2nd Sunday of Easter April 8, 2018
2 Samuel 12:1-13
192:1-5, 726 (alt. TLH 210), 372, 192:6-8
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 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 both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Dear fellow redeemed, to whom the risen Lord has said, “Peace be with you…My peace I leave with you,”
What is the biggest rift you have ever experienced? A rift is a crack, split, or break in something. If you have ever watched television shows about mountain climbers, maybe you’ve seen the deep rifts that exist on glaciers. Sometimes the climbers will use an aluminum extension ladder to bridge the gap or rift.
So, what is the biggest rift, or serious break in friendly relations you have experienced with another individual? Or maybe it was a rift you witnessed a rift between two people. Maybe it was that husband and wife for whom the courts determined they had an “irreconcilable difference.” If you follow political news today, you know there is a great rift between the so-called “Red States” and “Blue States,” between conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. The political differences that exist between Republican and Democrat often make it hard for the two parties to “cross the isle” and agree on anything in Congress.
We see such rifts all around us. Rifts between families and friends, political parities and world views, between races and classes. In our text for this morning, the Apostle Paul references a big dividing wall that existed between Jew and Gentile. Before we examine this rift, we want to consider and even greater division that existed between us and God. As we do, think about what divisions or rifts that might be present in our own lives, as we consider how “The Risen Lord is Our Peace.” Let us pray with the psalmist: “Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.” Amen. (Psalm 25:4)
“…Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” (Luke 16:26) The rich man was in torment. The fires of hell were so anguishing that he begged Abraham for even a drop of water on his tongue. Even if they wanted to, neither Abraham nor poor Lazarus could, for there was a great gulf fixed between heaven and hell, such that none could pass. The division was too great.
This is a reminder of the great gulf that existed between us and God. God said, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44) Those who want to be God’s people and live in harmony with Him, must be just like Him. They must be holy and with out blemish. Their thoughts, words, and actions are to be perfectly in-tune with His holy will at all times.
For those who cross the line, who transgress His holy will and disobey His commandments, there is a curse. “For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’” (Galatians 3:10) To be cursed by God is to be condemned and cast from His presence. Isaiah writes of sin, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.” (Isaiah 59:2) Our SIN is the great dividing wall that drives a wedge between us and the holy God.
But along comes Jesus. Jesus, of whom God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) God was well pleased in His Son Jesus who was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus was without fault and blameless. He never got tripped up and stumbled into sin. Though He got tired, He never used it as an excuse to lose His temper and speak unloving words. Paul writes to the Corinthians that He “knew no sin.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Though Jesus saw sin all around Himself, He never knew it personally. He was holy and had a perfect relationship with His heavenly Father. “I and My Father are one,” Jesus said. (John 10:30) There was no gulf between the holy Father and His beloved Son.
On the cross, however, all that changes. On the cross the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. God “made Him who knew no sin TO BE sin for us.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) On the cross, Holy Jesus became our sin. Remember that curse which we earned by transgressing the law? Christ became that too. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” (Galatians 3:13) From the darkness of the cross on Good Friday, the Son experienced this great rift as He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And there was no answer. The sinless Son of God dies as a punishment for the sins of the whole world.
In this Easter season, we know that Jesus did not remain dead. On the third day He rose victorious from the grave. We heard in our Gospel lesson that Jesus appeared to His disciples on Easter announcing, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19&26) Paul says in our text, “He Himself is our peace.” All our sin has been paid for. The cruse of the law has been removed. By offering His body on the cross, Jesus has reconciled us to God. Jesus has filled in that great rift between us and God with His holy, precious blood. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Father was announcing that all is well. No longer is He an angry Judge waiting to punish you for your sins, because He has already punished His Son. The debt is paid. The strife is over. The rift has been healed. Through His resurrection, the risen Lord is announcing peace between you and God.
Jesus also heals the rift between Jew and Gentile. At the time of Paul and the apostles, there was little love lost between Jew and Gentile. The Jews viewed themselves as the “chosen people” of God and the beloved descendants of Abraham. They viewed the Gentiles, the non-Jews, as “dogs” and “unclean.” Even if you were a Gentile covert to the Jewish religion, you were still an outsider and had to worship from the outer courts of the Temple. There was no love-loss from the Gentiles either. Even within the last 100 years, we know of how Gentiles tried to eliminate the “Jewish problem.”
But in Christ, this division, this hostility is taken away. You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He didn’t just take the sin of the Jews on Himself, or remove the curse of the law for the Jews. Scripture is clear. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin OF THE WORLD. Every time a Jew did not observe the Sabbath rest or did not celebrate the Passover as commanded, Jesus took that punishment on His body. Every time a Gentile sinned against his conscience, a conscience which God gave Him, Jesus suffered for that. Jesus shed His holy precious blood for the sins Jew and Gentile alike.
Having done that, Jesus takes down the dividing wall that once separated Jew and Gentile. As Paul writes in our text, Jesus has “made both one…so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Through the cross, Jesus reconciled sinful Jews to God. Through the cross, Jesus reconciled sinful Gentiles to God.
Now in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Now there is only ONE body of believers, ONE Holy Christian Church that is made up of believers in Jesus—Jewish believers in Christ and Gentile believers in Christ. Through Christ, both have access to the Father by the same Holy Spirit. This is the peace that the risen Lord brings.
It was quite a rift that existed between Jews and Gentiles. And yet that rift, that hostility, that division, is healed by Jesus as Jew and Gentile realize that the Son of God had to shed His blood for both of them. Even greater was the rift, the division that existed between us and God. It was a division as far apart as heaven is from hell. And yet, Jesus bridged the gulf with His cross and reconciled us sinners unto God. The risen Lord is our peace.
That brings us to the relationships we have with one another. What is there that has driven a wedge between you and another believer? Differences over the word of God is one thing, but what about rifts that exist because of skin color or ethnic background? What about rifts that exist because of differences in political viewpoints? What about those who maybe don’t have the same manners as you because they weren’t raised with the same parents you were raised with? What about rifts that exist because of foolish words that have been spoken? Don’t these things look small and petty next to our crucified and risen Lord?
Jesus Himself is our peace. He who reconciled us to God, reconciles all differences that exist between believers. If your brother sins against you, our Lord says, “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) Don’t let the sinful wedge divide you, but seek to reconcile that relationship through the peace of the risen Lord. Rather than demanding our rights and our ways, Jesus tells us that the greatest in His kingdom are those who are “servants of all.” In Philippians 2, Paul reminds us of the great lengths the Son of God went for you and me, in humbling Himself all the way to the cross to serve us. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:4-5)
Thus Paul writes to the Romans, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) This is the peace that only the risen Lord can bring you as He removes the rift of sin and gives us Easter peace with God.
In this sinful world, there will always be racism and divisions. The sinful flesh is selfish and will always want it his way. May it not be so among the body of believers. There is one Lord that shed His body and gave His blood to reconcile each one of us to God. The same Lord took the hostility away between Jewish believer and Gentile believer. We have been made one in Christ. He Himself is our peace. May Christ Himself help us to cultivate His Easter peace among us. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.