Day 16: Jesus Christ is Mediator
Jesu (Jeso) Kriste ke Motsereganyi (Setswana)
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. – Hebrews 9:15
A mediator is someone who brings about peace or a settlement between two warring parties. In Hebrews 9:15, Jesus is portrayed as a mediator between God and His people, Israel. One interesting point among others to be highlighted is that Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant. In the old covenant, Israel sacrificed animals for the covering of their sins. In the new, Christ himself became the sacrifice so that people may be set free once and for all from their sins, thus qualifying them to receive the promised eternal inheritance (eternal life). This He did not only for the Israelites but for people from all nations. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Most nations in Sub-Saharan Africa have been erroneously labelled as practicing ancestral worship. The original practice was to slaughter or sacrifice an animal and, with the shedding of blood, request a respected person of the clan who died to mediate between them and the Creator. It was believed that the deceased ancestor is now a spirit and is nearer to God. The living, regarding themselves as sinful, knew they were not fit enough to ask a Holy God directly for anything, but needed a mediator to speak on their behalf.
With the passing of time, the enemy stepped in and confused the practice, making the people concentrate on the ancestor instead of on God through the ancestor. This distortion is seen as worshipping ancestors. Historically, though, this African practice is about recognising our need for mediation before God.
The idea of a mediator is very important among the Africans. In the past, when things were not going well in the relationship between husband and wife, they would seek a mediator. In modern day terminology, this would have been a marriage counsellor. This mediator was highly skilled. Within a reasonable period, the couple would be reconciled and happy once more. This is one reason why among the Africans of yesteryear, there was hardly a divorce! The work of a mediator among these people was highly respected. Teaching that Christ is now the mediator for all is important.
However, it causes confusion when the old African practice is disparaged, when African people are told how bad “ancestral worship” is (which they understand to be needed mediation), and then Christ is preached as mediator. The best approach would be to show Africans this great truth from Hebrews 9:15: that old covenant mediation through animal sacrifice is replaced by Christ, the once and for all sacrifice; and that they, too, in their need for mediation, can come to God through Jesus, the mediator. We need to preach Christ as the mediator not only of the Jews, but of the world. Jesus through the new covenant embraces all human beings who seek forgiveness of sins from God. To do so would help African people understand and accept Christ, rather than squashing their historical instincts and approach, and then introducing Christ in a similar vein. As the Indian proverb goes: “Don’t cut off a man’s nose and then give him a rose to smell.”
Christ is a better mediator between God and people for the forgiveness of their sins, not only of the Israelites but of all nations. He is not just a mediator; Christ is the only mediator between a Holy God and sinful people. In Him, we have forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and the gift of eternal life.
Rev. Dr Frank Shayi is a retired Principal and lecturer of a Bible college in Roodepoort, Johannesburg, South Africa, a Pastor at Calvary Evangelical Bible Church in Zakariyya Park, Johannesburg, and the Regional Coordinator for Langham Preaching in Southern Africa.