people in the world are those who are sure that they don’t yet fully know anything as they ought to know it. Why? Because the moment I think I do, real learning is no longer possible. Humility is teachability, but a person who thinks he’s got it all figured out, is no longer able to learn.
2) Now there’s an event in the life of Socrates that illustrates this idea of the wisdom of knowing you don’t know something. When I used to teach philosophy, I always assigned Plato’s Apology as required reading. Apology, of course, doesn’t mean what it dies in English – to apologize. No, the Greek word ἀπολογία means to give a defense, an answer.
It’s a Bible word. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 3:15, where he instructs believers to always “honor Christ the Lord as holy” in our hearts, “always being prepared to make a defense [an ἀπολογία] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” [brackets mine].
That last bit is really important too. Our testimony should never be shared in an arrogant or unkind manner. I find it truly remarkable that in verse 16 Peter finds it necessary “to admonish” believers about how they share their faith, even in the midst of persecution (persecution is the context here).
Karen Jobes, in her outstanding exegetical commentary on 1 Peter just nails it! Every believer
“… must keep a clear conscience when testifying to the reason they hope in Christ. This speaks to at least two issues: walking the talk and talking rightly. First, an effective testimony requires a clear conscience regarding one’s personal integrity before the Lord. One cannot explain the hope we have in Christ while living in ways that contradict that hope. Second, even the best-intentioned testimony must be conducted in an appropriate manner. If offense is to be taken, it should be over the content of the gospel message, not because the message was offered in a manner that invalidates Christ’s love for seekers. The Christian testimony must reflect humility and respect for the hearer.”
The word translated “respect” in 1 Peter 3:15 is our old friend φόβος, the Greek word for fear. This word is used many times in the Bible to describe the “fear” we should all have in the Lord. We understand this to mean a deep, reverential fear because of who He is. But here, Peter tells us to have a reverence for those who are hearing our testimony, to treat them with the respect due someone who has been made in the very image of God. Peter knows that the lost are never drawn to Jesus by displays of arrogance or confrontational bullying, but by the demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit in the life of the one testifying: God’s love, peace, gentleness, kindness, patience, etc.
It’s always the love of Jesus, or the patience which the Spirit grows in us, or the joy the world sees there, that draws the unbeliever to a Jesus whose followers are so unlike the world that they’re literally out-of-this-world.
If we would be the servants of Christ, we must share our faith with “gentleness and respect.”
1) Back to Plato’s Apology – it wasn’t an apology, as we understand that word today, and, in fact, it wasn’t even Plato’s! It is Plato’s record of the defense or ‘apology’ his teacher, Socrates, gave when he was put on trial in Athens.
Let me take just a few minutes to talk about Socrates’s life because it illustrates a number of important things for us – not least of which, Paul’s shot across the bow.
Socrates was and is the most famous philosopher of all time. He’s often considered, by unbelievers of course, to be one of the wisest men who ever lived. He’s often called the “secular Christ’ because he lives and dies for the truth. Well, that’s true of Jesus, but it’s not true of Socrates, as we’ll see. But Socrates was a wildly influential person and he had followers – in this way, anyway, he was like Jesus.
He was born the son of a stonemason and a midwife in 469 B.C. – more than 460 years before the birth of Jesus. His entire life was lived in and around Athens.
By all accounts, he was very unhappily married! He is said to have said,
“By all means marry;
if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy;
if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
Robert Wolff: “He had a knack for asking hard or embarrassing questions that forced others to think a good deal more than they really wanted to. Because some of the people he quizzed were important politicians and famous teachers, it was fun to watch him trip them up – as long as you weren’t one of those made to look foolish. So, a number of wealthy young men gathered around Socrates as a band of disciples and as sort of a permanent audience.”
So, Socrates was, among other things, a pain in the neck to the Athenians who actually had to work for a living! He had a knack for making enemies and it was inevitable that he would eventually get himself into trouble because of it.
Well, in the spring of 399 B.C., Socrates was formally accused in a court of law by three men: Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon.
First an accuser would bring a charge against the accused before a jury made up of 501 jurors, which served as both judge and jury in the case. The decision of the court was determined by a simple majority vote.
After the accusers presented their case before the jury, the defendant was given the opportunity to offer an ἀπολογία, or a defense, against the charges. Well, it’s this ‘defense speech’ of Socrates which was recorded by his student, Plato, and became known as, The Apology. Once both sides of the case had been presented, the jury voted.
Well, the accusers stepped forward to make their accusations. Socrates was accused of two things.
First, he was charged with impiety toward the gods, a charge which could bring the death penalty.
Secondly, he was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens – a charge which brought together a number of longstanding complaints about him. They thought turned young men into hippies, going about Athens as he did for decades had made his young aristocratic followers ‘weak and lazy and idle and unwashed,’ they complained. It was also believed that he turned some of his followers into criminals. Alcibiades, for instance, one of his star pupils, became a traitor to Sparta at least once, to Persia at least once, and to Athens at least twice! Some felt that he was a careless revolutionary – advocating for violent change, rather than lawful, gradual change where problems existed in Athenians society – a charge that was not without merit.
In one part of his defense, Socrates told of how one of his friends had informed him that the Oracle of Delphi – the prophetess at the Temple of Apollo – had called Socrates the wisest man in the world. He couldn’t believe that he could possibly be the wisest man in the world, so he set out to prove the Oracle wrong. He began asking questions of everyone – carpenters, barrel makers, winemakers – everyone. And what he found stunned him. He found that even though these people didn’t know the answers to the questions he was asking (‘What is just?’ ‘What is beauty?’ etc.), that didn’t stop them answering as though they did anyway! So, he finally came to the conclusion that the Oracle may be right after all. Perhaps he was the wisest man alive. Because he’s the only one who actually knew that he didn’t know.
Socrates has unknowingly tripped over a biblical principle here: We know nothing as we ought to know it (1 Corinthians 8:2). And if we think we do – if we allow arrogance to nest in our hearts – we short-circuit the possibility of continuing to learn.
But there’s something else we can glean from this story …
1) There’s an important lesson here for all disciples of Jesus. And here it is: The world will always judge the Master by the conduct of his followers.
Unbelievers – or, I should say, those who have not yet believed, will judge the authenticity of the message we bring by the life that they see us live. If what we say about Jesus isn’t enough to make us different, why should they give it any credence?
In accusing Socrates, Meletus had only to point to his followers! Alcibiades, one of Socrates’ favorite students, had desecrated religious statues and shrines. He was a traitor to Sparta at least once, Persia at least once, and Athens at least twice! Another of his students, Critias, was just a monster – one of the Thirty Tyrants! He was greedy beyond belief. He blacklisted many Athenians – most of which were executed so their property and wealth might be confiscated.
Well, people looked at these men and thought, what does this say about their teacher! I wish I could say otherwise, but I think you know that the same has been said many times about Jesus because of the bad behavior of His so-called followers.
While there is some question about it, the Christian missionary, Stanley Jones, is said to have met with Mahatma Gandhi and asked him: “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi is said to have replied: “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” 
In, Stanley Jones’ book (a pamphlet, really – 48 pages), The Christ of the Indian Road, he asks Gandhi how Christianity might be “naturalized” into India. Gandhi is said to have replied: “I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”
Back in the 1920, the Indian philosopher Bara Dada, is supposed to have said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the sources for these quotes, they certainly seem feasible to me. The truth is many, many things have been done in the name of Jesus that have brought shame to His name. I wish I could say otherwise, but I think we know that this is true.
2) I think that’s why walking the talk is such a recurrent theme in the New Testament – personal holiness, a pure testimony, a genuine life lived in the presence of God.
In literature there is a genre of fiction called “alternative reality.” It’s a genre that imagines actual historical events happened differently than they actually did. The movie, The Final Countdown, is a good example of this. In the film, this ultramodern nuclear carrier is caught in a time warp and winds up back in the days just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And the captain has to make a decision whether or not to take out the clunky Japanese Zeros with theory magnificent F-14 Tomcats and prevent the bombing of our naval base in Hawaii. If they do, they’ll change the entire course of history.
Or there’s Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, which imagines that the famous aviator and infamous anti-Semite Charles Lindberg, beat Franklin Roosevelt in the presidential election of 1940. Lindberg, was a well-known isolationist who would have kept the USA out of World War II at all costs. Furthermore, he had a rabid hatred of the Jews, which in the book, led him to move the country to the far, far right – the fanatical, racist right! It’s horrifying to consider the consequences.
Well, here’s what I’ve come to see in my study of the Gospels especially. I’ve come to see that Jesus has called us to model for this broken world an alternative reality, so that they look at us and have to consider …
What if we really could love one another?
What if we could even love our enemies?
What if joy were possible, even in the midst of a pandemic.
What if we could repay evil with good, and hurt with forgiveness?
What if we could pray for those who despitefully use us?
What if we could be offended without taking offense?
What if we could find a way for husbands and wives to live together in such a selfless way that their marriages actually reflect the love that Jesus has for His church?
This is the alternative reality the church is called to present to our broken generation!
What if we really could do good to those who seek to do us harm?
What if there was a way to restore the brokenness all around us – to let the shalom of God settle in our neighborhoods?
Jeremiah 29:7 tells us to “seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its shalom you will find your shalom.” The word shalom used here by the Holy Spirit means so much more than welfare, as it is translated in the ESV.
Shalom carries the idea of ‘wholeness.’ It includes the ideas of physical wholeness or health (Psalm 38:3: “There is no soundness in my flesh/there is no shalom in my bones because of my sin”); and the wellness and tranquility that characterizes the life of the righteous – even at the time of death (Genesis 15:15: “you shall go to your fathers in shalom”); and political peace, as in the absence of war (Joshua 9:15). 
But shalom, more than anything else, describes wholeness or soundness or peace in one’s relationship with God (as in Isaiah 54:10), and/or with others (as in Isaiah 59:8).
So, what if we really could seek the shalom of the city in which we live – to restore the brokenness that’s all around us, to let the shalom of God settle in our very neighborhoods? God’s promise is if you’ll “seek the wholeness of the city” where we live, “and pray to the LORD on its behalf,” then “in its wholeness you will find your wholeness” (Jeremiah 29:7).
This is the alternative reality we’re called to bring to the lost all around us.
What if we could truly mourn with those who mourn in our community, regardless of what they believe so that, by our faith, they might see THE Faith in living color?
What if we really could move mountains with prayer?
What if there was a way for the lost to be saved, and for the saved to lay down their life so they might truly find it?
What if the story of Jesus was more than historical blip?
What if the things He said were really true?
What if the story really didn’t end at the cross?
What if it actually began again at the resurrection?
What if a new kingdom has come upon us, an invisible one?
Jesus told His opponents in Matthew 12:28, NASB “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” – in other words, ‘The kingdom has arrived!’
This is the alternative reality that we’re to live out before our generation – this is what discipleship really is.
With our lives and with our words we shine into the darkness and ask them to imagine: What if there is a way to fix the problem we have with God?
What if we can become clean, really clean, to experience a transformational catharsis.
What if we could … just imagine it … really be forgiven for all of it, for all we’ve done, for all that we can never undo?
So the Lord in His wisdom has set us here – His Body, His mouth, His fingers, His feet, His compassionate hands – to model an new reality, an alternative reality, for this broken world – to not just tell them, but to show them, that Jesus has come and nothing can ever be the same! And so, we live in the invisible realm of unseen realities, but – mark it down – they are realities nonetheless! Do you remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18?
“… we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
It’s this alternative reality that Jesus described for us in the Sermon on the Mount:
In Matthew 5, He saw the crowds and went up on the mountain, sat down and began to teach His disciples:
“Blessed are [‘happinesses to’] the poor in spirit …” But that’s not the world in which we live! Where is poverty of any kind blessed here?
“Blessed are those who mourn,” really?
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” well, that’s certainly an ‘alternative reality,’ isn’t it?
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” does that sound like a blessing, a cause for rejoicing?
And He goes on describing this new way to live, this new way to be human …
“You are the salt of the earth,” don’t lose your saltiness, in verse 13.
“You are the light of the world,” keep shining, in verse 14.
If you can’t find it in your heart to be reconciled with your brother, then keep your offering in verses 23 and 24.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42). Well, that’s new!
3) What is this? It’s an alternative reality. It’s the new life blooming in the children of a New World, the kingdom that “is now” and is “yet to come.”
O, brother, sister, it’s no easy task the Lord sets before his disciples, but , O, the blessings that accrue to those who strive to radiate the light of this new “resurrection” reality to a world that knows nothing of it except what they see in us!
There is a New World coming, literally, a regeneration. Hear it in Matthew 19 beginning with verse 27:
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world (ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ), when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
And so, the Apostles set the first example of discipleship by giving their lives to share the Good News of Jesus. The Apostle Paul, for example, traveled throughout much of the known world proclaiming Christ to the nations, living a life of death, co-crucified yet alive, inviting all who came to know Jesus through him to in turn join Him in making Jesus famous!
He wrote to the Corinthians, “We are ambassadors for Christ!” Why, it’s just as though God were “making his appeal through us! We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We don’t decide to be ambassadors, Church, we decide to be followers of Jesus. And everyone who accepts Jesus invitation to follow is an ambassador. “Follow Me,” Jesus said, “And I will make you fishers of men! I don’t believe this is the call of salvation, it’s the call of discipleship, followership!
But before we can model this ‘alternative reality’ for the world, we first need to be refined by the Word! This is exactly what Jesus meant by saying, “Take care then how you hear” in Luke 8:18.
I’m going to tell you exactly what that often-misquoted verse means in context. It means anything you hear from God that does not result in you shining your light, you heard wrong! And any imagined understanding that you think you have of what you heard which didn’t result in you shining your light will be taken away!
If the Word we heard didn’t change us, we heard it wrong! Why did the hearts of the disciples Jesus met on the road to Emmaus burn within them? Because they finally recognized that it was Jesus Himself speaking to them. And how do we know they heard rightly? The next verse, Luke 24:33, says that these disciples, who’d just arrived in Emmaus from Jerusalem, “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem” and found the eleven and told them how Jesus had shown Himself to them alive!
The moment they truly heard, they could do nothing other than shine! That’s what those who have heard right have to do; that’s what a burning heart does!
Jeremiah put it this way, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Be careful how you hear, because true hearing, Spirit-led hearing, always leads to shining – stepping into the darkness as the light and modeling this alternative reality that Jesus inaugurated in His resurrection. Now let’s consider the entire ‘take care how you hear’ passage in context.
“No one,” Jesus said, “after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has [in this context we could say, ‘the one who has heard, or the one who “has” the Word], more [Word] will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (brackets mine).
Notice the connection between hearing carefully and shining our light.
4) So, as we close, remember that those on the outside judged Socrates by looking at the lives of his disciples. And our Master, the true Lord of life, Jesus Christ the Risen King, will be judged in the eyes of this broken world by the way we live out our faith before them.
The world will always judge the Master by the conduct of His followers.
Those who have not yet believed will judge the authenticity of the message we bring by the life they see us live. That’s why Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Q. Where do we shine our light?
A. “before others.”
A. “So that they [those who are watching us] may see your good
Q. And what’s the result of them seeing “your good works”?
A. It will “give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
So, what’s our conclusion? Shining our light and manifesting good works glorifies the Father in the eyes of the lost world. It presents the lost with an alternative reality – a picture of what might be, a new way of being human, an impossible world that’s become possible, an eternal kingdom that has come upon them!
But what about the converse? Well, that’s true too: If we hide our light and manifest ungodly works, we dishonor the Father whom we claim to serve in the eyes of our neighbors.
Now next week we have to get back to the disciples at Emmaus. We need to figure out exactly why their hearts were burning. We need to look at what true followers need to do with this kind of heartburn.
And we have to figure out what happened to allow them to finally recognize Jesus.
Luke 24:30 says, “When [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.”
And in Luke 24:33, it says they told the others how Jesus “was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
So, what’s the deal with the “breaking of the bread” opening their blind eyes? If you’re thinking it has to do with the establishment of the Lord’s Table, you’re wrong. It is much, much bigger than that. It’s going to set the stage for the teaching of the rest of the New Testament and weave together all that Jesus had ever said about what it means to be a disciple.
These men thought they knew Jesus, but they knew nothing as they ought to have known it. The Jesus whom they’d walked with and talked with and ate with and studied under before the crucifixion, was still very much a mystery to them. They reckoned Him a stranger – but things are about to change, and change radically!
 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) 3rd ed., on οὔπω.
 Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005) p.231.
 Robert Paul Wolff, About Philosophy (Prentice Hall, New Jersey: 1992) p.2-3.
 Xenophon is an excellent source here.
 Stroud, James Edward, The Knights Templar & the Protestant Reformation (Xulon Press, 2011) p. 162; not recommended.
 Others source a similar quote to Millie Graham Polak’s short book, Mr. Gandhi, The Man. (Vora, 1950).
 Jones, E. Stanley, The Christ of the Indian Road (Kessinger Publishing, 2005).
 Pearrell, John, ‘What does it mean to be a Christian?’ May, 2019; https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/features/faith/john-pearrell-what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-christian/article_52f9eea9-9816-54c0-836a-a9854b6c0656.html.
 Lookadooed, Jonathon & Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook: Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014) on “Peace.”
 Ibid., Lookadooed & Mangum, on “Peace.”
 Lenski: “The man who hears with a good heart and the full measure of attention and eagerness to receive the Word, more and more of the Word shall be given to him—so much depends on the right way of hearing. But he who has not is he who cared not how he heard … The agent in the two passive verbs is God; he gives and he takes away. These are not arbitrary acts. He sends Jesus to give his Word, and they who keep hearing aright grow richer and richer. God can give to them, and thus God does give because giving and enriching us for eternity are his delight. But they who hear amiss prevent God from giving thus to them so that the more they continue hearing thus, the worse their state becomes. They may think that they have, i.e., sufficient or even superior knowledge, without this Word of Jesus, but this, they will find, is valueless, and they will thus end in everlasting poverty.” (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Minneapolis, MN, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, p.457.)
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