Title: MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!
Text: Ephesians 2:11-16
In 1987 President Ronald Regan stepped up to a Berlin podium on one side of the Iron Curtain and delivered a challenge to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on the other side of the wall. “If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union…open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
That wall was a barrier to freedom for 26 years. Concrete, barbed wire and stone separated the Soviet Union from the rest of the free world. No one even imagined at that time that the wall would come down. But two years later, at Gorbachev’s orders, soldiers laid down their guns and citizens from both sides took up picks and jackhammers and starting tearing down the wall. Families that had been separated for a whole generation ran through the holes and embraced one another in tears of joy and celebration.
Great as this event is, it cannot compare to the historic event of epic proportions when Jesus tore down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles that stood for centuries! Read Text.
The cup of blessing that God had poured out upon the Jews could now be poured out upon Gentiles. You and I can embrace one another in tears of joy and celebration, for the tearing down of that wall allowed God to pour out His blessing upon US…because, you see, we would be the excluded ones if it were not for the cross! Because of the cross, the pathway to God via a sacrifice that was once traveled only by Jews has yet another traveler…you and me…Gentiles by birth, but children of God by rebirth.
Let’s look at what Paul has to say about this historic event.
1. What are the 5 adjectives that describe the situation of the Gentiles before the cross according to our text? (Separated, excluded, strangers, no hope, without God.)
Insight: Before Christ crumbled the dividing wall, this was what it was like for Gentiles. Their spiritual relationship with God was bleaker than living in Siberian exile.
2. Let’s look at each of these in more detail. What did Paul imply by the phrase “separate from Christ”? (The Jews always had the hope of a Messiah. The Lord assured them He would save them from their sins. The Gentiles had no such promise of a future Messiah.) Isa. 53:4-12
3. What would it mean to be “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel”? Ezek. 13:9
Insight: Nothing pictures this more than the design of Herod’s temple. The Jewish priests had the closest access to the Lord with their courtyard built nearest to the Holy of Holies. The men of Israel were in the courtyard beyond them, and the Jewish women worshiped beyond them. Two walls and a number of steps down later you would reach the court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles could look up at the temple, but they were excluded from entering and worshipping. To add to the insult, there was a sign on the thick stone barrier between them and the Jews that read, “Trespassers Will Be Executed.” To say that the Gentiles were cut off is an enormous understatement!
4. To be a “stranger to the covenants of promise” would mean what? (They could not receive any of the promises God had made with the Jews. These promises all pointed to the Messiah and the blessings that would come through Him, both in the past and in the future.)
5. To compound the hurt, Paul states Gentiles had “no hope.” Let that trickle down through the above adjectives and tell me what the compound effect would be.
Insight: No Savior, no home, no promises…without these the Gentiles had no hope. Since the promises pointed to a future Savior, they couldn’t expect things to get any better…in this life or the next. Their final hope was nothing but empty despair!
6. If the Gentiles had no Savior, no home, no future, and no hope…it meant only one thing: they were “without God.” But were the Gentiles actually without a god? Did they not fashion many of them according to their own design?
Insight: Indeed they fashioned many other gods, but they were nothing but cold stones and metal that did not love back, did not respond back, and could not rescue them from dangers. They were still in a godless, hopeless situation.
7. What a bleak life and destiny before Christ. What was your life like before Christ? Besides the barrier to salvation, what else has Christ knocked down for you? (The sentence of eternal darkness and eternal death.)
8. Now is there a new meaning to the next phrase, “you who were far off have been brought near”? How so? How was this possible? (Through “His blood.”) Heb. 9:22
Insight: Sin’s penalty had to be paid. The spilt blood of the only Spotless One removed our estrangement from Him who is altogether pure. It not only took care of our estrangement…it took care of our sins…eternally! And now the offer is open to anyone who will accept it…the invitation into God’s family to experience His intimacy! Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:23-26; 2 Cor. 5:21
9. According to verse 14, what is the result of Christ breaking down the dividing wall? (He created a new humanity: reconciling the Jews and the Gentiles into one family.)
Insight: No more walls. No more steps. No more “enmity.” No more barriers to the God we both embrace alike. Now we walk the same path, side-by-side, sprinkled by the blood of Him who made it possible. The ground before the cross is level.
Indeed this lesson brings thoughts for which to be thankful, but it also leaves us with some hard questions to face.
Do you really believe what you’ve just read? If so, why is there division and alienation all around us? To take this lesson to heart means we must be ambassadors of unity, treating one another with acceptance, respect and grace.
Will you really live what you have just learned? Jesus wants to build the Kingdom in us and through us as we share His plan of reconciliation and unity. It’s a message that the world longs to hear.
What prejudices might be lurking in the hidden coves of your heart and mind?
What can you do to root them out?
Praise God His forgiveness also covers prejudice. I you have it hidden in your heart, there is a Savior who will pick up a pick and tear down that wall with you. It’s just like a Carpenter to tear down walls and build bridges!