The Bible is true and it is poetic. The authors were moved by God, carried along by the Holy Spirit in some beautiful ways.
For many of us familiar to some degree with the Sacred Scriptures, we all have or encounter certain verses that jump out at us. There are certain verses that every time we read them, tears begin to swell, and the battle rages on for the levees.
Some verses are chalk full. Isaiah 53 jerks tears with just about every sentence. However, Peter references the end of verse 5 specifically, “by His wounds we are healed”. I think that phrase made Peter cry, possibly every time he read it.
One specific verse for yours truly (speaking of Peter) is John 6:68-69.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with [Jesus]. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
And there I go again, eating tears. I imagine Peter’s voice with a slight tremble as it moves up the octave in a higher resonance. He must have said this the only way someone could given the situation. It a contradiction of emotions: on the one hand, he is discouraged as he watches the brothers of his flesh reject their only hope of salvation. He is embarrassed, because this Jesus He loves is being ridiculed for ridiculous beliefs (and 21st century American Christians all know those two things intimately). Yet, in the midst of that discouragement, he makes a bold proclamation of faith. Peter, addressing in no way the reality of the hardness of Jesus’ previous teachings, explains to his Maker and his King that, even when the going gets tough, there is no where else he could possibly want to be. He knew who Jesus was, and is, and that made Jesus worth all the disapproval and discouragement in the world. Peter’s rhetorical question chokes me up every. single. time.
This brings me to the point of this blog, a text that doesn’t tear me up, but I imagine it did for a great many brethren.
Ephesians 2: 11-19
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ,alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to 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 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. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…”
The early church were real people. They had flesh and blood and emotions. And I imagine, when the first century church of Ephesus received this letter for the first time from Paul, and when this section was first read, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This is the moment when every lip of these gentle Christians began to quiver. This visible Gentile church huddled together in the heart of Ephesus with frogs in their throats.
Not only did they, being New Covenant Christians experience the salvation we have all experienced that was laid out earlier in chapter two, but they got to experience afresh another kind of reconciliation that we Gentiles today have lost over 2,000 years: covenantal reconciliation. These Gentiles not only got to reflect on their sin, and get choked up thinking about Jesus’ mercy to forgive and redeem that, they also got to remember what Paul called them to remember in verse 11: they were once far off, they were once strangers. They got to remember the sweetness of God and His law which was, seemingly, not inclusive of them. However, as Paul would later refer to as the Old Testament mystery (3: 1-13), they got to physically and spiritually see New Covenant acceptance. They got to really dwell on this Jesus, who abolished thousands of years of animosity and division toward them. They experienced spiritual reconciliation, but a kind of ceremonial and ethnic one as well. Unlike us, they could remember the days of the two groups and the hostility, and they got to experience the joy of that wall crumbling at Jesus’ hammer.
This Jesus, the maker of all things, the good sheppard, made them one with us, with the Jews, and with Himself.