Mediation is an important and valuable skill. What could be more powerful than the ability to stand between separate warring parties seeking a way towards reconciliation?

If mediation is the task of bringing parties together to find common ground, what can it mean to suggest that Jesus is the “mediator between God and humankind”?

For there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
   who gave himself a ransom for all
—this was attested at the right time. (I Timothy 2:5,6)

Why would beings created in “the image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26, 27) of God, need a go-between to mediate “between” us and God?

Why would we need a mediator to bring us back to a God from whom we cannot flee? (Psalm 139:7-12)

How can we possibly be separated from a God “in whom we live and move and have our being”? (Acts 17:28)

How could we be cut off from one whose kingdom is within us? (Luke 17:21)

If we are breathing, we are held in God:

In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being. (Job 12:10)

Life is not divided into those who have life and those who do not. The invisible force of life exists in all living beings. If our lungs are expanding and contracting, our heart beating, and blood is coursing through our veins, life lives in us; we are held by the one who created us and who is the source of all life.

All life came into being and holds together in Christ:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

To be separated from this force of life that is God, would be to cease to exist.

Like so many words that have taken on vast, and probably over-weighted, theological significance, the word mediator curiously appears seldom in the New Testament.

The Greek word translated “mediator” in I Timothy is mesitēs. It appears only six times in the New Testament: Galatians 3:19, 20; I Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24.

Only in The First Letter of Timothy does the role of mesitēs appear to refer to Jesus as the mediator “between God and humankind” (more on between tomorrow). So, an entire theology of separation that views humanity as cut off from God by the unbridgeable gap of human sin is rooted in one little verse.

But could there be a different way of seeing Jesus’ role as mesitēs?

In the Galatians text that uses mesitēs, Paul is speaking about the nature and purpose of “the law.” In Galatians 3:24 he sums up his argument about the law and its purpose saying,

Therefore the law was our paidagōgos until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.

A paidagōgos was a schoolteacher, an instructor. The purpose of the law is to teach something.

In all three of the Hebrews verses, Jesus is said to be the “mesitēs of a new covenant.” Jesus  communicates to humankind the existence and nature of a new covenant of grace extended by God to all human beings. The purpose of this new covenant is, as I Timothy suggests, that all human beings might experience the fact that God

desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:4)

So a mesitēs in I Timothy may not be so much a “go-between” working to bring together separate parties, but rather a means of communicating “truth”.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon suggests an alternative to “mediator” for translating mesitēs that is more in line with  Paul’s paidagōgos understanding of the law and the Hebrews vision of Jesus as the “mesitēs of a new covenant.” In its second meaning of the word mesitēsThayer’s Greek Lexicon suggests mesitēs may be translated as “a medium of communication.”

What if I Timothy is actually saying that Jesus was “a medium of communication” from God to humankind rather than a “mediator” bringing together separate parties? I will look more fully at this possibility tomorrow.

 

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