Jesus in the Middle
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 19:18b . . . they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
As if the punishment and embarrassment of crucifixion, a slave’s death, were not enough, Pilate increased Jesus’ humiliation in two ways: one, Jesus was numbered in His death with thieves, implying He was like them; two, putting Jesus in the middle pictured Him as the worst of the three. The center spot was the place of worst infamy. This was probably where Barabbas was supposed to be, because he was a notorious prisoner.
Pilate put Jesus in the middle to humiliate Him, but we who know Christ look upon that center cross and exalt Him. Power flows from the blood that flowed down that cross. From it proceeds attraction and atonement. It has a beauty which draws us, and a cleansing that lets us enjoy reconciliation with God.
By dying “in the middle,” Jesus was elevated to the midst of glory: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).
Jesus is now the focus of the cosmos, central to all time, all things, and all men. At Calvary, “Jesus in the middle” meant shame, but now “Jesus in the middle” refers to His position of dignity, power, and influence.
Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Paul said God “put everything under His (Jesus’) feet” (Ephesians 1:22). We find Jesus in the place of honor, “in the middle” of several important things.
One, He is in the middle of the past. At age 12, Jesus was found teaching in the temple, “sitting among the teachers” (Luke 2:46). The leaders marveled at His knowledge. They were rightfully astonished, because the lad before them was “the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets)” (John 1:45).
His incarnation was the meeting of Heaven and Earth, the junction of spirit and flesh. His life marked the transition from Law to Gospel, from Old Covenant to New Covenant. His life is the focal point of history. The world even divides time itself into B.C. and A.D., using Jesus’ birth as the center point. Ancient history led up to Him, modern history proceeds from Him.
His cross marked the dividing line between ritual and relationship, between symbols and reality. The veil torn “in the midst” reminds us He was “in the middle” between an era that emphasized a man-built temple and an era that emphasized human hearts as temples.
Without doubt, Jesus is “in the middle” of the past, the greatest and most influential person that ever lived.
Two, Jesus is “in the middle” of the present, the focal point of creation, the center of this material universe. He serves as a gravitational center which keeps the cosmos from becoming chaos. “By Him everything was created, . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16-17).
The whole universe is held together by Him. He is the glue that prevents disintegration. Jesus oversees all things from His position “in the middle.” He maintains the harmony of the universe from His central vantage point.
Jesus is the focal point of the church, the heart of the fellowship of believers. He is the church’s lifeblood.
After the crucifixion, the disciples were fearful until Jesus came and stood “in the midst of them” (Luke 24:36; John 20:19). Thomas doubted until a week later, when Jesus once again “stood among them” (John 20:26).
Jesus still encourages us with His presence. He promised, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).
John the Revelator (2:1) saw Jesus walking “among” the seven golden candlesticks. This represents the truth that Jesus provides light to His church.
We shine to a dark world by letting His indwelling light shine through us. We are the light of the world secondarily; at best we convey Jesus, who is the ultimate light of the world.
Jesus is the focal point of each Christian. He indwells each believer. “The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56).
All who appropriate the results of His death have the assurance of His inner presence. He came to occupy the throne of our lives, that His power might permeate us fully from there. Never try to give Jesus only a corner in the palace of your heart. He will not tolerate a subordinate position long.
He wants to be “in the middle” of your life. He desires that we make Him the central object for all significant contemplation in our lives. We must plan everything with Him in mind. Our existence is to focus on Him.
The person whose life does not include Christ has no significant center. All his or her pursuits will eventually prove little more than useless. Apart from Jesus, there is no worthwhile focus to a person’s life. Apart from Christ, no purpose can adequately compare to the worth of a human life.
Three, Jesus is the focal point of the future. The human race is headed to a major event. Only one huge milestone remains in God’s calendar of time: the second coming of Jesus. Yes, Jesus is “in the middle” of the future. Time is hastening to our appointment with Him.
His cross was the center of the past; His crown will be the center of the future. His throne will be “in the middle,” between the saved and the lost, the condemned and the justified, the sheep and the goats. At the cross, Jesus was “in the middle,” a penitent sinner on one side, an impenitent sinner on the other.
The same shall be seen at His Judgment seat. Those who are divided over the cross now will be permanently divided then at the throne. Our after-life will be a continuation of what we were in this life. The impenitent here shall be lost there. Those who reject Jesus here will be rejected by Him there.
Four, Jesus is the focal point of eternity. Above time, space, and humanity, we find Jesus “in the middle.” Jesus is “in the middle” of the Godhead. In our Trinitarian formula, we speak of God the Father first, God the Son second, and God the Holy Spirit third. The main historical manifestation of each occurred in that order. First came the Father’s at Sinai; last came the Spirit’s at Pentecost; “in the middle” came the incarnation.
In Heaven, Jesus is the center, “standing between the Throne and the four living creatures” (Revelation 5:6). He will be “in the middle” of our attention, and “in the middle” of our worship: “The 24 elders fell down before the Lamb” (Revelation 5:8).
He will be “in the middle” of our sustenance there. The tree of life is “in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7; 22:2). Proceeding from the throne is “the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1). There, in the midst of Heaven, where Jesus is, are located the tree of life and the river of life. He dispenses their sustenance to us: “The Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters” (Revelation 7:17).
Every person will find Jesus “in the middle” of the entrance to eternity. When we leave time, and face eternity, we will meet Christ at the portal.
As Stephen was dying, he saw Jesus standing ready to receive him into Heaven. For Stephen the sight of Jesus was blessed, but for those who have rejected the Savior, it will be frightening.
Now consider one last way in which Jesus is “in the middle.” He is our Mediator, serving between a perfect Creator and imperfect creatures. He stands “in the middle,” where the great attributes of God meet.
Infinite justice, which in and of itself could not clear the guilty, met infinite grace, which provided a way whereby people could be cleansed from every spot and stain. In the propitiation of Jesus, justice is satisfied and grace is expounded.
At the cross we see displayed the Father’s absolute holiness and righteousness, yet at the same spot the penitent sinner lays down the burden of his sin. It is the one place in the whole universe where God and sinners can meet in reconciliation.
Jesus stands “in the middle,” between God and people. Allow Him now to enter you, and to dwell “in the middle” of your heart. He stands “in the middle,” where the kingdom of darkness ends, and the kingdom of light begins.