Meditations on the Larger Catechism, pt. 26
The Necessity of a Human Mediator
We really have a crazy-sounding religion. We confess that God exists as one, yet three. Totally irrational! We confess that one of those three, the Son, became a human by being born of a virgin. What a fantasy! We confess this God-man died on a common Roman cross to take away sins. Keep dreaming! We confess this God-man rose from the dead. Impossible! It’s no wonder the apostle Paul called the gospel “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18) and its ministers “fools for Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10). It’s no wonder that when Christianity is compared to Islam and Buddhism, for example, with their common sense approach of works earning rewards that we sound like proponents of a fairy tale. One comfort to us is the fact that our forefathers faced the same ridicule. As Tertullian said in his treatise, De Carne Christi, “On the Flesh of Christ,”
The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible (ch. 5).
It’s that absurdity that is our wisdom; it’s that impossibility that is our confidence. In our previous meditation we explored why we need a divine Mediator. Here I want to meditate upon why we need a mediator who is also human. In the words of Hebrews 2, this was “fitting” as the Son of God “had to be made like his brothers” (vv. 10, 17).
Necessary for His Work
The first reason why we need a human mediator is that is was necessary for his work. And there are several facets of this.
To Advance Our Nature
The Son had to be human in order “that he might advance our nature” (Q&A 39). This means that since humanity plunged itself into the cesspool of sin, it could not get itself out even to begin moving itself closer to God. Humanity needed a mediator who would step into the mess with it, and then be able to raise it from sin to righteousness, from earth to heaven. In the words of Hebrews 2, “it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (v. 16). Angels already dwell in celestially appropriate form, while we must be led there.
To Obey the Law
We need a fully human mediator who could “perform obedience to the law” (Q&A 39). Since we are incapable of offering to God the obedience he deserves and desires, we need someone else to do it for us, as us. In all my disillusionment during college that led me to study and explore world philosophies and religions, I discovered that this is a unique aspect to Christianity. No other system says that someone else does the work necessary for you. All others says it is up to your reason, your abstaining, and your doing. But we have a God who knows us better than that, don’t we?
To Suffer in Our Nature
And since God is just, humanity must suffer punishment for its inability to obey his laws and requirements. Therefore, if we are to be freed from this sentence, we need a mediator who must himself undergo that suffering. This is why we read that our mediator was made “perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10) and that he become man in order to “make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). His entire life, we might say, was one in which he not only walked on the straight and narrow path alongside our steps on broad path of destruction, obeying for us; but that while he did so, he also carried our sins and experienced our suffering in body and soul, leading to the cross. He did this for you!
To Make Intercession as a Fellow Human
Finally, another aspect that makes our religion so wonderful is that our Savior and the salvation he gives us is not just a mater of this divine power, but of his human empathy. We read in the New Testament that he has “one origin” with us as humans, and that we are fellow “brothers” (Heb. 2:11). And since we share together in flesh and blood “he himself likewise partook of the same things” (Heb. 2:14). As the Catechism says, Jesus has “a fellow-feeling of our infirmities” (Q&A 39). And with that “fellow-feeling” he makes intercession for us before the throne of God’s heavenly majesty. With that “fellow-feeling” his intercession for us is that much more genuine and comforting to us. He is able to save us because he “ever lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). And he intercedes for us, as us.
Necessary for Our Benefit
How does our mediator’s humanity benefit us? The benefit is, of course, that we are saved from sin. In particular, though, there are two ways we can distinguish this benefit.
To Receive Adoption
The first is that because we embrace the eternal Son of God who became man, we are made adopted sons of God (Gal. 4:5). The Son became human that humans might become sons. And now that we are God’s sons [and daughters], “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6) And as his adopted children, we are no longer slaves, but full heirs of all God’s riches (Gal. 4:7). We belong to the eternal family of God! We have full access to all the household blessings and comforts.
To Have Confidence
The other benefit is that we no longer live as strangers in utter fear of God, but have confidence to come before his throne—of grace! It is through our mediator, who is both divine and human, that we as God’s sons have confidence to draw near to that throne of grace and call him not only God and Lord, but Father. And we draw near to him in order to ask him for his mercy and grace to help us in our times of need (Heb. 4:16). Doesn’t this move your soul? You see, when we come before our Father, like our earthly fathers, we find that he already knew what we needed and prepared to give it to us according to his lavish love and great grace for us.
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity.” This story, this doctrine, is totally absurd, isn’t it? Yes, it is, to the mind of reason. Yes, it is, to the ways in which we do business, engage in politics, and operate with our neighbors in day-to-day life. But when we believe this absurd story we become wise in God’s eyes.
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
Pastor, Oceanside United Reformed Church