Title: JESUS…THE BRIDGE BUILDER
Text: Eph. 2:17-22
There’s a story about two brothers who lived together in harmony for 40 years as they farmed the same land their father had passed down to them. Their houses were opposite of each other, sharing the same big back yard. But something came between them to where they would not speak to each other, and the laughter their families once shared became an eerie silence.
One day a man looking for work came by the younger brother’s house. As he thought, he came up with a project. He told the man that his older brother had bulldozed the river levee and put a creek between them without asking his permission. So he instructed the handyman to take the wood by the barn and construct a high fence so he could not see his brother. The handyman said he had an idea of what to do and went to work.
The younger brother left for a few days to visit his wife’s mother. When he came back he was stunned by what he saw. Instead of a fence, the handyman had built a bridge over the creek…and just as he walked out the back door to view the project, his brother was crossing over the bridge to meet him.
“What a great idea!” the older brother said, smiling. “It was stupid of me to cut this creek between us. Let’s let bygones be bygones and be family once again.” The younger brother kept silent about the bridge not being his idea; he had enough sense to realize this reconciliation was long overdue. They embraced one another and share a meal between the families like it had been once before…..on the bridge!
When the handyman came by the next day for payment, the younger brother asked him to stay on for some other projects. But he replied, “Sorry, I can’t. I’ve got a lot more bridges to build for other folks!”
Jesus is your bridge builder. He has done this kind of project before – He turned a dividing fence between the Jews and Gentiles into a uniting bridge. In fact…Jesus is our bridge! Through His death He has reconciled us to each other and to God. Eugene Peterson wrote: “Jesus is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together. The energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe.”
1. Here at the beginning, be thinking throughout this lesson something we will address again at the end: What reconciliations need to take place in your immediate or extended family?
2. How many years of bitter conflict can be transformed by reconciliation? (Even centuries of bitter conflict between Jews and Gentiles were dissolved by what Jesus did at the cross.) Notice the message in v. 17 that Jesus came to preach before the event that made this possible. (The message of peace – eirene – peace, undisturbed.)
Insight: The Son was sent from Heaven to preach the message. Now the Father & Son wait in Heaven for you and me to embrace that message that has already made it possible.
3. What does verse 16 say was put to death at the cross? (Enmity – echthra – hostility.) How does the mind set on the flesh interfere with this process according to Rom. 8:7?
4. There’s something deep about verse 18 that you shouldn’t miss. What do both of us have to grasp if we are going to receive this message of reconciliation?
Insight: Both of the offended parties must grasp the same Holy Spirit, for He alone gives us access to the Father. If one of the offended parties is not grasping the Holy Spirit, but holding on to their fleshly grudge, the dividing wall will forever stay in tact. We have to walk the isle together, holding on to the same Holy Spirit.
Insight: This has even greater impact between the Jews and the Gentiles. Before 33 AD the Jews could access God only through their high priest, who entered God’s presence once a year on the Day of Atonement. The Gentiles had no way to access God at all. Today that access is available to all if they will only use it.
5. Once we have met at the Bridge and found our reconciliation, what does verse 19 say has changed about our position? (No longer strangers; no longer aliens; we are fellow citizens.)
Insight: “Strangers” and “aliens” are terms that describe people from a foreign country that have no rights of citizenship in this new spiritual nation. Praise God, through Christ, even the alien is given joint citizenship…the same citizenship that was granted to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, and every faithful follower of the Lord throughout time! Everything that once divided (rich vs. poor, free vs. slave, man vs. woman, foreigner vs. native) has been drawn into the same family…a family that cannot be shaken!
6. What do pieces of a stained glass window have in common? (The same lead (the Holy Spirit) holds them all together, and the same light (Jesus, the Light of the World) makes their individual piece radiate with the composite beauty of the whole (the family of God).)
7. Verse 19 implies that if we accept this message of peace and have made reconciliation, then we are members of God’s household. Describe the ties you have in your family…are the bonds tight? What have you found to be the greatest benefit of family ties in the household of God?
Insight: I don’t know about you, but in the family of God I have found a support network line none other, I have many spiritual brothers & sisters and there is always one near me, and I have experienced an intimacy at a new level that I find no where else.
8. Verse 20 states that God’s house was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. What price did they pay to lay down that foundation?
Insight: All but one of them was martyred, and all of them paid dearly to lay the foundation of YOUR house! Their teachings form the basis on which we build our lives and our churches.
9. What’s the significance of a cornerstone? (EVERYTHING that is built thereafter must line up with the cornerstone; the cornerstone sets the direction of the walls.) Does anyone here know with what care the cornerstone is set in place? (It is very carefully set, for it must be true to the direction the walls go, and it must be plum up and down, and it must be absolutely level…for everything built upon it is affected by it’s placement.)
10. After the cornerstone is set, what comes next? 2:21
Insight: As we are “fitted together” on and in Him with other believers, we are designed to fit tightly together in a living, continually growing “temple” that glorifies God.
11. What is your unique contribution to God’s house…the placement that He has you in your spot on the wall?
As individual stones mortared into the wall; the same Holy Spirit that holds us together surrounds us all. Our responsibility is to live in harmony with one another, because all others depend upon our contribution. No matter what the world throws at us, we cannot build dividing walls, but we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:16-19
In France some soldiers brought the body of a dead friend to the church cemetery to bury him. The priest asked if he had been baptized in the Catholic Church. They said they did not know. The priest said he was sorry, but he could not permit burial in his churchyard. So the soldiers took their friend and sadly buried him just outside the fence. The next day they came back to see the grave, but they could not find it. They searched but could not find any freshly dug soil. As they were about to leave, the priest came to them and said he wrestled with it all night, so early the next morning he moved the fence to include the body of the soldier who had died for France.
Has the Spirit moved in your heart to move the fence for someone who has been rejected? What reconciliations need to take place in your immediate or extended family?