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What symbols do you consider important in your life?

This communion meditations is a little longer than your normal meditation.  I have a shorter version that I keep in my bible, but today I’m going to expand it

There are a lot of symbols that people look up to these days: MVP awards, Championship trophies, Oscars, etc.  What symbols do you consider important in your life?

Today, I want you to focus on this Cross for a moment…  Is there anything that you notice about the shape of it…  The cross is both vertical and horizontal! Do you understand the significance of that?

The Cross is a symbol for torture and death.  To be crucified is arguably one of the worst deaths you could experience.  But God took this symbol of torture and death and redeemed it, so much so, that millions, maybe even billions, of people around the world look at the cross as a symbol of hope and peace.  So, what does this have to do with the cross being “vertical and horizontal”? To answer this, I need you to open your bibles to Ephesians 2:11-22: Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

I know there is a whole lot here but if we break it down into thirds, you’ll be able to understand why I picked this section…

Verses 2:11-13: Paul reminds the Gentiles in his audience of their former life apart from Christ, separated from God and looked down on by the Jews.  But he also reminds any Jews that might be reading this letter that they are “in the flesh” just like the Gentiles, without Jesus, they were hopeless too. (vs 11)

Verses 2:14-18: Paul preached that both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God through Christ’s peace-making work.  Together, now as one new man, they have access to the Father.

Verses 2:19-22: Paul proclaimed that the Jews and Gentiles are fellow citizens being built together into the dwelling place of God.

What’s Paul’s big idea in this section? V. 14. “[Jesus] himself is our peace” is one of the most important phrases in this passage because it’s the pivot point for the section as well as the entire book of Ephesians. The Apostle Paul pivots from the former life of the Gentiles, when they were separated from Christ and hostile with the Jews, to the new life in Christ and the peace between God and man and man and fellow man. V. 18 “We both have access” is one of the most important phrases in this passage because Paul uses this phrase to move from the past tense of the Gentiles former life and what Christ accomplished in the past to now what that means in the present for the Gentiles to whom this letter is written. This phrase sets up the “so then” in verse 19. Paul urged his believing audience to remember that though they were once separated from both God and each other, they have been brought near to God and other believers by Christ’s peace making work, to be a dwelling place for God, Himself.

Paul’s big idea is huge for his original audience but it’s also huge for us who believe today!  Here is where we can understand the significance of the cross.  The cross is vertical; since Christ died on the cross in our place, we who believe in him for salvation have peace with the Father through the Holy Spirit who applies Christ’s work to us.  Our vertical relationship is redeemed, restored, remade and all sorts of other “re” words that apply!  

Think about that for a second, because of Christ, we have peace with God Himself! This peace is not merely the absence of strife that we think of in a “cease fire” today, but rather it’s the Old Testament understanding of “Shalom.”  Shalom includes the negative aspects of a ceasefire and lack of fighting along with the positive blessings of living in communion with our Creator.  This word “peace” is rich and beautiful; one commentator even says that the phrase “Christ is our peace” is Paul’s summary of the gospel itself, because between God and man now stands Christ the mediator.  

This explains how the cross is vertical.  But what about the horizontal aspect of the cross?  Paul emphasized the strife between the Jews and the Gentiles, not to blast them but as a reminder of where they have come from.  Christ is the peace between God and man.  Because man has peace with God, man can now have peace with other men!  Because Christ has forgiven us of our sins, we can forgive other men who have sinned against us.  Paul reminds the Jews and Gentiles who were within earshot of his letter that they are now one in Christ.  This lesson is also urgent for believers today.  Christ stands between us and The Father, he also stands between us and other believers.

Can this lesson be applied between Christians and non-Christians today?  Well, there are definitely principles that can be drawn out of this passage for dealing with people of other religions and belief systems, but this passage is more about Christian’s being united to God and other believers through Christ Jesus.  Does the Bible teach that we should live at peace with everyone?  Absolutely! (see Romans 12:9-21), but not here.  Why am I focused on this point -- because it is so important for Christians to be unified with other Christians!  Most of the time we really don’t do a great job of walking in the peace that Christ earned for us.  We need to love one another, especially those in the household of faith, who are being built into a dwelling place for God alongside of ourselves!

The cross itself is a perfect analogy for the peace that Jesus Christ accomplished for us on it.  It’s vertical beam should remind us that we have shalom with God our Father through Christ in the power of The Holy Spirit.  The horizontal beam should remind us that Christ accomplished peace for us between ourselves and that we are commanded to walk in unity and love with other believers by the power of The Holy Spirit, for the glory of God.

Hopefully, every time you look at the Cross in the future you will think about both the vertical and horizontal aspects of it...

PRAYER: Father, as we celebrate this communion meal together this Lord’s Day let us be reminded that through the death of Your Son, Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary we are bonded horizontally together as brothers and sisters in a common union of peace and love for one another in service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus…  May we also be reminded that vertically we are connected to You through Jesus…  May you bless the cup and the bread in remembrance of the Prince of Peace. AMEN!

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