Relevant Biblical Passages: Mark 14-16; John 13, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 15:3-14
Jesus: Mediator Both Ways. In the story of Jesus, the paradoxical elements in the great cosmic battle become especially prominent. The more traditional view, dominated by Pauline theology, focuses on Jesus’ death as the perfect sacrifice, the one who bridges the gulf between a holy God and sinful humanity. The power of this imagery is caught by the first lines of what has become the best known of all Christian hymns: “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.” In this picture, God is everything, we are nothing; but the death of God’s dear Son bestows upon us infinite worth. It is Jesus who is our Mediator, presenting us in our rags and wretchedness before the throne of an infinitely holy God. Because of Jesus we can hear those marvelously encouraging words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
In John’s Gospel quite a different picture emerges: Jesus the Mediator faces earthward instead of heavenward. Instead of pleading with a holy God on behalf of wretched sinners, He pleads with puzzled sinners on behalf of a misunderstood Father, seeking to sweep aside all the lies of the Evil One and demonstrate to a deceived creation what God is really like. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” he said to Philip (John 14:9). This is Jesus the Teacher, not Jesus the Sacrifice, though the two biblical pictures merge into a larger unity in the end. “I do not call you servants any longer,” Jesus said to Philip, “because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15, NRSV). This is the same Jesus who declares that one day we will ask the Father in Jesus’ name, but that He, Jesus, will NOT pray to the Father on our behalf! Why? Because the Father Himself loves us (John 16:25-26). In that day, we will no longer need a Mediator to shield us from God’s terrible power and majesty. The haunting fear of having to “stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator” (The Great Controversy, 425), has been transformed from a paralyzing threat into a marvelous promise.
If we see the Mediator pleading heavenward on our behalf, we will see the cosmic battle in quite a different perspective than if we see the Mediator pleading earthward on God’s behalf. Both pictures are true, both are biblical; but they are seldom perfectly balanced in one person’s experience. It may even be that we see one picture more clearly on one day, the other more clearly on another; or falling into discouragement, we may not be able to see either picture clearly. But regardless of which picture is dominant, Jesus is the one who makes it happen. The following events in his life become crucial, but are viewed differently depending on whether the Mediator is seen presenting us to the Father, or as presenting the Father to us:
Jesus’ Predictions of His Death (e.g. Mark 8:31; John 3:14). Are Jesus’ (rejected) announcements of his death as the suffering servant, more significant when Jesus is seen as Sacrifice, the Mediator facing heavenward (Paul), or when He is seen as Teacher, the Mediator facing earthward (John)?
The Events of Passion Week. How does our view of Jesus’ role as Mediator affect our understanding of the great events which marked his experience during the week leading up to his death and resurrection?
Biblical Passages: Matthew 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19-24; John 12-20.
1. Triumphal Entry. (Matt. 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40: John 12:12-19)
2. Cleansing of the Temple. (Matt. 21.10-17; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:13-17)
3. Upper Room: Washing the Disciples’ Feet. (John 13:1-20)
4. Upper Room: The Last Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20)
6. Arrest and Trial.
Crucial Question: The events of Jesus’ life are central to any interpretation of his experience, but can be interpreted in quite different ways and given quite different emphases, depending on the experience of the one pondering these events. How can the church maintain the centrality of the events and the diversity of perspectives in ways that will enhance the unity of the church and further its mission on earth?