“The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of His power.” Ephesians 3:3-7 (HCSB)
Suppose some ethnic gang hassles your neighborhood. They extort money and terrorize your family, and it gets really bad. This gang’s corruption has even infiltrated the government. There’s nobody to call for help.
Now, suppose this gang’s terror has been going on for several generations. A prejudice of hatred has grown among your community against every one of this gang’s ethnicities. Your only hope is that you’ve been taught to believe that God would, someday, send a Deliverer Who would stop the terror. Your whole life’s plea to God is like generations past, crying out, “Save us from those people!”
Finally, in His perfect timing, God responded to those prayers. He sent the promised Deliverer. You’re thinking, “Now, those people are going to get crushed!” But, instead of destroying and publicly humiliating all the members of that gang’s ethnic community, your Deliverer has other plans. He decided to atone for their sins and offer them grace and forgiveness if they would repent and receive His atonement by faith.
How would that make you feel? I bet your answer is close to what many Jews felt when they learned that Messiah came first to atone for sin and offer salvation to all people before He returned to judge and punish the world’s sin.
Jesus identified that the REAL problem in the world was not primarily its different people groups; the problem was how sin had affected those cultures. He understood that sin had infected BOTH the Jew and Gentile cultures. Thus, Jesus did not elevate any people group above another regarding their need for atonement or its accessibility to anyone who seeks it. He came to wipe the slate clean for all, so to speak, and give everyone a choice for a new start. This was so that all ethnicities could glorify Him together by God’s grace and the Spirit’s enabling.
I can relate to how the Jewish leaders felt when Jesus spoke of a “good Samaritan” and commanded, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can also identify with the prejudice Paul faced when he asserted that the mystery of the “prophets” in the Tanakh (Old Testament) was: All of us Jews need atonement, and Gentiles can receive it, too!
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