Pastor Ron E. Thompson: The Third Man
The Bible is a fascinating book to study, filled with interesting phenomena. One such marvel is the word “mystery.” A mystery in Scripture means something that has previously been unrevealed but is later disclosed. For example, I Corinthians 15:51-52 mentions the mystery of what happens to living believers when Christ returns. I Thessalonians 4:15-17 explains that they will be taken alive by Christ. Another phenomenon in Scripture is the use of numbers. Some have symbolic meaning. The number seven represents finished perfection such as the seven days of God’s creation, the seventh day Sabbath, and the seven times Jesus said we should forgive. The number three represents perfect completion such as the triune Godhead, the three prayers Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, and the three days after which Jesus arose from the grave.
Some numbers are not symbolic and difficult to comprehend such as the words of Agar in Proverbs 30:18-20 TLB: “There are three things too wonderful for me to understand—no, four! How an eagle glides through the sky. How a serpent crawls upon a rock. How a ship finds its way across the heaving ocean. The growth of love between a man and a girl! There is another thing too: how a prostitute can sin and then say, ‘What’s wrong with that?’” Agar, the writer, acknowledges his ignorance and lack of wisdom (Proverbs 30:1-3). These statements are accurate but difficult to understand, so my response is to view them with a sense of awe and wonder!
There have been all kinds of interesting and fanciful explanations about the number three that have prompted some to make a study of numerology. Unfortunately, their sources are sometimes incorrect, and their conclusions can lead to false teaching, heresy, and occultism. Another wonder is when someone facing danger or death and senses an unseen “presence” nearby, offering hope, encouragement, and guidance. Ron Geiger’s bestselling book, “The Third Man Factor,” is a massive collection of accounts by everyone from nine/eleven survivors to astronauts who insist they escaped death because of the unseen presence of a “helper.” Some believe them to be angels, others feel they belong to what they call the Third Man Factor. This term prompted me to see what Scripture reveals about such a person. My conclusion: Jesus Christ is the Third Man in three key areas of one’s Christian journey.
- In Our Weddings. At the time of creation, God said it was not good for man to be alone, so He created Eve from the body of Adam (Genesis 2:18-19). Imagine the depth of joy that filled God’s heart as he united Adam and Eve in the first marriage ceremony. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Two is better than one. Solomon gives us three examples: someone to lift us up when we fall; warm us when we are cold; and help us overcome when we are under attack. There is a better solution. When two Christians marry, there is Someone to keep them together so they cannot be pulled apart! A husband is one strand, a wife is one strand, and Christ is the third strand. He is the essential element of any marriage that honors God. He will lift you, warm you, and protect you so that you can do the same for each other. Do not settle for anything less than God’s plan of marriage created from the beginning.
- In Our Worship. Jesus declared: “If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. Where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them. (Matthew 18:19-20 CEB). Bible teacher, J. Vernon McGee explains: “Verse nineteen gives us a new basis for prayer. Verse twenty gives us a new basis for the visible church.” People in the early church enjoyed communion with God, fellowship, and doctrine (Acts 2:42 CEB). Luke 24:13-32 is a good example. Jesus, having been resurrected, joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They walked together, prayed together, ate together, and Jesus taught them about how Scriptures spoke of Him. No wonder their hearts burned within as they eagerly shared this experience with others. True worship glorifies God (I Corinthians 10:31 CEB). Therefore, let us glorify Him in our body and spirit (I Corinthians 6:20 NKJV). The world needs to see the Third Man, Christ, “the hope of glory,” in US! (Colossians 1:27).
- In Our Work. Jesus told a story about three servants who, according to their abilities, were given talents to care for their master’s household. One received five talents, another received three, and another received one. When their master checked on them, two were commended and rewarded but the servant with one talent hid his in the ground and was reprimanded. The point of this parable is simple: “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). If we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, and time, it is expected that we will share with others. Remember, our service to humankind is really a service to Christ (Matthew 25:35-40). Jesus’ earthly ministry involved choosing twelve disciples who “would be with Him [worship] that He might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14 KJV). All four gospels record the Great Commission where believers get their marching orders to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, this is the church’s mission now in this world. Why? Because we will not have this opportunity in Heaven.
Our Third Man was crucified between two thieves. He died for you and me. He wants to be first in your life, walking beside you. Will you let Him?
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together.
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one waiting walking beside you.” – T.S. Eliot