Chapters 8 and 9 draw heavily from the OT, and count on readers’ familiarity with the sacrificial system, covenants, priestly function and more. There’s a lot going on, but this time through, I’m drawn to the writer’s mention of the ministry Jesus received (8:6). It sounds like he wants to consider what Jesus has done and is doing now, in heaven. He will also go on to discuss at some length both the old and new covenant. The two topics tie together when he calls Jesus a mediator.
That description of Jesus is offered in 8:6 and 9:15, and suggests a ‘legal’ function: a mediator stands between parties who are distant from one another, trying to help them establish or smooth relations. When we think of Jesus as mediator in these terms, then, we consider how his obedience and faithfulness brings those captive to sin to where they can experience the love of God. As such, Jesus’ mediation promotes reconciliation, which we know to be one of God’s primary aims (see Colossians 1:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
So long as there are people under sin’s domination and distant from God, such ministry by Jesus is necessary, and so part of what we’re hearing in Hebrews is that Jesus’ mediation continues to be important because there are still people who are coming to God. What about those already in a relationship with God, though: how does mediation affect them?
The ‘lockouts’ we hear about in sports–players refusing to play, referees reluctant to ref–illustrate the need for mediation even after a relationship has been established. After all, reconciliation is an ongoing need: while a great deal of resolution occurs at that first meeting, there is more to be faced (might we see the confession of sins, for instance, in terms of ‘further negotiations’ where a mediator is of value? And what is Paul suggesting when he speaks of Jesus’ on-going intercession [Romans 8:34]?) even when there is a desire to be connected.
The legal sense for mediation illuminates a fair bit of Jesus’ ministry, then–but not all, not enough. There is also the way Jesus helps us grasp more of God, helps to fill gaps in our knowledge, understanding, appreciation.
Think of the way a translator operates: she stands between those separated by a language barrier and then, on account of her fluency in each party’s tongue, facilitates communication. Mediation? Surely, but without the connotation of something being ‘wrong’.
Or how about when newspapers, magazines, and radio report goings-on: these ‘media’ give us a sense for what is happening when otherwise we would be ignorant. In the best cases, they also interpret data, and walk us through complicated matters.
Christ as mediator operates similarly: Jesus makes God known; Jesus brings us the information we need in ways we can grasp.
When we read in Hebrews 8:6 about the ministry Jesus has received, we hear in this a reference to the work of salvation Jesus has brought about on account of his sacrifice. We are also being told about Jesus’ particular and unique work of explaining God to people who have aligned with God and who will be moving more and more along God’s way.
In the OT, priests stood between God and people. By bringing sacrifices on a regular basis, they helped people do what God required, but they also pointed to deeper issues: they showed the cost of sin, its impact on humanity, the need for on-going connection with God, the value of regular worship. In this, they not only occupied space between humanity and divinity: they also helped people grasp what God is like.
Jesus does this, too, but in ways that are more thorough and long-lasting. As such, we reckon Jesus as the mediator we need–the One who brings estranged parties together, and who then helps one get to know the other in ways that promote freedom and enhance life.