The Bible is a great gift that God has given for our instruction. We are made spiritually rich if we read this book and meditate in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that inspired so many holy men to write for our benefit. The Bible always tells the truth, however, many readers of the Bible misinterpret its message and misuse it by isolating some piece of scripture to support their personal points of view. Such conduct offends the Holy Spirit, who wants Scripture to be useful to teach and form the Christian soul, never to confuse it and lead it astray.
In this chapter we are going to discuss the misuse of one verse, 1 Timothy 2, 5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul wrote this verse to show the uniqueness of the mediation of Jesus and the capital importance of his sacrifice that rescued all mankind from eternal death and damnation. Here is the entire chapter of 1 Timothy. We shall read it first to have some idea of the context:
1 Timothy 2, 1-15 — First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.
In reading the whole chapter we see the apostle is writing about different types of intercession. He begins by recommending believers to intercede for all men, especially for those in high positions, such as kings and others that govern the people. The object of this intercession is that all men may know the truth. Right after that, the apostle affirms the uniqueness of God and the perfect mediation of Jesus. This is not a disconnected thought. St. Paul is not changing the subject. In ancient times, the offices of kings, emperors, consuls and the like, were both political and religious. In the ancient Roman Empire where St. Paul lived, the emperor was considered both a god and an intercessor between the gods and the people of the empire. In this passage, St. Paul is also reminding us of the truth. Jesus said “I am the truth, the way and the life” (John 14, 6). St. Paul is not talking only of the truth as a concept, he is also showing us that Jesus himself is the personification of truth. He knew very well how Jesus had been presented to Pontius Pilate before being condemned to death. He also knew that Pilate had asked Jesus: “What is the truth?” (John 18, 38). In that passage of the Gospels, the religious leaders bring Jesus to the Roman prefect. There Jesus declares to be a king of a heavenly kingdom who has come to this world to declare the truth and to intercede for his people (John 18, 28-40).
To follow the example of Jesus, all Christians must intercede for men of all kinds with prayers and supplications to God, begging that they get to know the truth: that they are not the mediators between God and men, but that rather Jesus is the true mediator who can really approach God and intercede for us. Does that mean that Jesus and only Jesus can intercede for us? Obviously not, because St. Paul is asking that all Christians intercede with prayers and supplications for those in positions of power.
2 Corinthians 5, 17-21 — Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This other passage by St. Paul explains that one of the effects of the sacrifice of Christ, is to extend Christ’s mediation to all those who believe in Him. This is made clear in the phrase “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” While it is true that only Christ could intercede for us in the first place, the good news is that he wants to share his intercessional powers with us: “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This truth is perfectly biblical: every Christian believer is given the power to intercede for others, even while still a sinner! How much more would we be able to intercede when we are made perfectly righteous in Heaven! (Proverbs 15, 29; Philippians 1, 23; 2 Corinthians 5, 8).
This sharing on Christ’s mission is not unbiblical. For example, Christ is the only foundation of the Church, the cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3, 11) and yet, the apostles are also made by him the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2, 20).
In the Old Covenant the Levite priesthood administer the sacrifices and interceded for the people of Israel. In the New Covenant the High Priest, Jesus is also the perfect sacrifice and the origin of all intercession. He is also the King of the Kingdom of the Heavens, our King. So, he can really be what the kings and emperors of St. Paul’s time pretended to be. Those mortal kings, false intercessors before false gods have been replaced by an immortal king and priest, whose intercession is perfect and completely effective, for ever.
Hebrews 5, 1-7 — For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”; as he says also in another place, “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.
Let us stop one minute to reflect in the wonderful consequences of Jesus being the eternal King and High Priest of Israel. There is one passage of the Gospel where we can have a glimpse of how Jesus’ kingship works. That is “the first of his signs”, according to St. John.
John 2, 1-12 — On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine was running out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.
Ever since the times of Solomon, the mother of the king was considered the Queen of Israel, the “Great Lady” (Hebr. gebirah). Since Jesus is the eternal King of Israel, it is fitting that Mary, his mother be considered the eternal Great Lady. In this passage of the Gospel of John we see how Mary intercedes for Jesus’ friends in an important matter. The friends are running out of wine and Mary knows that Jesus can do something about it. She approaches Jesus, who is sitting with his disciples and informs him of the problem. Many read the literal translations of this passage and believe that Jesus was not being kind to his mother. That is a grave misunderstanding of Scripture. Jesus was being very respectful of his mother and honored her with his response. The term γυναι (gunai, “lady-woman”) is by no means disrespectful. On the contrary, it is equivalent to the term “lady” in modern English. Obviously Jesus was not upset by his mother’s request because he resolved the problem immediately in the finest manner by turning the water of purification into exquisite wine.
Does this qualify Mary as an eternal intercessor, the first to share in the intercessory powers of Christ? Yes. It certainly does. But this is not all. As the new Queen of Israel, Mary becomes the mother of all those who are going to live in the Kingdom of the Heavens.
Revelation 12, 1-5 — And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.
The son born of this mysterious woman is identified with the Messiah, the Son of God, who was prophesied to rule the whole world with an iron rod. See what the second Psalm says about him:
Psalm 2, 6-9 — “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
It is clear that the woman is Mary, in his new role of mother of those who live in Christ. The ‘birth’ of the male child refers not to the literal birth of the Messiah but to the resurrection and exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God. (Revelation 5, 12; Psalms 2, 7). Before the beginning of time God the Father had prepared the eternal throne of David for His Son. St. Paul connects this with Jesus’ resurrection:
Acts 13, 30-33 — But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.’
That is the mystical moment when “her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” This happens when Jesus is resurrected and ascends to the Heavens, after fulfilling the redemption of mankind on the Cross.
This gives us an idea of the role of Mary in the Kingdom of the Heavens. St. John sees her in his vision, giving birth to the Eternal King, the resurrected Jesus. In Revelation 12, 17 the vision mentions “the rest of her offspring”. This additional offspring of Mary is her spiritual offspring and not a physical offspring. Those are all the people that Jesus has rescued to be his brothers and sons of his Father through his sacrifice on the Cross. It is clear that the gunai, the gebirah, the Great Lady is to be the mother of all who live the abundant life in Jesus (see Genesis 3, 20; John 10, 10). This maternity is not metaphorical: it is as real as Jesus’ resurrection.
Now there is no question that the Queen of the Heavenly Israel, the Great Lady is not just like any ordinary believer. If we are told by St. Paul that we can pray to God, interceding for kings and governors, even as we are sinful and unjust in this life. How much more of an intercessor could be the Queen of the Heavenly Israel, the eternal mother of all believers, the very woman who carried in her holy womb the life of God Himself… This is the woman whom the archangel called “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1, 28). How could she fail to be an intercessor when the Lord is with her?
Luke 1, 46-50 — And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
When we think about the motherly intercession of Mary for all her spiritual sons and daughters, we must see her as the first and most perfect example of Jesus sharing his own intercessory powers with all the Church. When we contemplate Mary, we are not looking only at a holy woman who is used by God to fulfill a temporary mission. Quite the contrary, we are looking at an eternal mission that begins with Jesus and continues for ever with the great multitude of believers that no one can count (Revelation 7, 9-17). Of all these believers, Mary is the first and the closest to Jesus. She is certainly worthy of interceding for all before the throne of her Divine Son.