The Fifth Day of Advent
This is right and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time.
1 Timothy 2:3-6
We gratefully remember William Tyndale as “the father of the English Bible”, the first person to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into English. Tyndale was fluent in seven languages and dedicated to making Scripture available in the language of the people, so that any English ploughboy or charwoman could read and understand.
But as Tyndale labored over the translation he saw that there were times he could find no English equivalent for a Hebrew or Greek word. So he sometimes coined new English words like “scapegoat” and “Passover” to try to communicate the wording of the original text. Tyndale invented the word “at-one-ment” to express what God accomplished in becoming human. In the Incarnation God brought us into “atonement” with Him. Writing in quaint Old English, Tyndale praised Jesus Christ as “One God, one Mediatour, that is to say aducate, intercessor, or atonemaker, between God and man.” (The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, ed. Benjamin E. Smith)
Today’s Scripture extols Jesus as God’s “atonemaker”, or, “the one mediator between God and humankind.” As God “desires everyone to be saved”, so the Son of God became “himself human”, bringing us into atonement with God.
For Jesus to be our “mediator” He had to be both fully God and fully human. If Jesus were not God He could not save us, and if He were not human He could not be “a ransom for all”. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, Jesus becomes the meeting place for God and humanity. By taking to Himself our human nature He envelops us with His life.
Early theologians and church fathers spoke excitedly about “What Christ has not assumed has not been healed.” (Gregory Nazianzen, Epistle 101) What they meant was that the Son of God had to assume all of our fallen humanity in order to save us. If there was any part of our humanness that Christ did not embrace He could not have redeemed it. He had to sink deep into the muck and mire of our existence in order to pull us out. He had to descend to the point of every human need. John Calvin described Jesus taking to Himself our full humanity:
By becoming Son of Man with us he has made us sons of God with Him; by his descent to earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven; by taking on himself our mortality he has bestowed on us his own immorality; by taking on himself our weakness he has made us strong with his strength; by receiving our poverty unto himself he has transferred to us his riches. (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion)
This means that Jesus knows you and me through and through. He has felt everything we have felt (Hebrews 4:15). He wept over rejection (Luke 19:41), and pleaded with God for another way (Luke 22:42). “He made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable.” (Max Lucado, It Began in a Manger) The infinite God became finite, crossing the chasm between Creator and creature to be our ‘atonemaker’. He stooped low to become our “mediator between God and humankind”.
- Early theologians and church fathers fondly repeated, “What Christ has not assumed has not been healed.” Are there any parts of your life that you have difficulty imagining Jesus assuming and healing? If so, what parts of your life? What do you want to say about this to Jesus?
- How would you explain to a child that Jesus is the “one mediator between God and humankind”?
EMBODIED PRAYER: STANDING
The most common prayer position in the Old and New Testaments was standing with eyes open looking upward, and raising arms with open hands. It is a prayer position practiced by the Lord Jesus (Luke 9:28-32; John 17:1). Ancient Jews called this position the Amidah (“standing prayer”); early Christians knew it as the Orans (“praying”) position. This standing prayer is seen on wall drawings in the catacombs in Rome, and is the posture recommended by early Christian theologians and Church Fathers.
Just as we stand to express respect and awe in our culture, so we stand to embody our respect and wonder at God’s majesty and greatness. We raise open hands towards Him ready to receive, and open our eyes towards Him as the source of all life and goodness.
Today and every day of this first week of Advent, pray the Lord’s Prayer:
- Open hands raised towards heaven
- Open eyes looking expectantly to God