The concept of mediation is a strange one, particularly to someone raised outside the Christian tradition. Why would I want a mediator? Wouldn’t it be better to have a direct relationship with God?
What at first seemed an alien structure is actually quite ordinary.
Why is it that people often bring a bottle of wine to someone’s house when they are invited for dinner? What is it they are saying or doing with such a gesture?
- I don’t need your charity?
- I’m not a freeloader?
- I need to drink if I’m going to spend time with you?
- Please like me?
The gesture of such a gift is surely intended to represent friendship and gratitude. Though it can be indicative of debt or insecurity, the gift is supposed to communicate one’s gracious disposition toward another. It is a symbolic gift which hopefully arises out of hope and affinity. We find that is not enough to have feelings for others; we want to display and share ourselves with them. We are symbolic creatures who delight in finding ways to communicate.
The wine mediates a relationship; it serves as one of the many ways we can forge and enact bonds with one another.
Not only does the wine communicate this, but it serves to mediate communion itself through the breaking of bread and fellowship. We bring gifts to the table and then those gifts are partaken of communally. That which is in you is also in me.
Day In; Day Out
The example of wine is not exceptional. Rather, we daily seek to find expression for our connections and affections. We wish a “good morning” to people we saw just the other day. The meaning of this exchange is a communication of pleasure in another’s presence. Our words and gestures mediate our relationships.
We give birthday cards and gifts, we smile, we sing, we give and take in countless ways. And while any such communication can be selfish, utilitarian, or viewed as compulsory, the structure is that of mediation.
Through acts of mediation, we build relational bridges and draw attention to those bridges. Communication and relationships appear to have a certain structure of mediation. In this light, mediation does not need to obstruct a connection, but can establish and renew a connection.
Word as Mediator
In order to restore our relationship with Him, God sends forth his Word as mediator. Just as we use words, gestures, and gifts to communicate, God uses his Word to reestablish a relationship with us.
In His Word (Scripture), He tells us about ourselves and Himself. He helps us understand who He is and who we are. Just like in the mundane example of wine, God’s Word takes on the shape of gift in light of his desire to bring us into communion with Him.
What We Receive in God’s Word
God’s Word (the Son) is not only a means to restoration, it is the eternal Person of God. His Word not only provides us with information about Him and stands between us and the Father as intercessor, the Word, as one with the Father, also is our connection to the Father.
When a father tells his son he loves him, he gives something to him. It is not merely the communication of data, but a gifting of connection. What is communicated is that the father is toward the son; what is established in the father and son is a deeper connection between the two. In some sense, they come to possess one a another more deeply.
We not only learn about God’s love in His Word, but receive that love. In ordinary, natural communication, we receive information and connection. In the supernatural, we receive God’s Word, which is God. Therefore, in hearing the message through the Spirit, we commune with God who is that message.
The means which God uses to communication with us shares in His very nature. Therefore, even as His Word mediates a connection, it simultaneously is that connection. The Word does not so much stand between us and God, as it does unite us to Him. Our relationship with Him through his Word is surer and more intimate than any other.
What He gives to us in His Word is His self.
Wine as Self-Giving
When one gives a bottle of wine as a gift, it is normally something that one has purchased. The work one has done at a job is translated into money, and this money is exchanged for wine which is then, hopefully, given freely.
This wine which bares the structure of mediation, also bares the structure of gift. All true gifts arise out of a kind of self-giving. What was one’s material substance, money, is translated and transferred into something to be shared with someone else. To put this simply, there is a sacrificial element to mediation.
Divine Word as Sacrificial Mediator
In a parallel, but also an exemplary manner, God communicates sacrificially with us through His Word. God’s Word is the most costly gift possible, for it is His very self which He offers up for us. He offers up his Son which is his only, his beloved. It is not wine, but that which is closer to him than his own self, more precious than gold or silver. Simultaneously, the Son also is God’s self, one in Him in essence.
Mediation has the structure of gift and gift has the sacrificial structure of self-giving. This structure is an imitation of God’s eternal life in Trinity, in which He freely pours Himself out (gifts himself) through the work (mediation) of the Spirit to the Son.
Inhabiting the Gift
Not only does God’s Word serve to proclaim His love to us, but serves to bring us into His life. His love (His life or self) is communicated to us through the mediating work of the Word.
Even more radically, by entering into the life of the Son, the love which we receive is the love the Father bares toward His Son. The sacrificial structure of mediation thus gifts us with a relationship to God infinity deeper than any other. It is in this context that we are honored to take up our cross, to imitate this mode of divine life and spread abroad the love of God.
Divine mediation, and all mediation contextualized by love, reveals itself to be something deeply personal, contexualized by love, gift, and sacrifice.