Friday, October 06, 2006

Breaking down the barrier...

Today I read Ephesians 2:14-18 - and paused to meditate on this short passage:

Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

At the cross of Christ an amazing thing happened: the barrier was broken down. What barrier is this a reference to? If you go back to vv.11ff you notice that there was a clear distinction being made of the Gentiles and the Jews. In v.14 Christ is referenced as having made both groups into one. The joining of the Gentiles and the Jews through the work on His cross.

This was radical thinking & we have lost what a jolt this must have been in Jewish society. Society was centered around the Temple in Jerusalem. It was the center of worship. Even if you lived elsewhere in Israel, and visited your synagogue regularly, you knew of the significance of the Temple. You would travel there to observe various religious activities. However, if you were Gentile, you were limited in what you could do at the Temple proper.

Read what Edersheim wrote in his book, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services - (pp.22,23):

"Court of Gentiles:
It was the rule when entering the Temple to pass in by the right, and when leaving it to go out by the left hand. The great Court of the Gentiles, which formed the lowest or outer enclosure of the Sanctuary, was paved with the finest variegated marble. According to Jewish tradition, it formed a square of 750 feet. Its name is derived from the fact that it was open to all - Jews or Gentiles - provided they observed the prescribed rules of decorum and reverence. In this court tradition places eating and sleeping apartments for the Levites, and a synagogue. But, despite pharisaic punctiliousness, the noise, especially on the eve of the Passover, must have been most disturbing. For there the oxen, sheep and doves selected as fit for sacrifices were sold as in a market; and here were those tables of the money-changers which the Lord overthrew when He drove from His Father's house them that bought and sold (Matt.21:12; John 2:14). Within a short distance, in the court, a marble screen 4 1/2 feet high, and beautifully ornamented, bore Greek and Latin inscriptions, warning Gentiles not to proceed, on pain of death."

Gentiles were not allowed the priviledge of close worship as the Jews. This all changed when Jesus died on the cross. Surely He rent the veil separating us from the Holiest of Holies, but He also made it possible for Gentiles to gain access to the Father (v.18).

Not only access, but peace as well. Peace between Gentiles and Jews - between all men and the Law - between all men and God. Every day it seems that I learn more about the precious sacrifice that Christ made on my behalf.

Will you join me today in thanksgiving because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross?

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