14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us.15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father."
Peace. Be Still.
by Jared E. Alcántara, Ph.D.
How will we get through another month of suffering? How can we remain resilient without knowing when or if we can return to regular fellowship? How do we bind up wounds when healing seems like it is impossible? We can call it a coincidence if we like. Perhaps the better word is providence. For it turns out that the questions we find ourselves asking at the close of 2020 sound a lot like the questions that ancient Christians were asking two millennia ago. They remain separated from us by culture and context and time but, somehow, they are still in solidarity with us. Like us, they knew the pain of sitting down at tables with empty seats, the uncertainty that swirled about a ritual as simple as regular fellowship, the chasms that seemed like they were impossible to cross.
Is it any wonder, then, that the apostle Paul reminded the early church that the way forward would not be found through traditional channels? Paul reminds the Ephesians of the same truths that we need to hear again this Advent season: faithful resilience and abiding peace do not come through an ideology or a philosophy, through the acquisition of power or the flexing of might. Rather, they come through a person—a savior—Jesus who is the Christ, the one through whom the wall of separation has come down (Eph. 2:14).
Yes, Jesus had position and he had power, but he did not use them in the way that others would. He came into a world plagued by suffering and "preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near" (Eph. 2:17). He silenced storms, calmed seas, assuaged doubts and alleviated fears "for he himself is our peace" (Eph. 2:14). Through tears shed in a cradle and blood shed on a cross, he brought together Jews and Gentiles, insiders and outsiders, elder brothers and prodigals, so that he might "create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace" (Eph. 2:15). By grace through faith, a God who is rich in mercy and great in love made us alive with Christ "even when we were dead" and raised us up with Christ even when we were "without hope and without God" (Eph. 2:5-6, 12).
Even in 2020, Jesus comes into a world plagued by suffering and preaches peace. Through long storms and dark nights, he tells us that he is peace—our peace. Across sharp divisions and large divides, he reminds us that he makes peace, that he can bridge chasms that seem impossible to cross.
As the Advent season comes to its close, let this good news of great joy pierce through the darkness much like it did for the shepherds tending their flocks by night. Hear the jubilant song of the heavenly host. Join in the praise of the prophetic anthem: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Jared E. Alcántara, Ph.D.
Jared E. Alcántara, Ph.D., is Holder of the Paul W. Powell Endowed Chair in Preaching and Associate Professor of Preaching within George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Dr. Alcántara is passionate about equipping students to preach God’s Word in ways that are faithful, effective, clear, creative, and inspiring.
An ordained Baptist minister, he has served as a youth pastor, associate pastor, and teaching pastor in Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, and New Jersey. Before coming to Truett, from 2014-2018, he served as an associate professor of homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.