Christ Our Priest: His Intercession | Hebrews 7:11-28, 9:24
Brian Hedges | August 26, 2018
One of my favorite movies was made in 2013, and it’s kind of a space, science-fiction kind of movie. It’s called Gravity. Some of you maybe saw that film. It’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Almost the entire movie takes place in space, it’s just a visual spectacle. It’s also a very spiritual film, with all kinds of motifs in the film about rebirth and the need for transformation, and a good part of the story hinges on the character that Sandra Bullock plays. Her name is Ryan Stone, and essentially, a tragedy happens in this NASA operation, and she’s stranded in space and doesn’t know how she will survive.
There comes a point in the film where she’s convinced that she’s going to die, and she’s speaking to a voice on the radio that she had been talking to, but someone who doesn’t understand her language, and she says, “Oh, I’m going to die. I know we’re all going to die. Everybody knows that, but I’m going to die today.”
Then she goes on to reflect on what that means. She talks about how she’s afraid, that she’s scared, and then she says this: “Nobody will mourn for me, no one will pray for my soul. Will you mourn for me? Will you pray for me? Or is it too late? I mean, I’d say one for myself, but I’ve never prayed in my life. Nobody taught me how. Nobody ever taught me how.”
It’s a really profound moment in the film, when you reflect on perhaps the numbers of people who’ve never been taught to pray and have no confidence that someone is praying for them. I thought of that scene from the film as I was working on this message, because the answer to that question for a believer — “Will anyone pray for me?” — the answer to that question for a believer is that there is someone praying for you, and that someone is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is praying for you if you are a believer, if you are in him.
I want us to reflect on that this morning. Last week I introduced a new series to you. We’re talking about the priesthood of Christ, and in some ways this really is what you would call the solid food, the strong meat for the Christian. We’re basing this series of sermons in the book of Hebrews, and the author to the Hebrews actually describes it in this way in Hebrews chapter 5. He talks about how he wants to give solid food to his readers, but they’re not really ready for it; they still need milk, they need something that’s much more basic.
So in some ways this really is some of the most advanced theological material that we can ever consider and some of the richest food for the Christian. There are great mysteries here, but they are mysteries that are meant to help us and to feed us and to nourish us. So we’re taking just four weeks to think about the priesthood of Christ, and I am basing this, to some degree, on the sermons of an old Puritan named William Bridge. In 1647 William Bridge preached a series of sermons, and he called the series “The Great Gospel Mystery of the Saints’ Comfort and Holiness, Opened and Applied from Christ’s Priestly Office.” That’s typical Puritan language for you.
William Bridge said that the priesthood of Christ essentially involved these four things: it involves offering a sacrifice; secondly, praying for the people; thirdly, offering the people’s gifts to God; and then fourthly, blessing the people, pronouncing blessing on the people. This morning we are considering the second of those things, that a priest prays for the people, and that Christ in particular prays for us. The theological word for this is intercession; so we’re looking at the intercession of Jesus Christ, Christ praying for his people.
I want to ground this in two passages in the book of Hebrews. First of all, in Hebrews 7:11-28, especially in verse 25; and then just one verse from Hebrews chapter 9, Hebrews 9:24. Okay? So we’re going to read a fairly long segment of Scripture here. It will be on the screen if you’d like to follow along there, or if you have your own copy of God’s word, which I hope you do, you can follow along in your own Bible.
So, Hebrews chapter 7, beginning in verse 11.
“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,
‘You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.’
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
‘The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever.”’
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”
Then Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
This is God’s word.
Now, I now in reading a passage like this there are all kinds of things that kind of either spark our curiosity or that are just frankly confusing. Like, “Who is Melchizedek, and what’s the significance of this oath, and it looks like the author here is quoting passages of Scripture,” which he is. “What are those passages?”
This actually is not an exposition through Hebrews, so I’m not going to answer all of those questions for us this morning. If you want more I can refer you to books, I can refer to commentaries. I want to try to get just right to the kernel of the issue here, okay, right to the core of it, and think about Christ’s work as our intercessor and what that means.
So what I want to do is look at four things. I want us to see:
1. What Christ Does
2. What Christ Prays
3. Why This is So Powerful
4. How This Helps Us
Okay? I read the larger passage to give us some of the biblical context, but I’m going to focus especially on verse 25, and then a little bit in Hebrews chapter 9. So let’s look at these four things, okay?
1. What Christ Does
First of all, what is it that Jesus does for us when he intercedes? We’re really looking here at the nature of Christ’s intercession. Essentially, this is what he does: he appears in the presence of God for us, and he does that on the basis of his finished work, and on that basis he prays for us, he prays for everything that we need. Let me just break that down into several steps.
First of all, he appears in the presence of God. You see this kind of implicitly in chapter 7:25, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
You see it especially in chapter 9:24, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands,” that means not into a physical tabernacle or temple, “which are copies of the true things, but [he’s entered] into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Okay, there it is. Christ enters into heaven itself; he did this when he ascended up to the Father. He enters into heaven itself, the true temple, of which all the tabernacles, temples of the Old Testament were just copies, and he enters into God’s presence to appear for us, to appear on our behalf.
Now, this was part of the work of a high priest in the Old Testament, especially on the day of atonement. A bull would be slain outside of the most holy place, slain on this altar, and then, once a year, just once a year, the priest would go into the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, right, the very inner sanctuary where the presence of God, the glory of God, the Shekinah glory of God was made manifest, where that dwelt; he would go in, and there, over the ark of the covenant, over the mercy seat, the lid of that ark, he would sprinkle the blood. The priest’s work was not completed until he went and made a presentation of that blood.
That’s the imagery that lies behind this language, and the author here is saying that Christ, having made this singular, satisfactory sacrifice, which we thought about last week; having offered himself for our sins on the cross, having fulfilled all sacrifices and really having put an end to all sacrifice in that one offering of himself - having done that, Christ now completes his priestly work by entering into the very presence of God, there to represent us. He enters there to represent us.
So, he appears in the presence of God for us, and he does this on the basis of his finished work. That finished work is emphasized in both of these passages, both in Hebrews chapter 7 and in Hebrews chapter 9. It’s emphasized in Hebrews 7:26-27: “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins, then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered himself.”
Okay? He’s made the sacrifice; that’s complete, the work is finished, the work is done, and it’s on that basis that Christ now comes into the presence of the Father and he prays for us, he intercedes for us, he does everything that is needed for us.
Now, this is so significant that William Bridge, this Puritan that I’ve been studying, said that the work of Christ’s intercession is “the essential work of his priestly office.” Think about this for a minute. He made one sacrifice on the cross, and we are right to give attention to that and to focus on that. I mean, it’s right at the heart of the gospel, what Christ did on the cross. But that was a one-time thing. But the text here tells us that Christ always lives to intercede for us! In Hebrews chapter 9, it says that he has entered into heaven itself, “now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
So, this is what Jesus is doing right now; right now, today. Christ is always in the presence of God, interceding for us on the basis of his finished work on the cross.
This describes what Peter O’Brien calls “the active representative ministry which Christ effects for believers in this present age.” I mean, we’re talking about incredible realities here. They’re invisible realities, we don’t see them, we don’t tend to be in tune to these things. Unless our imagination is saturated with Scripture, we’re not even thinking in these terms. But here’s the reality: right now, Christian, Christ is in the presence of the Father, and he’s praying for you. He’s praying for you.
Now, I will anticipate the application by just saying [that] this is the greatest encouragement and greatest comfort that a Christian who is struggling with the guilt of his sins can ever have, to know this. I quoted one verse last week of Charles Wesley’s hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise,” but here’s a little more of it. He says,
Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the throne Surety stands;
My name is written on his hands.
Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They ever plead for me:
‘Forgive him, O forgive,’ they cry,
‘Nor let that ransomed sinner die.’
The Father hears him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of his Son.
The Spirit answers to the blood
And tells me I am born of God.
This is amazing comfort and encouragement. Christ always lives to make intercession for us; he appears in the presence of God on our behalf. That’s what he does, okay? That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the intercessory work of Christ.
2. What Christ Prays
Now, what is it that he prays for? What does he pray for? What’s the content of this prayer? Interestingly enough, Hebrews doesn’t really tell us. Hebrews alludes to this intercessory work of Christ, but it doesn’t really give us specifics; but there are other passages of Scripture that do give us some of the specifics, so I want to just give you a fistful of these this morning, and I’ll give you the references as well. What is that Jesus prays for when he prays to the Father on our behalf?
First of all, he prays that our sins would be forgiven. He prays that our sins would be forgiven. This is the basis of all of our assurance of salvation: it’s Christ’s work on our behalf. So, we’ve already read it in our assurance of pardon this morning, Romans 8:33-34, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Now, do you get the logic there? Paul is saying nobody can condemn us, nobody can lay any accusation against us, because God justifies and Christ has died, risen, ascended, and is now interceding. Because that is true, no accusation sticks.
Now, notice that Paul does not say that there are no sins to accuse. That’s not the case. There actually are things that we could be accused of, if we’re just looking at ourselves.
Paul does not say there is no accuser. In fact, Scripture is very clear that there is this adversary, this enemy, who is called “the accuser of the brothers.” What Paul says is that no accusation can stick, that no one can lay any charge against us, because of God’s justifying work and because of Christ’s work in his death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession.
I think one of the most beautiful illustrations of this is in the Old Testament book of Zechariah, Zechariah 3:1-5. In Zechariah chapter 3 you have a high priest, and his name is Joshua. He’s standing before the angel of the Lord, and the adversary, Satan, is standing at his right hand to accuse him. This is what’s happening; this is the scene.
Verse 2 says that “the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken you iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.”
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? Here’s this high priest who’s clothed in filthy garments, the accuser is there to condemn him, and the Lord rebukes him. “This is a brand plucked from the fire.” The angel removes the dirty garments and gives him clean garments.
That’s a very clear picture of what Christ does for us as our priest. He removes our sins, and he clothes us in righteousness, and it gives us such great confidence, so that we can say, in the words of that old hymn,
Well may the accuser roar
Of sins that I have done;
I know them all,
And thousands more;
Jehovah knoweth none!
Because Christ, pleading the merit of his own sacrifice, on the basis of his finished work, pleads for our forgiveness.
Here’s the second thing he does: he prays that we will be kept. He prays that we will be kept. John chapter 17 is the most lengthy prayer recorded of Jesus in the Bible, and John 17 has often been called the high priestly prayer of Christ, for good reason, because it gives us a picture here of Christ interceding for his disciples on the night of his betrayal. I want to just pull a few verses from John 17 to show you some of the things that Jesus prays for. In chapter 17:15-16 Jesus says (he’s praying for his disciples, and he says), “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
He says, “I’m praying that you will keep them, that you will preserve them, that you will protect them.” That’s what Jesus does. He prays for us, that we will be kept. You know, sometimes we sing that great new contemporary hymn “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Well, the basis of this confidence, that he will hold us, that he will keep us, is the priestly prayer of Christ.
A great illustration of this is found in Simon Peter. Do you remember that, before Jesus was betrayed, Peter was the one who said, “Though everyone else forsakes you, I’m not going to forsake you. I’ll die for you, Jesus.”
Peter has a pretty high opinion of himself here. Peter thinks that he is the one person who will never turn his back on Jesus. Peter thinks he is the one disciple who is the most loyal of all the disciples. Peter has immense self-confidence.
Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter? He actually called him by his given name. He didn’t call him Peter, he called him Simon. He said, “Simon, Simon - ” this is Luke 22. “Simon, Simon, behold, Stand demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…” “Peter, you’re about to go through something really terrible. The enemy is coming for you. Satan has demanded to have you. You’re going to be sifted like wheat. He’s going to test you.”
And then verse 32, “...but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again,” there is no doubt about this; Jesus has complete confidence that Peter’s going to turn around, even after this terrible failure. “...when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
What an amazing prayer this is! Jesus asks that we will be kept from the evil one, and it does not mean that we will never be tempted, it does not mean that we will never sin, it does not mean that we will never fail in some momentary temptation (we all know that we do); but it does mean this: it means that we will not ultimately fail. It means that we will not finally fall away. It means that we will not be lost. It means that we will be kept.
My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on his heart
It remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure
As sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified saints who are in heaven.
We’re written on his hands, we’re engraved on his hands, and he prays for us, that we will not fall away. So our preservation.
And then here’s another thing: he prays for us to be made holy. He prays for our sanctification. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
One of the things that William Bridge points out is that this promise that is made to Christ, quoted in Hebrews chapter 7, it’s a promise from Psalm 110, where God says, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” So we’re referring to this priestly figure from Genesis.
So, here is the priesthood of Christ, and in Psalm 110. (Which, by the way, is I think the most often-quoted passage from the Old Testament in the New Testament. This is really important stuff). The biblical writers, this really captured their imagination. One of the promises there is that God is going to put all of Christ’s enemies under his feet, and William Bridge says your sins are his enemies, and God has promised, and Christ as priest prays that all of those sins would be put under his feet. That’s why you’re going to be sanctified.
You know, that’s encouraging. That’s encouraging. When you think about the sins that are deeply etched into your character and you’re struggling against them, you’re trying to overcome them, and sometimes it feels like three steps forward, two steps back. Do you ever feel that way? I get so frustrated with that in my own life. I feel like I’m making progress in something, and then, as soon as I start to feel like I’m doing better, boom! there I am again.
You know what encourages me? What encourages me is to know that Christ has the promise from the Father that those sins will be subdued, and God is in the process of subduing them. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing for us to do, of course; it calls us to action, to put the sin to death, to work hard and pursue holiness and so on. But ultimately, it doesn’t depend on what you do, it depends on what Christ does, what Christ has done, what he continues to do in praying for you, on the work of his Spirit in your life, empowering you to pursue sanctification. Christ is praying for that.
Then Christ is also praying for us to be one, for his people to be one. John 17:20-21, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
So really you have two things there. He’s praying that we may be one and he’s praying that the world will believe through our lives, through our oneness, through our testimony. So Christ prays for the unity of his church. What a great incentive that is for us to pursue unity in the church. That means both unity in our own church, but it also means unity with all true believers in Christ, so that when we agree in the gospel - our unity is founded on truth, but when we agree in the gospel, we do not let the secondary differences divide us, because we are one in Christ. We’re part of the same body, we’re part of the same family, and we are united to him. Christ prays for this. This is just the content of his intercession.
3. Why This Is So Powerful
There’s more for us to understand here. I want you to see, thirdly, why this is so powerful.
It’s one thing to pray; it’s another thing to know that your prayers are answered. I don’t know about you, but I offer a lot of prayers that I hope will be answered, but I’m not always assured will be answered. I’ve certainly experienced many unanswered prayers; I’ve prayed for things that God has not given. But every prayer that Jesus prays is answered. Everything that Jesus prays for for you is answered. His prayers are powerful, and I want you to see why they are so powerful. So here’s the third thing, the power of Christ’s intercession.
Now, I’m just going to hit kind of the high points here, and hit them quickly. I have a whole sermon in this one point, so maybe one of these days I’ll come back and do this in a more expanded version. But I want you to see from especially Hebrews 7 and a couple of other passages, I want you to see why the intercession of Christ is so powerful.
Number one, because of his indestructible life. Chapter 7:15-17, “This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent,” that’s what happened with the Levitical priests, who descended from Levi through Aaron. But Christ’s priesthood is on the basis of “the power of an indestructible life.” You see that in verse 15, and then in verse 24 it says that “he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Here’s the thing about Christ: his life is indestructible! He rose from the dead, he lives forever, he always lives to intercede for you. This is one way that his priesthood is better than the Old Testament priests. Those priests eventually died, but Christ never dies. He died once, he rose from the dead; he’ll never die again. He prays with the power of this indestructible life, and it gives power to his intercession, power to his prayer.
Here’s the second reason his prayers are powerful: because of his relationship to the Father. He is the Son of the Father, verse 28, and that harks back all the way to chapter 1 of Hebrews, where we see the supremacy of the Son of God, through whom the Father has spoken.
“In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,” and then listen to the description of the Son in Hebrews chapter 1. “...whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Then he goes on to, again, quote from Psalm 110, and he’s comparing Jesus to the angels, and he says, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?” You just get the sense here that there’s a special relationship between Jesus and the Father.
Now, you might think of it in terms like this - I’m sure you’ve noticed this, you’ve found this in your own experience in the world, in terms of, say, your vocation. It’s one thing to submit an application or a resume when you’re looking for a job; it’s another thing entirely when you have an inside connection. Right? It’s another thing entirely!
I’ve discovered this in trying to write books. I’ve been turned down by a lot of publishers, but when I’ve had a friend who works for a publisher who can kind of get it in through the back door and somebody actually looks at this guy - you know, “Who in the world is Brian Hedges? Niles, Michigan? Where’s that?” You know, nobody knows who I am, outside of this church and a handful of readers, I guess, now; but nobody really knew. But when someone can kind of get that to the write people and there’s a connection, well, then things start to happen.
Well, here’s the deal: Jesus is your connection to God! You have a connection, and the connection is Jesus, because he’s the Son. He’s the Son, and he has this connection, and God loves his Son. Because God loves his Son, he is so glad to hear him when he prays.
Here’s another reason for the power of Christ’s prayers: because of Christ’s perfection. You see this in verses 26 through 28. “For indeed it was fitting that we should have such a high priest…” Now listen to this description, four things...five things. “...holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” The description of Jesus Christ.
He has no need to offer sacrifices first for his own sins and then for those of others, because he’s perfect, right? He’s perfect. You see that in verse 28, “For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priest, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son, who has been made perfect forever.” He’s perfect, and so the perfection of Christ gives power to his intercession.
Here’s another reason it’s powerful: because of God’s oath, God’s promise to his Son (I’ve already referenced that several times, verses 20-22, quoting Psalm 110).
Let me give you one more: because of the Father’s love. Because of the Father’s love. The Father loves the Son. William Bridge, in his sermon, quotes John 10:17. These are the words of Jesus. This is really amazing. Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it up again.” Jesus says, “The Father loves me because I’m going to the cross.”
Now, of course, the Father has eternally loved the Son, so this isn’t the only reason the Father loves him. But JEsus is saying here, “I’m the good Shepherd, I’ll lay down my life for the sheep, and the Father loves me for this. He loves me for this.”
Do you know why the Father loves Jesus for going to the cross? Because he loved the world, and he gave his Son to die for them! The reason the Father loves Jesus for dying for you is because the Father loves you! William Bridge just says, “What a mighty, high expression this is, this round of love. The Father loves the world, the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the world. The Son goes to the cross for them, the Father loves the Son for going to the cross for them,” and so God is glad to receive what Christ has done. He wants to forgive you; he wants to bless you. The Father loves you. He loves you!
Do you know that, Christian? There is not behind Jesus some frowning, angry Father that Jesus is trying to convince that he’ll be nice to you. There is behind Jesus a face beaming with love for you, and if you have seen Christ you’ve seen the Father, Jesus says. The justice of God is completely satisfied, the wrath of God is completely removed, and the Father loves you. He loves you so much that he gladly hears and receives the prayers of his Son, and he answers every one of those prayers on your behalf.
4. How This Helps Us
So, you begin to see how this encourages us and how this helps us. Point number four, the comfort of Christ’s intercession, how this helps us. Now, there are so many things I could say here, and I don’t want to just repeat last week’s sermon, but we could go through all the things we’ve said about the sacrifice of Christ and how that helps us, right? It assures us of our pardon and our forgiveness, it means we have sympathy in our temptations, it means we have boldness in prayer, and it means we have strength for holiness; and all of that is true on the basis of his sacrifice, it’s also true on the basis of his intercession.
But I want you to just think especially this one thought, that there is great comfort, there is great encouragement for you, in knowing that Jesus always lives to intercede for you. Christ’s intercession as our priest is the believer’s supreme source of comfort and encouragement, and it is no presumption for you to look to Christ to do this for you. It’s no presumption. You are not assuming on his good graces to depend on Jesus. You have every encouragement to flee to Christ in your temptations and in your guilt and in your sins, whatever your need is. Whether you need forgiveness or you need strength or you need help or you need sympathy or you need comfort; whatever you need, there is every reason to go to Jesus.
William Bridge, again, used a wonderful illustration. He spoke about the woman with the issue of blood. Do you remember this story? This woman had been bleeding for 12 years and she’d gone to many physicians; none of them could help her. She spent all of her money, nobody could help her. And she sees Jesus in the crowd, and she just thinks, “If I can just touch his cloak, maybe he’ll heal me.” She presses through the throng until she just grabs the hem of his garment, and in that moment virtue goes out from Jesus, power goes out from Jesus and heals her.
Bridge says she had no command to do that. She had no promise that if she would do that there would be healing, and there was no example of anyone who’d ever done it before. And yet, Christ healed her. But you and I have a command (we’re to go to the priest) and we have a promise that if we go he’s going to bless us, he’s going to help us, and we have the example of all who have gone before; therefore, it is no presumption for us to take comfort in Christ’s intercession.
More than that, we just need to know that Christ is greatly willing to intercede for us. He wants to intercede for us, and indeed, he does intercede for us. This is the purpose for which he was anointed as a priest. We are dear to his heart. And then, this is the work of his office as priesthood.
Let me give you one more illustration from Bridge. This is the one, by the way, when I was reading through these sermons, this was the illustration, when I read it, I think that day I went home and told Holly this thing I’d read in Bridge, and a few days later I was having coffee with Andy and I told Andy what I read in Bridge. I read this, and I was like, “I have to preach this!” Like, “This is so good I have to preach it!”
I’ll paraphrase here, but Bridge essentially says that a person sees things through the lens of whatever his office is, whatever his work is. So, you think about three different men, they’re walking in the woods, and they see a tree. One person sees a tree, and he’s a carpenter, and he thinks, “Oh, this tree could make a beautiful chair,” because he’s seeing it through the eyes of a carpenter.
Someone else is walking through the woods, and he needs firewood, and he sees a tree and he thinks, “I’m going to chop that tree down and that will be firewood for next winter.” Somebody else sees it in a different way.
People see things through their lens. Three different people see a child, and this child is very bright and very smart. A doctor sees the child and thinks, “Wow, this kid could make a really great surgeon someday!” An attorney sees the child and thinks, “Wow,” you know, “I think this kid could make a wonderful attorney.” A preacher sees the child and thinks, “Wow, this kid could make a great preacher, a great theologian!” We see things through our own lens, okay?
So, Bridge says that the sinner is seen in different ways by different people. He says that when Moses comes to the sinner (Moses representing the Law) he says, “There’s a sinner; condemn him.” When Satan comes to a sinner, he sees the sinner and he’s the accuser and he says, “There’s a sinner; let’s accuse him.” But when Christ sees a sinner, he sees a sinner through the eyes of a priest. “Let’s forgive him. Let’s forgive him.”
Brother, sister, do you know this morning that Christ is your priest, that Christ is interceding for you? How do you know? How do you know that he’s interceding for you? Well, the Scripture says that he intercedes for those who draw near to God through him. Have you drawn near? Are you drawing near to God through him? Are you coming to God through him?
You say, “I don’t know if I’ve ever done that.” Well then, maybe this morning is the time to do that, to draw near to God through him. You might think, “I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if that qualifies me.” Well, Isaiah 53:12 says that he “came to make intercession for the transgressors.” Are you a transgressor? If you’re a transgressor, then you’re qualified for the intercessory work of Christ! If you’re a transgressor, come, because you’re a sinner, and because Christ came to save sinners, because he came to intercede for the transgressors and come with great confidence, knowing that Christ will receive you.
I’ve mentioned many times before, and I’ll close with this word from, Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish pastor, Dundee, Scotland, 19th century, died when he was 29 years old, left behind hundreds of pages of letters, journals, and sermons. There’s about a seven or eight-page section in his diary that he called his “personal reformation.” It’s one of the most important things I’ve ever read, and I reread this three or four times a year. Very few things have helped me as much as these seven or eight pages have.
It’s essentially a spiritual growth plan that M’Cheyne wrote for himself, where he’s determining how he will spend his day, how he will seek the Lord in prayer, how he will pursue likeness to Christ, how he will seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s so wonderful, it’s so helpful, and there’s one paragraph here that relates to the sermon today. This is what M’Cheyne said.
He said, “I ought to study Christ as an intercessor. He prayed most for Peter, who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies; yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
Christian, I want you to know this morning that Christ is praying for you. So take heart, be encouraged, and run to him. Let’s pray.
Father, we do not have words to express the wonder and the gratitude that we feel when we consider your love for us, when we consider Christ’s love for us, and when we consider what it means that Christ is our priest, who is always interceding for us.
What a stupendous thought, that at this very moment Christ is at your right hand, praying over our prayers, praying over our worship, praying over our observance of the Lord’s table; and that tomorrow morning, when we get up and we go to work and we’re back into the workaday world, we’re back into the mundane duties of the week, and in those moments when you are maybe a thousand miles from our minds, that Christ is praying for us; and that on Thursday this week, when we’re struggling with some disappointment or some discouragement or some temptation, when our conscience is tainted because of some failure, because of some sin, because of some conflict, that in that moment when we feel discouraged, when we feel hopeless, when we feel darkness around us, that in that moment Christ is praying for us; and that when we reach Jordan’s stormy banks, when we come to that final river, the river of death, that final temptation, that final trial, that moment when, perhaps in a sudden instant and perhaps in slow, agonizing groans we breathe out our last and the specter of death is there before us, tempting us to despair, that in that moment Christ will be praying for us.
God, thank you! Thank you for this wonderful truth. Would you seal it deeply into our hearts this morning, for our comfort, for our encouragement, for our assurance, for our holiness? Give us the deep assurance that you will give us everything we need, every spiritual blessing in Christ, everything needed for life and godliness. No good thing will you withhold from those who walk uprightly. If you’ve given Christ, you will give every good thing, and you give it because of the intercession of your Son. Seal it on our hearts, encourage us, and strengthen us as we come to the Lord’s table this morning. We pray it in the strong and mighty name of our ascended and exalted priest, Jesus Christ, Amen.