“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
28 years ago today, on June 12th, 1987, Ronald Reagan delivered the most famous speech of his presidency, standing at the Brandenburg Gate. (See a snippet of it in the video above.)
The Berlin Wall was a devastating symbol of the Cold War and the most notable incarnation of the Iron Curtain, separating the Eastern communist countries from Western culture and liberty. The Eastern Bloc called it the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (not-so-subtly calling all Western countries Fascist). West Berlin called it the Wall of Shame.
But in actuality, the structure’s primary function was far less for keeping enemies out, as much as for keeping the people of Eastern Berlin in. The 160 yards between the two cement barriers that comprised the Wall became known as the “death strip.” It was filled with weaponry and would target its own in the event of a tried escape. Over 100 died in their attempts to do so.
Thousands of years previous, another curtain hung in a symbol of separation. It was suspended in the Jewish temple—delineating the Most Holy Place, wherein the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat, and ultimately the presence of the Lord dwelled.
The people of Israel didn’t have the freedom to enter at will. Whenever anyone in their sinful, human nature forced entrance and confronted the presence of their perfect God, it proved fatal. Only the High Priest, once a year on Yom Kippur, could enter to make atonement for the sins of the people.
But that wall was torn down.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.” Matthew 27:51
When Reagan challenged the Iron Curtain with those famed words in 1987, he was expressing something for which humankind has long yearned but struggled to maintain. Freedom.
When Jesus gave His life, it was to rip apart the wall of separation between us and true freedom. That wall, built by sin, was torn down by grace, that we might freely enter the presence of our God.
Have you entered in?