Breaking the Fourth Wall


“(let the reader understand)”
Matthew 24:15b ESV

In order to construct a solid home, you must have four walls.

Apparently the same holds true of a solid movie or play. There are three walls on stage – the left and right wings and the backdrop – and then an invisible fourth wall that separates the audience from the play. Or, if it’s a film, the fourth wall is the camera lens that separates the studio from the viewers.

On rare occasions, someone on the production team decides to do something incredibly unconventional: break the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall in the case of a movie or play means to acknowledge the audience and offer an exclusive invitation into the world that is unfolding before their eyes.

It means the audience goes from being
a passive observer
to an active, meaningful participant in the event.

This week I almost jumped out of my desk when I came across a verse where THE BIBLE breaks the fourth wall. I seriously re-read it at least a dozen times, looked at quite a few different translations, AND hounded my Pastor for confirmation. Yep. the Bible breaks the fourth wall. Check it out:

“So, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15-16 ESV)

Jesus is talking here with his disciples about something he calls the Abomination of Desolation. It’s a reference to something the prophet Daniel talked about back in the Old Testament. As I read these words, I remember feeling like it was a really abstract topic and my brain kinda just slipped into la-la-land. (I mean daydream mode, not the Ryan Gosling movie… maybe…) But before I could completely “check out,” the Bible’s next words spoke directly to me – Let the reader understand!

It was talking TO ME. I’m READER!!!! The Bible is inviting me to be an active participant in Jesus’s life. Let Emily understand! In the original Greek, that phrase uses a word that means to wrestle with or critically think about this problem in your mind. Don’t check out, reader! Don’t gloss over this text and give up because it’s a little complex – this was written for YOU!

What a wake-up call. I felt so exposed and so embraced all at once – it was exhilarating!

And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this isn’t the only time God broke the fourth wall. He’s been breaking it from day one. He walked with Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. He sent his son Jesus to live a human life and die a tortured death FOR US. And his own Holy Spirit lives within every believer alive today.

He is not a far away god of performance and passive observers. He is our God – our Father – who has broken every wall between us and him from now until eternity.

I needed that shake up to remind me that my faith life is one of joyful wrestling and critical thinking. God is talking TO ME.


Dear Lord, it’s still so shocking to me that the Creator of the universe invites me to understand his innermost thoughts. I bet you got quite the laugh out of how shocked I was at your fourth-wall-break in Matthew 24. Thank you for surprising me and always making sure I realize that I matter to you. Amen.

photo credit: eflon <a href=”″></a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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  1. Jerry Pettigrew

    Thanks for surprising me with this! I’ve never remembered seeing that phrase. Love the analogy of the fourth wall, it’s perfect!

    • messyworship

      I couldn’t believe it when that connection came together for me. God is so cool!

  2. Curly Wentlanf

    I agree Em-a-lee!
    You continue to shed new light to ancient words and by doing so giving us new connections to our Servant Savior!
    Thank You &
    God’s Blessings,

    • messyworship

      Thanks, Uncle Curly!!! I am always so encouraged when you read and offer insight. Thank YOU!!


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