Jesus in the Midst
Before they entered land of Canaan, Israel was promised a future leader by Moses when he said: "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken..." (Deut. 18:15). From then on, Israel looked for this great Prophet that God would raise up--the Messiah--someone similar to Moses who was appointed by God to lead the nation. Details of this Person were specific: 1) God would raise Him up; 2) His ministry would be like that of Moses and 3) He would come from one of the tribes of Israel--"from the midst of thee". Not only would He come from Israel, but He would be active within their midst. With this latter detail, they were assured of seeing Him since His ministry would be conspicuous and central to the nation. So imbedded was this in the national mindset, that centuries later when people witnessed the ministry of John the Baptist they asked him directly "Are you the Prophet?" (John 1:21). Later, after John was beheaded by Herod some ascribed this title to the Lord though stating it with some uncertainty "It is the Prophet or like unto the prophets" (Mark 6:15) But when the Lord fed the multitude, the fickle but satisfied crowd confidently proclaimed "This is truly the Prophet who has come into the world" John 6:14) The Lord Jesus was indeed the Prophet promised to Israel long ago, the One raised up by God who ministered in their midst so there would be no mistake as to who He was.
One of the first instances of Jesus' ministry "in the midst" of Israel can be found in Luke 2. In verses 41-52 we read about the Lord traveling to Jerusalem with His parents at twelve years of to participate in the feast of the Passover. In keeping with this custom, the family made the long, arduous journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem--a distance of approximately 65 miles. After the feast days were completed a week later, the large caravan of family and acquaintances began the journey back to Nazareth. But after a day of travel, it was discovered by His parents that He was not in the crowd so they immediately returned to find Him. Upon the third day after an apparently extensive search, the anxious couple found Him in the Temple "sitting in the midst" of the teachers both listening to them and asking them questions" (v.46). This passage (which contains the first recorded words of our Lord and is the only chronicled event in the Gospels between His birth and earthly ministry) is significant in a number of ways. First, it demonstrates that the Lord even as a young child clearly understood His destiny and mission. "Know ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (v. 49). His words reveal that there was no "identity crisis" with the Savior. Later He would say "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." (John 5:17) He came to complete the Father's work of redemption--a work that began after His seventh day rest, when sin was introduced into the human family by Adam and Eve. The Lord's question to Mary and Joseph "Why did you seek Me?" was not one of insolence, but a mild rebuke to those who should have known better rather than spending the better portion of the day searching for Him in places other than the Temple. After all, they understood more than anyone His divine origin--where else would He want to be? Secondly, it demonstrates His humility, wisdom and understanding. Respectful, He asked questions of the teachers although the knowledge that He possessed far surpassed these venerable leaders of Israel. Verse 47 states "they were astonished at His understanding and answers"--proof that they asked Him questions. But what is most striking however is the scene that is depicted. The Lord is "sitting in the midst" of this great company of people. Being in their midst, He was central to their conversation. Sitting, He was assuming the posture of One with authority as all respected teachers did. Surrounded by the representatives of the Law, He was the centerpiece. This is exactly how God wanted it to be then and how He wants it today. He is the central theme of the Scriptures--as often stated "In the OT concealed, in the NT revealed". God would have Him to be the center of everyone's conversation--including ours!
In Acts 2, we are reminded of the Lord working "in the midst" of Israel. One of the key components of Peter's address to Israel on the day of Pentecost was the indispu evidence of Christ's works done in their presence. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:" (Acts 2:22) Everything that the Lord did pointed to the fact that He was the Promised One of Israel and validated His credentials as Messiah. He healed the sick, the lame, and the withered. He cleansed lepers and raised the dead. He showed His power over death, disease and demons. On numerous occasions, He demonstrated His authority over the natural and the supernatural. After calming the Sea of Galilee that threatened the life of the disciples, He went over on the other side of the sea and calmed a man of Gadara who was tormented by demons. As Romans 1:4 states: "He was declared to be the Son of God with power." His works distinguished Him from all others before Him--He was God's Son!
He did these works in their midst as proof that He was the Son of God and the Prophet that God had pledged. And He is still doing those wonderful works in lives today in the midst of an unbelieving world as proof that He is like none other and that His words can be trusted. No one has a legitimate excuse for not believing in Christ since His work has been clearly performed in their presence as it was with Israel. John 19 includes another reference to Jesus in the midst. In this chapter, the scene at Calvary is vividly described in verses 17 and 18: "And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." What a scene this is! The Lord, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe lifted up between two thieves!! Yet, this is how God deigned it: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up..." (John 3:14) On one side was an unrepentant, unregenerate criminal being executed for His crimes. On the other, was someone also being executed for his crimes, but with a completely different destiny---he was reconciled to God. He had admitted his sin, acknowledged the sinless character of Christ, and demonstrated saving faith so that the Lord could say of him--"Today thou shalt be with me in paradise." As it was then so it is today that the Savior divides mankind into two camps--the saved and the lost. There is no middle ground in salvation apart from Christ--He is the middle ground and people are either on one side of Him or the other.
In Rev. 5, the scene in heaven depicts the Lamb of God as the central figure through all eternity. John exclaims "And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and the four and living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as though it had been slain..." (Rev. 5:6)The culmination of the Son's work is a kingdom that will last forever given to Him by the Lord God. From that throne, He will rule and reign perpetually over the house of Jacob and the nations of the world (Luke 1:32-33). No longer will He be a byword on the lips of the unsaved, but He will rule with a rod of iron and His scepter will be one of righteousness--unbending in integrity and justice in a world that now specializes in deceit and unrighteousness. In every way, He will be "front and center" and the wounds that He received at Calvary will prominently seen--the emblems of His unchanging love. The spotlight of all eternity will be on Jesus "in the midst"!
The Lord's ministry is not only evident in the midst of Israel and this world, He is also actively at work in the midst of Israel and this world, but He is also actively at work "in the midst" of His Church--to help, strengthen, guide, and chasten. After the Lord's resurrection, when the disciples were huddled behind closed doors for fear of the Jews, He "stood in the midst" bringing words of peace in the midst of fear (John 20:19). Sometime later, when Thomas was doubting and confused He too was consoled as the Lord stood "in the midst" bringing words of peace in the midst of doubt (John 19:26). This example of the shepherd work of the Lord Jesus can be a great help and encouragement to His people-especially in times of crises and confusion.
In Heb. 2:12, we are reminded that the Lord leads the Church in worship and praise: "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." As the Head of the Church (Eph. 5:23), He is to be the central aspect of it's worship and adoration. He is to be center of its affection as a bride is to her husband. Paul reminded the Colossian believers: "And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.(Col 1:18) Not only should He be the central object of the Church's affection and activity, but He should be given His place to lead the congregation in accep worship that is pleasing to the Father. "Therefore by Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." (Heb 13:15). Finally, in Rev. 1 we see the chastening work of Christ in the Church as He walks "in the midst" of the candlesticks evaluating the heart and work of the local assembly. He commends that which is of the Spirit and works done in His name with a pure motive and condemns activities and events that are carnal, worldly, and impure. Each assembly is responsible to the Lord alone and is evaluated by the One who eyes are "a flame of fire" (v. 14) able to expose the deepest secrets of the hearts of each one in the local meeting. He judges and evaluates the assembly as a whole and rewards or cleanses it in accordance with His Word. From one end of the Bible to the other, we see that it is God's desire to have the Lord Jesus in the midst of all that takes place. May that be the case in our lives as well.