Summary: Jesus is the one who brings full reconciliation to God through His suffering and death. Every tribe, every tongue now has access to God through faith in His Son. This message explores this theme.
He is our Peace - November 26, 2017 Sermon - Ephesians 2:11-18
Who are your personal heroes? Who do you look up to/want to be like? Or what people group do you admire?
Who do you look down on? What people group do you have less empathy for than others?
Some Canadians, I’ve noticed, really look up to the US and wish we could be more like them (perhaps not as much as they are currently, but historically).
I know many in the US look down on Mexico. Canada loves Cuba. Many in the US really dislike Cuba. And we have our reasons. For Canadians, Cuba is an awesome escape from our dreary winters. For Americans, Cuba once posed a serious nuclear threat.
Maybe it’s a beggar you pass on the street that you look down on? Maybe a murderer? Maybe a person who gay, or maybe it’s a person who is homophobic?
Maybe someone too liberal in their view. Maybe someone too conservative in their views
In the US whole people groups look down on each other. Republicans look down on Democrats. Progressives look down on conservatives and visa versa. The climate south of the border has never been as divided, as “us and them”.
Don’t we often put down other groups, or observe others putting down others? Isn’t their something about the human heart that seeks to prop itself up by putting another down. It’s a universal experience.
There’s division. There’s separation. There’s alienation and isolation.
And this is embedded in human history. It’s part of the human experience. It was part of the experience of the first followers of Jesus.
We are continuing in our series on the book of Ephesians, and In our passage today Paul is talking about a huge separation between people groups, the separation between people of his own heritage - Hebrews or Jewish people - Jews, and gentiles.
Gentiles are literally anyone on the planet who is not Jewish. Most of us in this room would likely be gentiles.
In Paul’s time in the Jewish mind there was a huge distinction between the chosen people and the rest of humanity.
There was distrust, and there was not a little hatred.
You have to understand that for Jewish people, their experience of non-Jewish people was not good.
We just have to look in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament to see this. Are there gentiles in the OT? Sure.
To mention a few, the Assyrians, who were oppressors. The Romans who were oppressors. The Egyptians who were perhaps the lynchpin oppressors.
Much is still made of how God delivered the Hebrew people from 400 years of oppression under various Egyptian pharaohs.
So in the Bible we get a glimpse into history that helps us to hopefully understand why such division existed.
And not only was there much historical reason for hatred between people, there are also, in the Old Testament, God‘s commands for the chosen people to specifically not mingle with other nations.
They were to keep themselves separate, do not allow their religious practises and faith to be influenced and more than likely distorted by the practises of Gentile nations.
We can see the wisdom of God‘s command even as we can see that virtually every single time the Hebrews mingled with other nations, they stopped worshipping the true God and started to follow pagan practices.
By the time of the Incarnation and in the era of the early church, this division between Jew and Gentile was an impenetrable wall.
The Temple itself contained a symbol of this division. (Show image)
The court was separated from the (Jewish court) by a large curtain. Gentiles could not cross this threshold without the likelihood that they would be killed.
Non-Jews were considered so unspiritual that even being in their presence could make a person ceremonially unclean (John 18:28).
Gentiles were called “the uncircumcised”, and they were considered entirely separated from God and without the blessing of God.
So perhaps we’ve created a picture of the division that existed at the time of the early church.
The Jews and the Gentiles were 2 distinct societies that had to mingle due to living in shared space for the most part, having a shared commerce and, actually, having a shared ‘oppressor’ in the form of the Roman overlords who keep everyone in line with the threat of death if they crossed the line.
Into this divisive situation Jesus had come. Although He said he had come for the lost sheep of Israel, His actions hinted at the fact that God’s favour was about to extend beyond the Jewish people.
Jesus for example healed a Roman centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1–10).