Jesus Our Mediator
I John 2:1-2
Good morning. My name is Shawn Farrell and I serve as the college pastor here at FBC and it is a privilege to open the Word of God with you this morning. Would you pray for Chris and Jean as they work through this sickness?
I want to tell you the story of two people. Both had knee surgery in San Diego. Both were operated on by the same doctor. Both had less than satisfactory results and consequently both pursued a course of legal action against the doctor.
The first is an older man named Tom Fagan. He had a total knee replacement in 2009. Due to the carelessness of surgeon and staff, this routine surgery ended with an amputation of Mr. Fagan’s right leg. He and his lawyer settled out of court for $1.4 million dollars.
The second patient is Whitney Engler, a 15-year-old track athlete, who had a torn ACL. After surgery, her surgeon prescribed a knee wrap with a cooler that pumps continuous ice water around the knee to help with inflammation and pain. This resulted in frostbite on and around the surgical site and subsequently a number of skin grafts were required to fix her skin. A jury awarded her just over $12 million dollars.
So Tom Fagan gets $1.4 million and she gets $12 million. Now let me ask you, what made the difference? Because it seems to me that this should be reversed. They had different lawyers. One convinced the patient to settle out of court, the other went to court and pleaded on behalf of the client, and the results are pretty obvious.
When you get into the courtroom, the skill and expertise of your lawyer means everything. The stronger your defender, the better chance you have of winning your case. This is never more important than in the courtroom of divine justice.
Understand that there is a day coming when you and I will stand before the Judge of the universe and will give an account for our lives. Acts 17:31 says that God has already chosen the day. That is to say, it is a fixed day in the divine calendar. Hebrews 9:27 says that this directly follows the day of our death. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment.”
On that day, we will enter the divine courtroom, we will stand alone before the Judge, and we will answer for how we lived our lives. Revelation 20:12 tells us, “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” Your life–every thought, word, and deed will be scrutinized in the light of the holiness of God. And the Judge’s decision will determine your eternal destiny.
Most people do a pretty good job of putting it out of our minds. Distracted with the busyness of life—projects at work, problems at home, responsibilities in every area of life. Of course I will deal with God at some point, just not right now. I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy. I will get to it someday. And oftentimes, the days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into years.
For some, even longtime church attenders, you deflect the question saying, “Certainly this is for someone else, someone who needs this more.” But that doesn’t remove the reality that each of us will answer to God and it is something that we all must grapple with. There is nothing worth more than your immortal soul. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” And there is no topic more deserving of your attention than the state of your soul.
And as we look at this reality, I’d like to ask you not to tune me out, not to deflect this saying, “It doesn’t apply to me”–not to justify why this is for someone else, but not for me. My friend, God brought you here this morning and He wants to do business with your heart. And I want to encourage you to engage your mind and open your heart.
The question that I want to answer is whether or not there is help available in the divine courtroom. Who will defend you? Will you have to make the case on your own or is there a lawyer or a mediator or some type of advocate that can stand and mount a defense on your behalf? Someone who is able to mediate between a sinful man and a holy God.
The Bible tells us that there is one such individual. His name is Jesus Christ. And we will look at two verses in the book of 1 John that address this so clearly and concisely revealing Jesus Christ as our Mediator, our Advocate, and our Defender. This is good news. Open your Bible to 1 John 2. It is one of the last books in the Bible. You can find it in your table of contents or ask someone next to you to help you find it.
Let’s read it together–we will start in the middle of verse 1. “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” Walk with me into the divine courtroom and let’s examine our situation.
1. You have committed a crime Verse 1
As we enter this courtroom, it is clear that a crime has been committed and a trial is taking place. Less than a year ago, I fulfilled my civic duty by serving as a juror here in the great county of Riverside. The charge was attempted murder. Two friends got in an argument after much alcohol and drugs had been consumed, and one man pulled a gun and shot the other man center mast.
The picture of a courtroom that we see on all of our law and order shows is accurate, but the feeling you get when you come into a real courtroom and there is a real crime and someone’s life hangs in the balance is crazy. As I said, this trial was attempted murder. The man who was shot survived, and he took the stand as a witness against the defendant, the man who pulled the trigger.
Both were in the room and I sat in the jury seat watching this. It was crazy–and unlike “Law and Order”, “CSI”, fill in the blanks for your favorite cop show, this was the real deal. A real person on trial, a real judge, and a legal system that is binding. The only difference here this morning is that you have committed a crime, and you are the one who is being charged.
What is your crime? Verse 1 tells us it is sin. It reads, “And if anyone sins”–this could be translated, “and since we do sin or because we sin.” What is sin? It is to break God’s law. It is to come up short of His perfect standard. It is to violate His moral perfection. And we are all guilty. It is not a matter that is up for debate.
Romans 3 tells us that every person sins–it is ubiquitous. In James 2 it says that even if we keep God’s entire law perfectly and yet stumble at just one point, we are guilty. And if you look up a couple verses as 1 John 1:8 it says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
I am a sinner. You are a sinner. Each of us has broken the law of God. We are guilty. We enter the courtroom of divine justice and we are on trial for our own sinful actions. We cannot blame our circumstances, or our parents, or our friends. We aren’t victims. We cannot say, “The devil made me do it.” It isn’t someone else’s fault. It wasn’t just this once. It is not a result of our upbringing or our education or what side of the tracks we grew up on. Every son and daughter of Adam has broken the law of God.
“Just as through one man [speaking of Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Our parents are sinners, our children are sinners, we are sinners.
Just after college, I lived with Tracy’s grandparents in Poway on the 15th fairway of a golf course. I, by the way, am a terrible golfer. I keep track of my score by how many balls I lose. I used to go out on the fairway in the evening, drop 10 or 15 balls about 100 yards from the pin and practice my shot.
On one particular evening, I hit a ball and sliced it so badly that on a line drive, it hit the sliding glass door of a condo on the other side of the fairway about 50 yards away. It sounded like thunder–the glass didn’t break, but it did rattle and shake and then the ball bounced all over the patio making even more noise.
The owner came rushing out and after examining his door, he turned his attention to find out where this ball came from. He looked out over the fairway and I was the only living creature in sight–there was no hiding. I sheepishly put my hand up and yelled an apology out. He quickly said not to worry about it and went back inside.
I took about a minute to gather myself, and then dropped another ball and swung. I kid you not, it was the exact same shot. Heavy slice, line drive, off the same glass door, not more than a foot away from the previous shot. I could not believe it. The man again came out, looked at his door which was still not broken, and then looked at me and yelled out, “Maybe it’s time for you to move on”–to which I nodded, gathered my stuff, and ran away.
This is a really good picture of sin. Perfection would be to stand 100 yards from the green and put the ball in the hole with one stroke, not just once–but every time. But we can’t do that. No one can.
This is the problem of sin. It is the inability to meet the perfection of God. It is falling short of His perfect standard. We make messes of our lives, strain relationships, and create conflict and difficulty wherever we go. You are committed in marriage and yet you find yourself flirting with someone at work or looking at inappropriate things online. You have told yourself a thousand times that you will control your anger and not raise your voice with the kids, only to lose control yet again. You want to say the right things, but find yourself lying, gossiping, cursing, or tearing others down.
I stood in the middle of that fairway alone, exposed, unable to hide, with no one else to blame. It was clear that I was guilty. So we too stand before God–alone, exposed, unable to hide. He sees every one of our deeds, hears every word we say, and knows our most intimate thoughts. We have committed a crime against God Himself and we enter the court of divine justice. This brings us to our second point . . .
2. A lawyer is offered to you Verse 1
Look back at the text, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Yes, we have sinned–that much is clear. And now there is an advocate or a lawyer who can help. Before we meet the advocate, let’s take a minute to meet the other members of the divine court–there are four. First let’s look at the . . .
Defendant–the one on trial
As we have already established, this is you. You are the one who has sinned and is on trial. And we already know that each of us is guilty. It is an open and closed case, as the evidence is stacked against us. For anyone looking into the courtroom, it is obvious that the defendant doesn’t stand a chance. The next person in the court is the . . .
Prosecutor–brings charges against us
Though he is not mentioned in the text, there is a very skilled prosecutor who also knows about our sin and who is eager to force the case against us before the divine Judge. His name is Satan. What he wants to do is come to the bar, point to the record of our sins, appeal to the holiness of God, and demand that God exercise justice and damn us to Hell.
In Scripture, he is called the dragon, the serpent of old, our adversary, and a murderer. In Revelation 12:10, it says he is a prosecutor who “accuses the brethren before our God day and night.” First Peter 5:8 says he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Satan is at the throne of God day and night, bringing accusations against us. He is a hateful prosecutor who relentlessly cries out to God that if God is holy and righteous and just, then He must punish those who have such a list of iniquities. This brings us to our next character, the Judge. Look back at verse 1 . . .
Judge—”and if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with [who?] the Father.”
Who is the Father? He is the Creator of all things and the great King over and sovereign Ruler of all. And Genesis 18:25 tells us He is the “Judge of all the earth.” Psalm 7:11 says, “He is a righteous judge.” And this judge does not sit on a bench, but He sits on a Great White Throne.
The Scripture teaches that He is a wise judge. He is a patient judge. And He is a just judge. There is no piece of evidence that is unknown to Him, for Hebrews 4 tells us that, “There is no creature hidden from His sight.” He looks into the souls of men and sees the very thoughts and intentions of the heart. You may fool your parents or deceive your spouse. You may fulfill your sinful fantasies in the dark of night in a place no one else can see. But you cannot deceive God.
He knows your most intimate secrets. He sees all and knows all and possesses the power and authority to condemn to Hell every sinner who ever lived. Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
So here we are, in the courtroom, standing before the holy Judge. The case has been presented and every sinful act has been catalogued and entered into evidence against you. The charges are clear and the stakes are high. The prosecutor approaches the bench and ruthlessly pounds the bar demanding justice.
He demands that the judge vindicate His own holiness. He calls for a decision. He demands sentencing. “Throw the book at them,” he says. A punishment that fits the crime. They have offended an infinite and eternal and holy God–therefore they must pay an infinite and eternal punishment. “Banish them from your presence and damn them to an eternal Hell for their crimes. This is justice.” The situation does not look good. It is at this point that we are introduced to the final character . . .
Look back at verse 1, “And if anyone sins [and we have], we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This word advocate can also be translated defender or mediator. It is a legal term and describes one who comes alongside to help. Verse 2 says Jesus Christ the righteous is our advocate. He is our mediator, our lawyer. He takes up our defense. Though our prosecutor is relentless, so also is our defender.
Hebrews 9:24 says that Jesus “appears in the presence of God for us.” And Romans 8:34 says it is not just into His presence, but He comes to the very right hand of God and intercedes for us. And it’s not just that He intercedes, but Hebrews 7:25 says that “He always lives to make intercession for us.” Satan, the hateful prosecutor, accuses us day and night, but Jesus lives to make intercession for us.
How does Jesus defend us? What is His defense to a holy Judge? Does he plea bargain? Is he looking for a mistrial on some technicality? Who would take this case? How can you win? Every individual sin ever committed by every person who has ever lived will be punished. That is a staggering thought. In the words of Paul in Romans 3:26, how can God be “just and the justifier”?How can He be just and uphold justice and at the same time justify the ungodly? The answer is found in verse 2. Let’s move on to our final point . . .
3. Your penalty has been paid Verse 2
This is really good news. Look at verse 2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation is a big word and it means to cover or to satisfy or appease–and the concept is pretty straightforward. It has the idea of covering or paying for sin. What this verse is telling us is that Jesus Christ Himself offers to pay the full price for our sin. He is the propitiation. He is the payment. He is the covering.
Picture the scene if you will. Jesus Christ enters the courtroom. He walks past the guilty sinner, past the mountain of evidence that is overwhelmingly stacked against us, past the hateful prosecutor who is still breathing out threats against us. And He approaches the bench and proceeds to present His case. He brings forth His own evidence for the court’s consideration.
Exhibit A–He places three large, dull, rusty nails on the table.
Exhibit B–He presents a crown of thorns, still stained with blood.
Exhibit C–He reveals a large wooden cross.
And then in the silence of the courtroom, He removes His own shirt and shows numerous scars on His back and arms–proof of a severe beating. He points to holes in his hands and his feet and references a wound in His chest where a spear was plunged into His heart. And He says to the Judge, “Yes, they are guilty, but their penalty has already been paid. I paid it all. I drank every last ounce of the cup of wrath. There is no condemnation for them, no judgment–for they are in Christ” (Romans 8:1).
The Judge, seeing that Jesus lived a perfect life, having never sinned, offered His own life on the cross, and took the place of guilty sinners. He suffered and died as the propitiation, the payment for our sin. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
“For Christ also died for sins once for all [propitiation], the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God [mediation], having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
One of my favorite ways to look at this is to think of a dam. Hoover Dam is 400 ft tall, a huge massive dam. Stand at the bottom and look up at it. Imagine all that water is the judgment of God stored up for you. And while you are alive, the mercy and patience of God holds back and restrains His judgment. But once you die, the mercy of God is removed and the flood of judgment falls on the sinner. It is a fire that will consume the adversary. Hebrews 10 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus stands in front of the guilty sinner, hides us behind His cross, and tells the Father to pour out His wrath on Him. He takes it all. He bears our sin. He bears our shame and He faces the full wrath of God for you and for me. And from the cross, having drunk the cup, He says my favorite words in all the Bible—”It is finished.” That’s definitive, final. It is the last word from the lips of the victorious conqueror.
Listen to what the rest of Scripture says. Micah 7:18 says God will “tread our iniquities under His foot.” And in Isaiah 43:25, “I will remember your sins no more.” Micah 7:19, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” And Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
The songwriter said, “Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied. To look on Him and pardon me.” Every sin–past, present, and future has been forgiven. The Father judges His Son as if He had lived our sinful life. And when He looks at us, He sees only the perfection of Christ.
What is the motive? Why did He do it? Look at 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And so the Judge, seeing the evidence, looks at the guilty sinner and declares him to be innocent—completely, totally, eternally.
I want to bring one more thing here. Verse 2 ends saying, “He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.” There is some theological debate on this verse. How are we to understand this? Does “the whole world” really mean the whole world? Did Jesus’ death actually satisfy God’s justice for everybody who has ever lived? If so, then what is Hell?
This is not telling us that atonement/payment was made for everyone–that is universalism. Jesus did not pay for the sins of Judas. The Bible says that when Judas died, he went where? To his own place. He didn’t pay for the sins of the angry mob that screamed for Jesus’ blood. He didn’t pay for the sins of Adolph Hitler. He didn’t pay for the sins of the mass of humanity that show up at the Great White Throne and are cast into the Lake of Fire.
Jesus, on the cross, paid the price and atoned for those who would repent and believe. Is the invitation for all and every? Yes, it is. Does God so love the world that He gave his Son? Yes, He does. Jesus offers forgiveness and salvation to all–to anyone who sees their sin, understands their desperate need, and comes to Him in humble faith, turning from their sin and submitting their life to Christ.
His sacrifice is offered to all. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, educated or not, from the right family. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in the Church or if this is your first time ever hearing a message about Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what is in your past. Did you hear that? There is no sin so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Lay down your past, the skeletons in your closet, the failure, the regret, the guilt, the shame, the secrets that no one else knows about and come to Christ.
He offers to be your mediator to be your defender–to stand for you. Through His death, He offers forgiveness to you. He will take your sin away, He will cleanse you and make you new. But it doesn’t happen through intellectual acknowledgement, it doesn’t happen because of who your parents are, it isn’t just try a little harder and then God will accept you.
No, this is wholesale surrender. This is full abandonment of your life, and an offering of yourself wholly to God, trusting that only Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient to save you from your sins.
A little over a week ago, I got a phone call from an old friend. He grew up southern Baptist, but turned from that path long ago. He is a gay man and has lived without God his entire adult life. We have had many conversations about the Gospel in the past, but I have not seen him for some time. He told me he had stage 4 stomach and liver cancer, that he had denied treatment, was on hospice, and had roughly two weeks to live. He called to say goodbye.
After thanking him for the call, I proceeded to share Christ with him. He quickly cut me off and said he didn’t want to hear it. We finished our call and I couldn’t get him out of my mind. So I wrote him a letter in which, using the same imagery as this message, I begged him with all the grace I could muster, not to enter into the divine courtroom on his own. His court date is set. He will be standing before God in the next few days.
Don’t try to mount your own defense based on being a good person–it won’t work. You are too guilty and God is too holy. There is a mediator, one who will stand for you, who will take your place and bear your punishment so that you can be free. I never heard back from him. I am praying that he, in his last days, gave his life to Christ.
What about you? A crime has been committed and someone must pay the penalty. In the courtroom of divine justice, who will stand for you? Will you try to do it on your own? Defend yourself, act as your own counsel? Do you think that will work? Your sin and your sentence hang over your head. Payment will be drawn from you in Hell forever. You need a mediator, an advocate, someone who will stand for you. Come to Jesus today and find forgiveness for your soul. Embrace the one who died in your place, paid your debt, and satisfied God’s wrath on the cross. This is the message of Christianity and it is good news.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 15Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). For those who are in Christ, we celebrate that we have a worthy mediator. One who has given us grace and mercy. And we offer Him our very lives as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and an act of worship. Let’s pray.