Friday, December 1, 2006

Our Intercessor in Heaven

There are two seasons of the year when Christians will think through the historical events of the life of Christ on Earth. During the weekend of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, our attention is drawn back to the core events of the Christian faith

This Sunday marks the start of the season of Advent as we think through the events surrounding the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago.

During these seasons, we might imagine what it would have been like to be with the shepherds near Bethlehem as they beheld the unearthly (in the best sense) and heavenly sight of angels rejoicing the birth of Him who forever would link Deity to humanity as the God-Man. We might wonder what that child looked like. In our imagination, we might "fast-forward" over thirty years and ponder what it would have been like to watch Jesus teach, or to sit with Him at the Last Supper, or to watch His agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsamene, His arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion. We can only imagine what Mary Magdelene beheld that following Sunday morning as her eyes were opened and she saw the resurrected Christ.

Perhaps we can imagine what it will be like when Christ one day returns to Earth. Pondering this has generated enormous thought and speculation in our own time (the "Left Behind" series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are just one sign of this).

However, have you ever thought about what Jesus Christ is doing at this present moment? The thought really came home to me when I was praying in a chapel on the evening of Maundy Thursday back in 1999. In that chapel was a seven-candle candlestick. As I was looking at it, a passage from the book of Revelation was brought to mind which spoke of Christ as one: "like a son of man,"dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelation 1:13-15 NIV) and one who walked among the seven golden lampstands (Revelation 2;1) John was seeing a present-day view of Christ in majestic heavenly glory as He was then at the time of the Book of Revelation, over six decades after Jesus walked the Earth with His first disciples.

On this first day of December in the year 2006, what is Christ doing, right now?

We know that His sacrifice for salvation is completed and though He is our great High Priest, the significance of His priesthood now is that His sacrifice is perfect, complete and finished, never to be repeated. (See Hebrews 10:10-14)

So, what is Christ doing right now? Among the things which the Bible tells us about Christ's activities in Heaven, we have one text which indicates that Christ continues a facet of His ministry which He learned on Earth. Once more, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives us a view of what Christ is doing at this moment: Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. ( Hebrews 7:23-25 NIV)

In Heaven, the Lord Jesus continues His role as an intercessor in prayer for His people. We have One who stands for us in our behalf before the Father. Some branches of Christianity have overlooked this fact. They will many times succumb to a human tendency to see Jesus as the Judge to be placated. One can easily make the case that this is true for one who is not fully entrusting her/his life to Christ. Equally, one can show that this is not the case for a true believer in Jesus. Rather than shying away from Him in prayer, He welcomes us and prays in our behalf.

Rather than going to a dead saint or a live one to intercede for us before God, the true believer in Christ knows that they may "then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Who better to have praying for us, getting 24/7 access to the Father, than the Lord Jesus, who desires that we model Him in our devotion to prayer.

John recorded in his gospel, the last recorded prayer of Christ before His arrest. In all of His praying, Jesus did not forget us:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 NIV)

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