“For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” Ephesians 2:13-14; Pentecost 9; July 22, 2018
We live in an increasingly hostile world. It seems that people are divided on almost every issue. And they are not often just quietly divided, but sometimes openly hostile. There is a lot of anger, and people almost prepared to march in opposition at the drop of the hat against the other division. Divisions between male/female; adult/teens; citizens/immigrants; blue collar/white collar; African American/Caucasian/ Hispanic; liberal/conservative; democrat/republican; pro-choice/ pro-life; NRA member/ those in favor of gun control; carnivore/vegetarian/vegan. Even in the church we have divisions, —Catholic/Protestant; liberal/ conservative; contemporary music/traditional music.
And these divisions may at times bring great anxiety, worry, and stress. Maybe you even noticed this as I listed off the various divisions, that you got a bit anxious and worried yourself. You wish that you could just have peace. That we all could have peace. That there would not be such an uproar always. That we could all just get along, instead of always being “at each other’s throats.” Wouldn’t that be great?
So, where do we begin? Where does peace come from? Many people wrongly believe that peace comes from within us. That we can just have to find that peace within us. By cleansing our minds, or simply to let these situations roll off of our backs, just like water off a duck’s back. Others try to find their peace in a bottle of alcohol, or some other drug. Still others go off into the woods, or retreat far, far away to just get away from it all.
Well, God’s Word for today points us away from ourselves, and turns us instead to Jesus. The Apostle Paul helps us by tuning us into just how Jesus has brought peace to both Jews and Gentiles. You might say, well that’s easy, that’s not a difficult division, not like some of ours today. But you would be very wrong! This was a major division. The Jews had absolutely nothing to do with the Gentiles! Gentiles were considered by them to be unclean. Gentiles were uncircumcised. They ate foods like pork that were considered unclean. They didn’t follow the laws of the Sabbath. In Paul’s terms, “they had no hope and were without God in the world.”
But, now those Gentiles who were far off, distant outsiders, were brought near to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. When Jesus died for the sins of all people, He broke down the dividing wall of hostility, between Jews and Gentiles, by abolishing the Law, even fulfilling it for all people, so that “He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” It took the creative power of God to destroy old divisions and create one new person.
For Paul this was very important and personal. You may remember that He was raised as a strict Jew—a Pharisee. He was trained under very strict regulations, to believe that the Gentiles were outsiders. But, Jesus changed his mind completely. He opened his eyes to see that He died for all, Jews and Gentiles alike. In 2nd Corinthians Paul writes, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died.” Christ Himself is our peace!
Just think about what that means for each of us. We may all have disagreements over things, but we have peace in Christ. Those disagreements may be small like a disagreement over a certain food, or they may be major like the disagreements of policies between Republicans and Democrats, but we all have peace in Christ. Jesus Christ died for all, “to reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
Look at Jesus earthly ministry. He preached peace both to those who were far off from God and those who were near. Peace to Zacchaeus who had cheated many with their taxes. Peace to the woman at the well who lived an adulterous life. Peace to the man with a legion of demons. Peace to the Syro-Phonecian woman, who needed help with her little girl. And peace to the Apostle Paul himself, a one time persecutor of the church. And what is more, Jesus died for each of their horrible sins as well, and yours and mine too, so that we can all say, “He is our peace.” In a chaotic world, filled with divisions, we all can find our peace in Jesus!
Each one of us here today, has probably done some things in your life that keeps getting replayed again and again in your life. It’s been forgiven, but Satan keeps dredging it up again and again to try to get your mind off of Christ, and to cast doubt on His Word. It sometimes becomes a barrier for you. But, let me remind you, Jesus is our peace!
I remember years ago, visiting a woman, who was very sick with cancer. I came to pray and read the Bible with her. But, she had a very troubled look on her face. I could tell that something was wrong, so I asked her about it. She proceeded to tell me that she had a vivid dream the night before, and in the dream Satan told her that she wasn’t good enough to get into heaven. I asked why, what did he say? She then went on to tell me about something sinful that she had done when she was in 8th grade at 14 years old. Now this woman was a devout believer, and she was now 80 years old! I looked at her and said, “You’ve been forgiven of that sin long ago! Jesus died for that sin too! You tell Satan to get lost, because Jesus died so that you would have peace with God! You’re not good enough, we’re all not good enough, but Jesus is!” The look on her face changed almost immediately. It was like a load was lifted off of her shoulders, and a smile came to her face.
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. I do not give unto you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) The peace that Jesus brings is deep and profound. It is peace between God and man. There may be situations where we don’t completely achieve world peace between people. In fact the Bible teaches that there will be wars and rumors of wars to the last days. But, that doesn’t mean that we should stop praying for peace. It’s never a lost cause. Because we also remember that Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
We may have situations in our workplace, or school, or neighborhood, or even in our own families that are not always peaceful. In fact, at this time, they may be chaotic. But, Jesus death and His resurrection means that there is peace with God. And that means everything. Pray for opportunities for reconciliation and forgiveness. I encourage you to take the first step. Jesus took the first step for each of us, whether we were far off or near.
And there is something more. I have always read the statement in this lesson that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. “ There are times that I have kind of skipped over that. I wondered what it meant to be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. I’ve come to understand that this means that we are built on the words of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets. That means that we are called to faithfully study this Word of God, to read, mark, and take it to heart. Not just once in a while, or even once a week. How about every day? Even several times during the day? Our lives are called to be built on this Word.
And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus. He’s the foundation. Who reminds us that we truly have peace with God and all the barriers have been broken down. And we are joined together with all believers from all times into one Holy Temple in the Lord, for Jesus is our peacemaker.
God grant it…