Second Reading: Ephesians 2:13-18

Two Become One in Christ

Popular Translation

13 You who were once enemies have now become close friends because Jesus died for all of us.

14 Jesus is our peace. He united us. He destroyed the hatred between us that was like a wall. 15 He set the Law and the rulings of its lawyers aside. In that way, he might make us a new people and 16 united us with God in his body, the Church. His death on the cross killed our hatred. 17 Jesus came and announced the Good News of God's peace to you who were once enemies. 18 So, we both can be friends with God the Father because we share the same Spirit.

Literal Translation

13 Now in Christ, you, the (ones) being distant, became close in the blood of Christ.

14 For (HE) HIMSELF is our peace, having made both (Jews and Gentiles) one, having destroyed the center wall of the fence, the hatred in HIS flesh, 15 having abolished the Law of commands in (rabbinical) decrees, so that HE, making peace, might recreate two into one new MAN, 16 and HE might (completely) reconcile both into one BODY to God through the cross, having killed the hatred in HIM. 17 Having come, HE announced the Good News of (God's) peace to you, the (ones) distant, and peace to the (ones) near, 18 so that through HIM we both have access to in the one Spirit to the Father.

One of the themes in Ephesians was the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in the Church. While the authorship of the letter has been disputed, there is no doubt the rise of the Nazonene sect within Judaism and its subsequent excommunication by leaders in synagogues had a large effect on the New Testament canon. Paul defended the large influx of Gentiles into the Christian communities. Such a defense was reflected in his undisputed writings.

Paul fought against his former co-religionists, the Pharisees. Judaism under the Pharisees fought for the "purity" of the people. The holy nation should be kosher, unpolluted by foreign influences. Such an attitude led to a prejudice between Jews and non-Jews. And this was one of the reasons Jewish Christians who welcomed Gentiles were tossed out of their national communities.

To answer this prejudice, the author of Ephesians (Paul?) made an astounding claim. The death of Christ abolished the Law, with its ordinances and the decrees made by scribes. In other words, Jesus' death took away the legitimacy of "kosher." God no longer desired a unique nationality. He wanted those who followed the Christ. For in Christ, the prejudice cause by the wall of religious and national purity was wiped away. The former enemies were now one in the Lord. For they shared the same Spirit.

Of course, the social situation that created this prejudice no longer exists. In the United States, Jews no longer hold to their ghettos. The majority of non-Jewish Americans have no interest in isolating the heirs to the first covenant. Waning hatred has led to mutual respect. Yet, we still have our traditions that grew from that time of mistrust. We Christians still hold that we worship the same God as the Jews, but are not required to follow the kosher aspects of the Law. Our freedom and our unity with our Jewish brethren come from the death of Christ on the cross. We Gentiles follow the Jewish Messiah.

How has Jesus united you with others? How has that affected your relationship with others who do not share your beliefs?