Jesus Our Intercessor

When we want information, most of us turn to Google or perhaps another search engine. How did we live before the Internet? Does anyone even have a set of encyclopedias anymore? If you do, it was out of date before it was printed. I often do searches before writing or speaking but it certainly is buyer beware out there in information – or should I say misinformation – land. 

Case in point – if you want to know more about why and how Jesus is our intercessor, you will find articles and sermons that will lead you to believe this kind of conversation is taking place between God the Father and Jesus: 

Father: Look at her, she did it again. She knows better. Guess it’s time to lower the boom. 

Jesus: Aww dad, you know she’s trying. Please don’t forget she received forgiveness when I went to the cross, so don’t hold it against her. And I’m helping her, I really am. Give her another chance. 

Father: OK, you’re right. I’ll hold off for now. But get her in line, and the sooner the better!

The typical explanation is that while we were forgiven at the cross, we still need Jesus to stand up for us as we continue to sin and to remind God not to get angry. He intercedes, or pleads our case, just like a lawyer going before a not-too-happy judge. But is this really what it means when we say Jesus is interceding for us? 

Mixed in with the above scenario, I found this on gotquestions.org: “Advocates offer support, strength, and counsel and intercede for us when necessary. The Bible says that Jesus is an Advocate for those who’ve put their trust in Him: ‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1). In other verses, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our Advocate (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The English word advocate has been translated from the Greek word parakletos, which means ‘helper, adviser, or counselor.’” 

This makes much more sense in light of who God is and the finished work of the cross. The advocate we have in Jesus is not trying to talk the Father out of punishing us every time we sin, but is there to help us, give us advice and counsel us in the way of his kingdom of love. God knows we’ll sin again and again – that’s who we are – but he only wants what’s best for us and is there to help us finish the race Paul talked about, with the strength, courage and grace we have in Christ. 

Perhaps this is how the conversation goes: 

Father: Look at my beloved daughter. She’s doing so well, but she’s having trouble with that issue again. 

Jesus: Holy Spirit and I are with her every step of the way, encouraging and strengthening her. 

Father: Keep it up. You know how much I love her.

Jesus: Me too, Abba, me too.

My Hope and Stay

Many of us are familiar with the classic hymn, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” by Edward Mote, written in 1834. But have you ever stopped to think what is meant by the phrase, “he then is all my hope and stay”? The word stay has many meanings, but I’m pretty sure Mote was thinking of this definition when he wrote those words: to provide physical or moral support for (sustain); to fix on something as a foundation (merriamwebster.com). 

The British pastor most likely based this hymn on the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew and Luke. In this parable, Jesus explains how we are to build a foundation for life on the written word of God, which points to Jesus himself, the living Word. He is our support and our sustainer through anything life throws at us. 

Another meaning of the word, one which Mote may or may not have had in mind, is of a stay that holds a corset together, or a heavy rope used on a ship to secure the mast or spar. In the corset, stays were typically made of bones and on a ship, the rope stays were necessary to keep the masts in place.

If you’re like me, you have probably been through times when you felt you were barely holding yourself or your life together. It’s amazing and unifying to think this song from almost two hundred years ago can still point us to the security and stability we find in God, who is our only hope and most secure stay.

The Smile on His Face

Much has been written about Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus, which we will celebrate this coming weekend. It’s one of the three pivotal events (his birth and death being the first two) in not only Christianity but all of history. Contemplating the events leading up to the crucifixion evokes many emotions, including deep sorrow over what Jesus had to suffer as he willingly and lovingly laid down his life for all of humanity. 

When I meditate on the resurrection itself, I am always flooded with hope and joy – what an amazing and powerful finale to an incredible week, and an incredible life. I can’t help but think of the last scene of The Gospel According to Matthew, made almost 30 years ago. The script was the book of Matthew, word for word. At the very end of the movie, we see Jesus walking away. Then he turns around and with a huge smile, waves for us to follow him. 

The look of joy on his face, his welcoming smile and his gesture of inclusion make me want to get up and go. That smile reminds me why I have been willing to follow him anywhere and will continue to follow him. He did it – he conquered sin and death – for me, for you, for all of us, and cemented our place in eternity with him. Happy resurrection celebration!

Punishment or Loving Choice

As we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we also sometimes wonder just why he had to die in the first place. Why couldn’t his plan to save and redeem humanity be accomplished some other way? Was the suffering and torture he endured really necessary? 

Many believe his death was punishment inflicted by his Father to satisfy his all-consuming rage. You almost can’t read an Easter devotional that doesn’t include this kind of reasoning. But in light of who God is as a triune being, in essence love, existing in relationship as Father, Son and Spirit, this doesn’t make any sense. It would mean the one whom Jesus called his Abba decided to punish his dearly loved son because he couldn’t control his rage, which also means he punished himself, as they are one in the same.

Jesus partially explained why in Matthew 21:33-46. It’s the story of the owner of a vineyard who had leased it and then sent servants to collect the earnings, who were killed, then sent more servants who were also killed, and finally he sent his son. The tenants murdered him as well, thinking they would steal his inheritance. Just as the greedy tenants killed the owner’s son, so we, all of fallen humanity, killed Jesus. As enemies and haters of God, we put God himself to death to satisfy the rage we feel as victims of our own self-inflicted fallenness. Jesus’ death had nothing to do with “satisfying the wrath of God.”

Jesus went to the cross for one reason – the indescribable, selfless, self-emptying love that not only defines who he is but is the motivation and impetus behind everything he does. Love sent him there, love kept him there and love continues to hold us in his redeeming embrace.