Ps. 23; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44
Wall, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off [from God] 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 nullifying the law … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two … (vv. 13-15).
Paul’s “wall of hostility” epitomized the temple’s Soreg wall, separating “the Court of Gentiles” from “the Beautiful Gate” of temple proper, that allowed entry into “the Court of Women”.
Inscribed on the Soreg, “Let no foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whosoever is taken so doing will be the cause that death over-takes him.” In the old order Jew/Gentile intercourse was forbidden.
St. Paul does not say Christ “abolishing the law”, as some translate (see ESV), hardly; certainly not the moral law, for we confess the Ten Commandments as summary of God’s ethic that admonishes our failure.
As for ritual, Christians acknowledge baptismal death into Jesus’ sacrificial flesh, fulfilling the entire law; thus, the law is not abolished; rather in Christ our condemnation by the law is nullified.
At Baptism Jesus was ordained God’s new Israel. On the cross he was our circumcised and cast-off flesh, so “a Bridegroom of blood” (Ex. 4:25; cf. Jn. 2:1-12). Jesus is our Passover Lamb feeding out of slavery to adoption, unleavened Bread of Life; and our Easter Feast of Weeks. On Pentecost the HS in-gathered the church, one Loaf in Jesus’ crucified and risen body.
Christians in-Spirited by living water from the cross, are enlightened within the courts of Jesus’ flesh, God’s new Temple dwelling. The church rises from as NT Court of Women through the Nicanor Gate into Court of Priests before the Holy Place for its priestly Bread in God’s Holy of Holies Presence (cf. Ps. 23:3).
In Christ the law no longer separates us from God’s peace. All that condemns is unbelief, despisal of his work in Holy Baptism (Mk. 16:16). Incumbent on all hearing this gospel, is to ask, “how shall we escape [just retribution] if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).
Old Israel, according to the flesh, was near to God, possessing the promises and blessings of true worship; but now, it is the blood of Christ that brings both Jew and Gentile to God in the peace of the new Covenant; both are new Israel, one spiritual new man in Christ.
Christian worship surpasses “all the spilt blood of Jewish bulls and goats” (Heb. 10:4; LSB 431). Jesus’ blood not only covers but remits sin on our confession, “the LORD is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6) and Shepherd who leads us in and out of God’s gates (Ps. 23:1, 6; Jn. 10:3). This is our “great salvation”.
Today’s Gospel speaks to an overarching order of salvation, “to the Jew first and also the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Galilee was NT birthplace (Isa. 9:1, 2) inhabited, not only by Jews, but an admix of Gentiles and Samaritans despised for their heretic unbelief, schismatic rituals, and cultural impurity. Jews referred to these as, “dogs” and “dead stones”.
Today, Paul, describes God’s work in Christ as, “[having] broken down in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14b). Jewish “closed communion” by law and temple were ground-zero for Jew/Gentile hostility, given worship application at the Soreg wall.
Hostile separation extended out from worship into daily life. Communal eating is a powerful sign of union; so no observant Jew would eat with Gentile dogs, public sinners, or Samaritans. Here we comprehend the apostolic consternation at Jesus’ teaching and feeding, inexorably pointing to break-down of the old religious and social order.
Our Gospel begins with Jesus’ disciples returned from mission through-out Galilee. They preached Kingdom “nearness” in Jesus, and so repentance. Many Gentiles (Mk. 3:8, 5:1) heard and overwhelmingly responded (6:31).
Jesus wanted to take his disciples for a rest, “far from the madding crowd”; but the people ran ahead to throng him. Jesus is compassionate Good Shepherd and would not deny seekers after “the one thing needful” (Lk. 10:42), more word, and so taught them many things (Mk. 6:34).
The crowd was spiritually fed; but the hour was late. The disciples would have sent the mixed crowd to fend for their physical needs. Instead, Jesus commanded The Twelve feed them; a horrifying prospect.
Gentiles in the resurrection might be baptized, but to Jewish converts, Gentiles were second-class kingdom citizens, without circumcision and obedience to the law, they were liturgically unqualified to sit at the same lunch-counter, ride in the front of the bus, or drink from the same fountain. “To the Jew first” was heard; but “also the Greek” was discarded.
At the prospect of a shared meal, the Apostles wrangled against Jesus, arguing, “What do you want us to do? ... buy two hundred denarii worth of bread” (v. 37). Jesus ignored the objection, ordering the crowd to sit in ranks, as ancient Israel around the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
Before the eyes of the Apostles, Jesus recapitulated a new Exodus out of Egypt to include both Jew and Gentiles for a Passover adoption as sons and daughters of God.
Distribution by the Apostles of the loaves portended the church’s feeding in the resurrection without discrimination. Thus, Paul says, Christ “has…broken down in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility by nullifying the law of commandments …”
Jesus’ death redefined and reoriented OT worship. The flesh of Jesus is God’s new Temple for new men. Jesus is the cornerstone laid to establish “The Church’s One Foundation” (LSB 644) in apostolic teaching and worship.
The cross and our baptism into Jesus’ death is the engine by which the Spirit constructed God’s new Temple as body of Christ. In Christ Gentiles are no longer “dead stones”, but with Jews are “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) joined in the Father’s will; mortared by word, water, and blood to be like Christ, our foundation, a new creation in the image of God.
Still, the church does discriminate in favor of her holy things. True unity confesses the Word from the Spirit, the water, and the blood, handed-over from the cross; these three testify (1 Jn. 5:8). The church receives their witness without hostility; yet practices Closed Communion in that confession, prayerfully trusting the Father’s election (Eph. 1:4).
So, how are we assured of election? Salvation has nothing to do with self-generated feelings; rather election believes in unmerited gift implanted by God’s Spirit. Repentantly we are impelled to inquire, “How shall we escape [just retribution] if we neglect such a great salvation?” Amen.