‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.’ – Ephesians 2:13-16,
In 1946, an iron curtain descended across the continent of Europe. An iron curtain, dividing the free people living among the democracies of Western Europe from the subjugated people living under the communism of Eastern Europe. The curtain actually ran right through the middle of Germany, creating West Germany and East Germany.
And because life under communism in East Germany lacked the freedom and the prosperity of West Germany, the East Germans actually built a literal wall to prevent their people escaping to the West. They built a wall complete with guard towers and sentries under orders to shoot anyone attempting to flee the East to the West.
‘The Wall’, as it came to be known, became the symbol of ‘The Cold War’ — a symbol of the hostility between Soviet communism and western democracy. It was a detestable wall, and It could not be penetrated. Between 1961 and 1989, 5,000 in the East attempted to escape to the West side. Nearly everyone failed. 200 of those who tried were shot dead.
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in West Germany and, in one of the most famous speeches ever delivered, he called out to the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’
Bruce Springsteen, speaking to a crowd in East Germany a year later, said ‘I have come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down.’
Sixteen months later, the wall came down. Swarms of East Germans with pick axes and shovels took it down themselves by hand. When a breach was formed, they ran through it into freedom ecstatically shouting, singing, and embracing brothers and sisters in the West.
The wall came down, and two countries became one. Germany was reunified!
There are lots of walls in our world — all sorts of divisions.
Divisions between countries. Divisions between races and genders.
We form clubs, and cliques, and teams, and associations. We form political parties.
We are specialists, we humans are, at dividing ourselves up into groups. Insiders and outsiders. Some of these groups are absolutely hostile towards each other.
What Paul says is this: there are really only two groups that matter: the people of God and the people not of God. And the barrier separating them is far more terrifying than the wall of Berlin, because the group on the outside is without hope. The group on the outside is without God. There’s a lot of people who are in the wrong group, longing to escape to a life of freedom.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Christ can change your group!
A torrent of the Savior’s blood has washed away the sins that were separating you from God in your life and you are no longer far off. You’ve been brought near. And this is not just an individual nearness. You are part of an entire group that has been brought near.
Christ created in himself (by plugging people into himself) one new man in place of the two, so making peace.
He made peace between insiders and outsiders by making it possible for both groups to become insiders. He reconciled us both to God in one body, through the cross, thereby killing the hostility between us. Jesus is bringing the two groups together.
By his blood on the cross, Jesus did more than save us from our individual sins and grant us eternal life, individually. By his blood on the cross, Jesus created in himself one new man in the place of two. He is reconciling both outsiders and insiders to God in that one body — his body. Our Savior Jesus died to tear down the wall. He died to make two groups one.
When that one wall comes down, so do all the others. So do all the other billions and billions of walls that we make. When this one wall comes down, there are no longer insiders and outsiders. And when the whole world is united under one perfect Savior:
There will be no more passenger jets shot out of the sky.
There will be no more bombings in the theater district of Paris.
There will be no more ISIS or any other group of hostility.
One day, when Jesus comes back, there won’t be division into hostile groups. That hostility has been killed in the cross of Jesus.
What does this mean for us?
It means that there need no longer be outsiders. There need no longer be a group of people without hope or without God in their lives.
It means that God is thereby shifting our focus away from ourselves, away from what we get personally from God, to the group getting slaughtered in the no-man’s land between the East and the West. He’s turning our attention to the group with pick-axes and shovels trying desperately to dig their way to freedom.
Oh, if we only knew the heart of the heavenly Father. His heart is attuned to the lost. He yearns for the lost. The almighty God of creation cried out to his only Son, ‘Tear down this wall!’
Jesus Christ did it!