The Man In The Middle

The Man In The Middle

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NASB).

God is spirit and exists outside the boundaries of time, space, and matter.  Yet, God knows humanity needs these measurable reference points to navigate the physical world.  But despite God’s accommodation for mankind’s spiritual challenges, it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off, even before they were invented.  Everything was going well until Adam’s first bite of temptation:  a real eye-opener causing grave consequences for all humanity.  Adam and Eve were soon living outside the boundaries of God’s Garden of Eden.  Enter the first conflict between God and sinful man.  A problem eventually resolved by the mediated settlement offer believers celebrate as Easter.        

Christ Jesus is indeed the only Mediator between God and mankind.  He is also an Advocate (1 John 2:1) and an Intercessor (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) for believers.  Reconciliation was made possible only by the willing heart of Jesus humbly stepping-down from heaven long enough to bring both sides together—not at a finely-crafted conference table—but upon rough timbers formed into the shape of a cross.  There the matter was settled once and for all (Hebrews 7:26-28).  No compromises, negotiations, or bargains.  Just God’s gift of salvation by grace based on the finished work of Christ delivered right on schedule at precisely God’s proper time.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.   But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6,8,10).  Jesus paid God’s ransom price for all, but tragically, many still try to pay it themselves.  Only Jesus was capable of paying and being the ransom price required by God… “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).  Also see Romans 3:21-26.    

 Apostle John personally witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and sheds more light on the testimony’s source and reliability: “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ… It is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify:  the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son” (1 John 5:6-9).

Jesus remained focused on accomplishing the will and work of the Father from start to finish while staying in continuous contact with the Father through prayer—exemplifying how His disciples should approach life, as well. Jesus often sought to quell publicity about His miraculous healings that drew the ire of His enemies because His hour had not yet come.  Despite all the distractions from curious onlookers, enemy threats, and temptation traps set for the Son of God, He deftly side-stepped every obstacle standing between Himself and the cross:  the one in the middle bearing His “royal title” unchanged by Pilate, written on a sign above it in three languages for all to read.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Concise and to the point for anyone standing in the middle of deciding whether to accept that invitation or not.  Still, God has many enemies who enjoy mocking Him personally, rebelling against His holy nature and rejecting His free gift offer of salvation.  Disrespecting God has been a favorite pastime for mankind ever since the infamous Garden of Eden expulsion, and also by the evil one long before that—free falling from angelic grace.  Mocking Jesus rose to a fevered pitch at His “trial” and intensified during His crucifixion.  The list of mockers was lengthy and varied.  But the evil one had beaten them to the punch in the desert wilderness just prior to the start of Jesus’ public ministry (see Matthew 4:1-11). 

There, the evil one prefaced two temptations of Jesus with these taunting words, “If You are the Son of God…”  That defiant attitude proved to be a template for the mocking crowd at Calvary three years later.   As Jesus hung on the cross, taunters said, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40).  The religious establishment, both criminals hanging beside Jesus and soldiers joined in and piled on in a sour-note “choir” of contemptuous verbal abuse.   Not to mention the horrific physical cruelty the Lamb of God was enduring, silently.

Ironically, Jesus who offers “living water to all (see John 4:7-15) was given just the opposite by man as He neared the final moment before “giving up His spirit” (see John 19:28-30).  Yet, Jesus somehow found joy in enduring what He went through to make eternal salvation possible to all who believe in Christ.  The writer of Hebrews asks us to consider that whenever we feel like growing weary or losing heart (see Hebrews 12:2-3).  May it motivate and encourage us to pray even more for the lost and to tell them about Christ. 

The jeering crowd maybe thought justice was served when Jesus didn’t respond to their insults, and He ultimately was crucified.  Instead, justification by faith prevailed and with it the opportunity for all humanity to be reconciled with God through Jesus Christ (see Romans 5).  Things were already turning a corner… even among the mockers.

One criminal had a change of heart!  The Bible doesn’t identify which one.  A picture of God’s invitation to all.  However, the other criminal continued voicing his defiant rage toward Jesus while including a desperate plea for help:  “Are You not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!”  This began a verbal exchange between the two criminals with Jesus hanging silently in the middle.  “’But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?’” (Luke 23:39-40). 

Before darkness snuffed out the noonday sun, the repentant sinner’s final words, no longer spewing insults, came down to this one last request: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”   Jesus answered, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).  Nothing scripted, nothing formulated—just a heartfelt expression understood perfectly by God—spoken in any human language.   And Jesus’ response said it all:  “Truly I say” (authoritative guarantee) “to you” (a personal invite), “today” (no waiting), “you shall be with Me” (no better presence) and “in Paradise” (no better place).  Jesus gives every believer this same type of living hope!

There is no “middle ground” with Christ.  People either accept Him or reject Him.  Pilate hesitated before handing Jesus over for crucifixion (despite citing Jesus’ innocence three times) until wilting under the pressure of not losing his powerful position.  However, the centurion overseeing the crucifixions acknowledged that Jesus “was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) and “’…began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent’” (Luke 23:47). 

All of mankind “helped” nail Jesus to the cross (see Romans 3:23).  Yet God, who raised Christ from the dead, has Himself nailed sin’s debt to that now empty cross, offering spiritual freedom to all who trust in Christ.  “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead… having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:12, 14). 

Just as God accommodated mankind’s spiritual challenges for time, space, and matter, He has also provided for man’s ultimate spiritual challenge:  sin.  Christ Jesus is indeed the Man in the middle—our “go-between” with God as Savior, Mediator, Advocate, and Intercessor!

                                                                                                                                                Alan Summers, GBC Elder

All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 2000 edition