What was the world’s greatest division, from the standpoint of a first-century Jew? The division between Jews and Gentiles. For centuries, Jews had defined themselves over and against the “other.” Jews were the chosen people, gifted with the Law and divine revelation, peculiarly God’s own. Throughout the Old Testament the Jews are warned not to mix and mingle with non-Jews, not to imitate their corrupt practices and depraved morals, not to eat the unclean foods that they eat, and above all, not to worship their gods.
There was between them a “wall of enmity,” and we see this today. Consider all the walls that separate our various cultures and civilizations. There is still the literal wall between Israel and Palestine in the Holy Land. Within our own polity and our church, there’s the wall that separates liberals and conservatives. Look to any social circle, high school, or parish and you’ll see those same walls.
Now mind you, I’m talking about walls of enmity, not separation as such. I’m glad that cultures and nations and groups are diverse. But diversity is one thing, enmity is another. These various forms of enmity are what prevent God’s flock from finding unity.
Jesus the King came to heal this unity. How did he do this work? In a way that was radically unexpected. He went to Jerusalem and mounted a throne, but the throne was a Roman cross. And he battled non-violently against evil, absorbing it through the divine forgiveness. That’s how Jesus “broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh . . . and reconciled [everyone] with God, in one body, through the cross” (Eph 2:14-16).
There was no question that Israel was divided, scattered, and that they needed a shepherd. But what occurred to the first Christians after the resurrection is that Jesus’ work was meant, not just for Israel, but for the world. He was the Davidic King through whom Israel’s God would complete his universal task of gathering his scattered people into one flock.
“Jesus battled non-violently against evil, absorbing it through the divine forgiveness.”
– Father Robert Barron