"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility" - Ephesians 2:14
Often we forget that Jesus was a Jew and he was born and bred in the Middle East. Here I am reminded of an incident in the life of the greatest scientist of the twentieth century. His name was Albert Einstein. When he studied in a particular Christian school, at one stage he was the only Jew in his classroom. One of the teachers, who was a Christian priest, often used to ridicule him by saying that the Jews got together to kill our Lord and Master. When this became a real irritation for Albert Einstein, one day he got up and told his teacher, "Father, don’t forget that Jesus himself was a Jew".
Like this teacher, we are inclined to forget that all the disciples of Jesus were Jews and circumcised people like Jesus himself. So how and why did we become Christians and followers of Jesus Christ who was a Jew from the Middle East? What are the relationships we have with Jews, people from the Middle East and circumcision?
I doubt if many of you have asked these questions, but I believe they are important as a means of deepening our faith in the times we live in. How did we become Christians? Historically we became Christians through the influence of the Roman Empire. But it was the philosophy of Jesus that made it possible for non-Jewish countries away from the Middle East to embrace the Christian faith.
How did Jesus do this? St. Paul gives the answer to this question in the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, where he says that by his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility. this biblical teaching, which is not often used, has a great message for us today in our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus broke down various barriers that divided one human being from another and reconciled them. The tribal tensions between Jews and Samaritans, the ethnic issue of Jews and Gentiles, and the barriers between males and females became the main focuses of his ministry.
Through his sermons and parables, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan, he made people realise the prejudices that we hold about people who are not in "my" group. According to that parable, when a man, from a majority Jewish ethnic group needed help, there was only this so-called outcast Samaritan there to help him.
Throughout his life, Jesus taught by the use of parables and made use of incidents in parable form. For instance, after healing ten lepers when only one Samaritan came to thank him, he asked "Where are the other nine?" He ate and drank with so-called sinners and got a tax collector, who was not considered a righteous man, to become one of his disciples.
Death on the Cross was his final sacrifice and is the symbol of his reconciling ministry, by which he reconciled the human race with the ultimate reality, which is God. I believe this is one of the most effective ways to interpret the meaning of the Cross in the modern world where there are so many barriers between tribes, ethnic groups and males and females. Often to interpret the meaning of the Cross we use the blood of Jesus.
He shed his blood on the cross, but in a society where most people know little about Jesus, the reconciling aspect of the Cross is more appropriate and meaningful in conveying the message of Jesus. Therefore as Christians let us commit ourselves to continue the reconciling ministry of Jesus.
May God help and strengthen you to fulfil his will through your lives. Amen.
Albert Einstein, one day got up and told his teacher, "Father, don’t forget that Jesus himself was a Jew"