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Jesus: Mediator or Meddler?

            While reading the story of the lame man healed by Jesus at the Pool of Bethsaida in John 5, I was struck by the fact that the lame man called Jesus “the man who healed me” whereas the Jewish leaders would only call Jesus “the man who told you to pick up your mat.”  The story made me think about how we identify people in general and specifically how we look on Christ.  Both are crucial for our maturity and destiny as human beings.

            All too often, and especially in the age of mass media, we view people only one dimensionally.  He’s a celebrity rock, sports or movie star, and, depending on our perspective, we either idolize him or demonize him.  He’s a conservative Republican, a liberal democrat, a fundamentalist Christian, a radical environmentalist, a bigot or a Mexican, and that is all he is to us.

            This became clear to me when we visited some former Kenosha neighbors in New Mexico.  The husband, who was a wonderful host and tour guide for us, was a former factory worker with only a high school education, an articulate and well-read writer who was a liberal anti-imperialist democrat married to a black woman who was a highly capable educator.  Both were strong supporters of the arts.  He was an atheist who was beginning to consider the spiritual realm at a Unitarian church.  How’s that for a mix?

            But there’s more.  They were troubled by a member of their church who was very generous and helpful but was a lesbian, a lifestyle they disapproved of.  They asked me, the evangelical Christian, how someone could be that way.  I responded that, while I believe that the practice of same-sex relationships is wrong, their friend’s lesbianism is not all that there is to her.

            A one-dimensional view of any person or group is not only simplistic and immature.  It is also false and can lead us to dehumanizing that person or group, a step that makes it easy for us to ignore them and even hate them.  We fallen, sinful and woefully weak human beings are also the image of God.  It is our shame and glory, a horrible and wonderful complexity that staggers the imagination.

            Even more fundamental is how we view Jesus.  The lame man sees Jesus simply as “the one who healed me.”  This is true, and quite acceptable as a beginning, but the Scriptures portray Jesus as much more—King of kings, Lord of lords, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, the eternal Word, who was with God and was God.  Christian maturity comes about as we allow our individual experience of Christ to be shaped and stretched by the biblical witness to him.

            The Jewish religious leaders, incredibly ignoring a miracle, only saw someone who in their opinion broke the Sabbath.  They would not allow a sign from God to change their set views.  How could this be? 

            In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that Christ the Mediator stands in the middle of every relationship.  We can have no direct relationships with God or other people, but only through Christ.  As the Mediator, Jesus is therefore the Lord over all our relationships.  This is the reason the Gospel of John follows the story of the lame man with a discussion of Jesus as judge.

            The Jewish leaders could only see Jesus as one who was a threat to all that they held dear.  He challenged their patriotism, religion, status and, perhaps unconscious to them, their economic power—a dangerous mix.  For them, without faith in Christ, the Mediator was a meddler.  We should not be surprised that non-Christians today are antagonist to the gospel of Christ.  The Mediator is meddling with their deepest desires and beliefs. 

            Christ also comes between us Christians and others and our values.  He must be Lord of them, in the middle, or else they are off base.  Whenever we find ourselves irritated, even angered, by a teaching or command of Christ, it is a sure sign that this relationship, this idea, this value, this activity is not submitted to him.  We must allow the Mediator to step in and deliver us as our Lord.

            So for you, is Jesus the Mediator or the Meddler?


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