Christ, Our Mediator

Jesus Christ is our prophet, priest, and king. But why did the second person of the Trinity come to earth to be born of a woman, born under the law? Why was it necessary? Anselm has the best answer to this in his marvelous book, Cur Deus Homo, translated means “Why the God-man?” The answer for Anselm lies in the realm of atonement. It was necessary for Jesus to be divine, since no other could bear on himself the penalty for sin. However, it was necessary for Jesus to be man, because otherwise He would not be a substitutionary sacrifice.

Jesus, in being our Mediator, brings God and man together in one person. It is truly said that He became the son of man that we might become the sons of God.

Jesus’ divine and human natures are inseparable, and yet distinct. One did not become swallowed up in the other. One did not convert into the other. Christ did not empty Himself of divinity. Nor was his humanity a farce. He is fully God and fully man. And yet, He is only one person. Here is mystery analogous to the Trinity. There is only one God, and yet there are three persons. So also, there is only one person with two complete natures in one person.

In another analogy, what is proper of one of His natures is sometimes said of the other, just like sacramental language, wherein what is said of the reality to which the sign points is sometimes said of the sign.

In His office as Mediator, He obeyed the law perfectly on our behalf, thus rendering Himself a perfect sacrifice for sin, and purchasing not only a forgiveness for our sins, but also purchasing eternal life for us. Those for whom Christ died are the elect, and the elect only, though the non-elect receive some non-saving benefits from Christ’s death.

The question of limited atonement comes up here. Christ’s atonement and those for whom he died are like butter and bread. On the Arminian construction, you can spread the butter over too much bread (the whole world), but the butter doesn’t cover the bread (although Christ’s death would have been sufficient to cover everyone’s sins: the point here is that not all are saved). Or, in the Calvinist position, the loaf is smaller (the elect, and not the whole world), but the butter covers it completely. This is Warfield’s analogy, not mine, by the way. The WCF says that Christ’s death *accomplished* the salvation of His people. It does not merely create a chance for salvation. That would be very poor mediation indeed, if all Christ gave us was a chance at salvation. On the contrary, Christ’s death actually accomplished the salvation of His people. Praise the Lord!


Genesis 33

The story is told of a Spanish father and son who became estranged. The son ran off. The father went looking for him. For months, the father looked, to no avail. Finally in desparation he wrote an advertisement in the paper that went like this: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. That sounds so pitiful to us, so sad. And yet, does it not sound so true to life? How many people out there are looking for love and reconciliation, and are desparate for it? How desparate are we for reconciliation with our Heavenly Father, and with our earthly fathers? We can broaden the thought to include all our relations. Jacob wanted reconciliation with Esau. He wanted it badly, since he knew that Esau was a powerful man, and could make life very bitter for Jacob.

Jacob had, in the previous chapter, wrestled with God. Rather, God had wrestled with him. That was God’s strange way of answering Jacob’s prayer. But here we learn that God was not finished answering Jacob’s prayer. There was more to come.

Jacob sees Esau coming now. There is visual contact with what might be an enemy force. So Jacob arranges his family according to favorites. This is a great mistake on Jacob’s part, since it will cause deep divisions in his family later on. He should have had them all in a single group, telling them in effect that he loved them all alike. But Jacob plays favorites, just as his parents had done. He reserves the best for last, possibly to protect them the most in case Esau is out to get him; possibly to arrange them in the order in which he wanted to present them to Esau. Either way, though, he plays favorites. This is important, because Jacob is just now going to reconcile with Esau over issues that had sprung from Isaac and Rebekah playing favorites (the problems also spring from his own sin and Esau’s sin). In verse 3, though, we see a very encouraging sign. The encounter with God at Peniel in the last chapter has done Jacob some good. Previously, he had been going to meet Esau staying behind the rest of the company. He had left himself behind on the other side of the river so that everyone else would meet Esau before he did. Now, however, trusting in his Lord to save him, he goes on ahead of his family. He, as the head of his family, takes the full responsibility for his actions, and meets the danger head on.

Notice, though, that Jacob is not stupid. He bows to the ground seven times before actually meeting Esau. This is typical Oriental courtesy that shows submission. It is the kind of courtesy which a subordinate gives to a superior. So Jacob is here indicating that he is no longer trying to keep the rights of the firstborn, even though those rights did actually belong to him. Jacob is here finally humbling himself, because God had humbled him in the previous chapter. The divine encounter in the previous chapter prepared the way here for the human encounter.

In verse 4, we see that Esau’s heart had changed. Now, the first instinct in our minds is usually to say something like this, “Oh, look at how forgiving Esau is; look at how warm and caring a person he is; look at how easy-going he is.” That, my friends, is barking up the wrong tree. The point here is not that Esau changed himself, but that God changed him. You might remember that Jacob prayed in 32:11 that God would deliver him from the hand of his brother Esau. God started answering that prayer in a very unusual way by wrestling him to the ground. Now, however, we see the last part of the answer to Jacob’s prayer; God changed Esau so that there could be reconciliation. It was God who changed Esau; it was not Esau changing himself.

After they hug and kiss and weep, shedding all those years of bitterness and estrangement (surely a very touching scene that Moses paints for us), then Esau asks Jacob about his family. Jacob tells him that God has graciously him all this family. Notice that Jacob calls himself “your servant.”

Then Esau asks about the droves of livestock that Jacob had sent on ahead of the family. Jacob says that they are a gift in order to find favor in Esau’s eyes. Probably what Jacob meant for Esau to think was that Jacob was hereby returning the blessing that he had “stolen” from him so many years ago. That is indicated by verse 11, where Jacob says, “Please accept my blessing.” Jacob in effect is saying, “Esau, you can view this either as a return of the blessing that I took from you, or you can view this as a gift from the overflow of the bounty that God has given me. Either way, take it as part of my blessing. I want to fulfill what God promised to Abraham, that he would be a blessing to all nations.”

Notice that in our own lives, we might be willing to say “I’m sorry,” if we offended someone. However, are we willing to make restitution? That seems to be the hardest part about reconciliation. The hard part is not the warm fuzzies that we get when reconciliation happens. The hard part is giving back what we have taken from that other person, whether money, or social standing, or truth, or whatever. We have the same trouble with God. We don’t mind if God forgives us. But we do mind if God requires of us something in restitution for what we have stolen, especially God’s glory. We have a hard time even thinking that God requires that of us. What is so important about God’s glory? Well, that is precisely why Jesus came. He came to restore to God what we had stolen from Him. We are completely unable to restore to God that glory which we have taken. But Jesus honored His Father all through His life, and gave to God all honor and glory. And by sacrificing Himself, he gives to us that restitution that He made. You can restore what you have stolen from God. But you can only do it in Christ, through the restitution that He has made.

Now notice Esau’s response. He never mentions anything about what God has given him. Instead, he says “I have enough.” In this context, that is significant. Esau is saying that he has gotten on very well without God’s blessing. He is self-sufficient, and does not need what God through Jacob has to offer. Jacob is always saying that God has given to him, but Esau will say nothing of the kind. He is a perfect picture of natural man, isn’t he? Natural man, throwing off the shackles of service to God, being a self-made man, taking care of himself, and seeing to his own needs. That sounds a lot like the American dream, doesn’t it? I wonder how many of us would fit that mold? We are pioneers here in North Dakota, needing to be independent, because we can’t trust our neighbors to stick up for us. We don’t need anyone’s help, do we? That is thinking like Esau. Oh, sometimes we can think that we need God’s help. But we even use that to fuel our own pride, because God is the only person we need. But God has not chosen to make His church work that way. Instead God has made His church to be a body with each member dependent on all the other members. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” Therefore, we should not be self-sufficient like Esau. Instead, we should acknowledge our dependence, like Jacob does.

Jacob convinces Esau to take the gift. Jacob knows that Esau might change his mind unless there is this seal on their non-aggression pact, as it were. That is why Jacob is so insistent that Esau take it. If Esau takes the gift, then Jacob will truly have nothing more to fear from Esau. Notice the connection here with the previous chapter. In the previous chapter, Jacob said to the man, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Here Jacob is saying, “I will not let you go unless you receive my blessing.”

Finally, we notice that reconciliation does not necessarily mean compatibility. The commentator Candlish notes that “had the brothers continued long in one another’s company, or come much in contact afterwards, their differences of taste and temperament might have led to disagreements again.” There is such a thing as being separated for the sake of unity. We can think of denominations today. Now certainly, there are too many denominations out there today. There are many that are so close that they should be not two but one denomination. However, there are differences among Christians about less central things, but things that are still important. For instance, our Baptist brothers do not baptize babies, because they do not understand the nature of the covenant. Lutherans have a different view of the Lord’s Supper than we do. It is appropriate, therefore, for us to worship in separate denominations for the sake of the greater unity of the church as a whole. This idea might have an impact on how we view our two churches here. What are our differences like? Are they sufficient to have two churches, or should we be one church? That is a question to think about and pray about, though we should not move too quickly.

So how badly do you want reconciliation? Will you answer the Lord’s advertisement? God says, “Meet me wherever you are, right now. All is forgiven if you come to me. I love you. God the Father.” How many will show up? Will you show up?