Jesus the Intercessor, Part 1
Jesus as Intercessor, Part 1, 1.3.21
Another wild week. It seems that the craziness of 2020 has spilled into 2021. Wow. The Lord is in control, though, brothers and sisters. The Lord is in control. He has a plan, and that plan is being accomplished. Nothing ever takes God by surprise. God’s control and purpose is the topic of this week’s “From Pulpit and Paper.” If you’re new to CBC and you’re joining us either in person or virtually, every week either myself or Pastor Jesse will write a weekly article, discussing a cultural, church, or theologically issue. Every week you can find that insert in your church bulletin. And if you’d like to receive the insert in your e-mail box, e-mail Virginia Brown, our church administrator who keeps this church running, and she will add you to her e-mail list. You can also view this on our church’s Facebook page.
This morning we are tackling the topic of Jesus as Intercessor. This sermon is part of our larger sermon series on prayer. We started this series last week. As we did last week so we will do this week, we are investigated the theological foundations of prayer. The Bible tells us to pray. And we will cover those instructions at a later date. What we want to do at the beginning of this series is formulate a theology of prayer. With this week and with next week, we are going to try to gain a better understand of how Jesus prays for us. Our prayer life is built and modeled after Jesus’ prayer life. So by looking at how Jesus prays for us, the hope is that we will grow and develop in our own prayer life.
To see how Jesus prays for us in Scripture, go ahead and turn with me to Heb 7:23–25. Here at CBC we believe and teach that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is not just a book of cool stories, helpful advice, and moral teaches. It is that but it is much more. The Bible is the very Word of God. Our aim is to faithfully, correctly, and repeatedly teach the Word of God so that you grow in your love for God and in your love for others. This is what the passage says,
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.
Dear friends, this passage is packed full with divine truth. Absolutely chalked full of it. What I want you to notice about this passage is the way that it talks about the person and work of Christ. The person and work of Christ. That is what the gospel is about—Jesus’ person (who he is) and his work (what he does).
Who does this passage say Jesus is? In v. 23, the author of Hebrews compares Jesus with the priests of the OT. And he says, in v. 24, that Jesus holds his priesthood permanently. This passage, along with many other parts of Scripture, describe Jesus, who he is, as our priest. Jesus is our eternal priest. And looking at v. 25, because he is our priest (you see that “consequently” at the beginning of v. 25?), because Jesus is our priest he is able to save us to the uttermost. And then right at the end of v. 25, it says this, “since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus intercedes for us. That’s what he does. So what does this passage depict Jesus as? Who is he? He is a priest. And how does this passage depict Jesus as doing? What does he do? He intercedes. He prays for the saints.
What we see here, as we see throughout the Bible, is that who Jesus is and what he does are intimately related to each other. And the key to understanding what Jesus does is to better understand who he is. You cannot separate Jesus’ intercession and his identity as priest. They go hand and hand. These two ideas are wrapped up together.
This morning and next Sunday we are going to try to pull these two ideas apart—Jesus as priest and Jesus praying for us—and seek to understand them in accordance with what all of Scripture teaches regarding them. This Heb 7 passage is going to be our main passage for this week and next week. But to understand it and to dive into it, we have to do a large, wholistic study on Jesus as priest who intercedes for us. The book of Hebrews is one of the final books of the Bible. It was written late compared with other books of the Bible.
(One of my goals as pastor is to regularly feed you important principles for Scripture reading. As I teach and preach the Word of God, I want to not just tell you what the Bible says, I also want to show you how I got there so that you can do the same. I want us at CBC to be proficient Bible readers and interpreters. I want to grow in the content of Scripture as well as how-to arrive at good Bible content. One principle of biblical interpretation I try to emphasize is to read Scripture and to observe what it is that is NOT said. When you read Scripture and want to figure out what a passage means, asks yourself the question, “What is this passage NOT saying?” That is a tremendous tool. Also, when you read Scripture, you must always remember that the story of Scripture is one that develops. The theology of Scripture develops. Now this does not mean that the truth of Scripture changes. No. It means that what starts as a seed in the early parts of the OT, by the book of Revelation that seed has become a massive Redwood tree. That’s how Scripture is. As you read the story of Scripture, remember this. Remember that the ideas of Scripture develop. It is so important to understand that development and to trace that development. We want to see God’s truth at each stage of its development—as a seed, then a seedling, then a sapling, then a young tree, then a mature tree.)
What we are going to do for this morning is that we are going to jump into the OT to see the relevant passage that explain to us Jesus as the priests who eternally intercedes for his people. We want to develop a biblical theology of Jesus as intercessor, so that next week we can jump into the Hebrews passage and better appreciate it and understand it. So next week I will exposit the Hebrews passage. This week I will develop a biblical theology that helps us better understand the Hebrews passage. In your personal quiet time this coming week, be studying Heb 7:23–25. Read it. Also read all of Heb 7. And also read Rom 8:34 and 1 John 2:1. Read all of Heb 7, specifically 7:23–25, Rom 8:34, and 1 John 2:1.
We’re going to be doing a lot of Bible flipping this morning. So stay awake. If I see you fall asleep, I’ll ask you to come up and here and read a passage of Scripture. This first passage of Scripture we want to investigate this morning is Gen 14:17. Turn with me there. I will read through v. 20. The passage reads,
After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High). And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Here we are introduced to an obscure figure name Melchizedek. This is my first point this morning. Write, Melchizedek.
Despite the obscurity of this passage, this passage is very important for our understand of who Jesus is and what he does. Melchizedek is type of Jesus Christ. First, regarding who Melchizedek is. What I want you to notice first about Melchizedek is that Moses does not record him as having a beginning or an end. Throughout Genesis, genealogies loom large. The important figures of Genesis are given genealogies. We know where they come from. Melchizedek is a very important figure in Genesis. And yet he has no genealogy. We don’t know where he comes from. Also, Moses never records Melchizedek as having died. And yet with the other important figures in Genesis we know they die. Melchizedek has no beginning in Genesis and no end. Now this doesn’t mean that Melchizedek was an eternal being. It does not mean that Melchizedek was never born and never died. No. Rather, what it means is that Melchizedek is functioning as a type of Jesus Christ. Melchizedek is spoken of in a way that Jesus himself fulfills. Just as Melchizedek does not have a beginning nor end in Genesis, Jesus Christ truly does have neither beginning nor end. Jesus is eternal.
Now that was what the text was silent on. What does the text say positively regarding who Melchizedek is. Notice who Moses says Melchizedek is. Looking at v. 18. The passage says,
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High).
Here the passage states that Melchizedek was both a king and a priest. This is a rare type of person in the OT. In the OT you rarely have the two offices of king and priest being joined together. Melchizedek was both. Specifically with reference to the priesthood, Melchizedek is the first person in the Bible who is given the label “priest.” He is the first “priest” in Scripture. At this point in Scripture, the notion of “priest” is not quite clear. What exactly is a “priest?” From this point in Genesis, we’re not exactly sure but we get an idea of what a priest is based upon what Melchizedek does for Abraham.
In v. 19, the text says this is what Melchizedek does for Abram.
And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
Melchizedek functions as a mediator between God and Abram here. First, Melchizedek brings God’s blessing upon Abram. Melchizedek blesses Abram by means of invoking a divine blessing upon Abram. Melchizedek gives Abram a benediction. “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.” He brings God down to Abraham. And then Melchizedek blesses God for what Abram has done. blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” So He brings God’s blessings down to Abram, and he brings glory and praise up to God on Abram behalf. Melchizedek is the mediator between Abram and God. He mediates blessing to Abram from God and mediates praise to God from Abraham. Priests, as Melchizedek demonstrates, are mediators between God and man.
The High Priest
That’s who Melchizedek was. He was a priest (who was also a king). He had no literary beginning, nor no end. As a priest, he functioned as an intermediary between God and Abram. He mediated blessing to Abram from God and glory to God from Abram.
After Melchizedek, the concept of priesthood continues to develop. Specifically, in the book of Exodus the priesthood is formally instituted as a perpetual ministry within Israel. This priesthood is attached to the tribe of Levi. Aaron, Moses’ brother, is the first priest in this new order of Jewish priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood is touched upon in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deutornomy, and throughout the rest of the OT. It is a vast topic. Too broad for us to cover as a whole.
What I want to do is focus on a specific person within the Aaronic priesthood. A specific priest. This is the high priest. Within the Aaronic priesthood, there were many priests. The high priest was unique and special. There number were few. There was only one high priest at a time, while there were many priests that could live and function at the same time. We are going to examine the high priest from Lev 16. Here I am segueing into my second point. Write this, “The High Priest.”
Before we jump into the passage, we have to unpack the context a bit. Leveticus 16 is a very important passage for understanding the OT priesthood in general and the role of the high priest specifically. Leviticus 16 is about the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur in Hebrew. This day, Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is still an important day within Judaism. It has changed significantly since Lev 16, but modern day Jews still try to practice is. In the Bible, the Day of Atonement was a very important day. Look with me at Lev 16:34. It says,
And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.
This Day of Atonement was a special and unique day. It was done by the High Priest only, and it only happened once a year. A very important day.
On this day the High Priest would sacrifice one goat and send one goat off into the wilderness. The passage that we read, Lev 16:20–22, depicts what the High Priest should do with the goat that is sent off into the wilderness. Let’s read Lev 16:20–22 together. This is what the passage says,
And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.
Notice v. 21. The high priest here is confessing the sins of Israel and placing the guilt of the sins upon the goat. The High Priest, by means of prayer, by means of confession, is removing Israel’s sins from them—their guilt, punishment, and depravity—and placing them on this goat. The High Priest removes the sins of the people of God by means of confession and places them on the goat. The goat is the sent off into the wilderness. The people of God are separated from their sins. God knows their sins no more. By means of the High Priest’s work of intercession—confession and laying his hands on the head of the goat—the sins of God’s people in the OT were dealt with.
What do we see here? We see that Israel’s priesthood has a special person (the high priest) and a special day (the Day of Atonement). On this day, the High Priest functions as an intermediary between Israel and God. Specifically, the High Priest brings about atonement in Israel by his work of intercession. The High Priest intercedes for the people of Israel by confessing their sins and placing them on the goat. The High Priest removes the sins from Israel by placing it on the goat by means of confession, by means of prayer, by means of intercession.
The Suffering Servant
Now for our last theme that we will explore this morning. It is this: “the Suffering Servant.” Go ahead and turn to Isa 53:12. The OT theme of priesthood continues to develop. And what you see also developing in the OT is the notion of a Messiah. A coming deliverer. We’ve covered this a lot recently, in our Advent series. So in the OT you have the priesthood developing. And you also have the prediction of the Messiah developing. And what we see in Isa 53, a marvelous, wonderful chapter of Scripture, is you have these two developments being linked. The Messiah is identified as a priest. The Messiah performs the tasks that the priests of the OT fulfill. A powerful passage.
This is what the passage says,
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
What I want us to focus in on are the last two clauses of v. 12. First take notice of the first clause at the end of v. 12. It says, “Yet he bore the sin of many.”
(As I’ve shared before, but it is worth sharing again. When I was in Dallas I have an unbelieving friend who had no interest in the things of God. I read Isa 53 to him and asked him who it was talking about. Without missing a beat he said Jesus. He did not realize that Isa 53 was in the OT, and that Isaiah was written some 500 years before Jesus was born. Isa 53 is a powerful passage. Use it in your evangelism. Show people the truth of God’s word.)
When the passage says that the Suffering Servant “bore the sin of many” it is talking about Jesus’ atonement. What Jesus does that the OT priests did not do is that he himself is the sacrifice. The OT priests offered animals. Jesus offered himself. He was the sacrifice. No OT priest did that. Jesus atoned for the sins of his people. He died for them.
Now notice the last clause in v. 12. It says, “He makes intercession for the transgressors.” This is the way I take what the ESV is saying. Based upon the ESV, I take what Isaiah to be saying is this: Jesus died for the sins of his people (pass tense), and he makes intercession (present tense) for those he died for. Jesus’ intercessory work, what he does in Hebrews, what he is doing right now for you, dear Christian, is prophesied and foreshadowed in Isa 53. He’s praying for the transgressors even now. And that idea of intercession—which we can see with Melchizedek and the High Priest—shows up in the word of the Suffering Servant in Isa 53. The Suffering Servant, who is Jesus, dies for his people and intercedes for them.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this sermon is largely “teaching.” The goal of this morning’s sermon is to investigate the OT to see what it says about Jesus role as intercessor. Using the paradigm of a tree growing. We want to read Scripture and see how the ideas, themes, and concepts develop. Jesus as intercessor in Heb is one of those ideas that develops. Tracing it from a seed, to a seedling, to a sapling, to a young tree, and then to a mature tree, we looked at Melchizedek, the High Priest, and the Suffering Servant.
What we say was this. The OT teaches that there are priests who job is to function as a intermediary between God and man. We saw this first with Melchizedek. Melchizedek had no beginning nor end. He was a priest. He brought blessings to Abram from God and blessed God on Abram’s behalf. He functioned as a mediator between God and man. That’s what priests do. They function as the go-between for God and man.
Next, we investigated Lev 16. We saw that Israel has a high priest. The high priests job on the Day of Atonement was to, once again, be a mediator between God and man. One way he did this was serving as a intercessor to God on Israel’s behalf. The high priests confessed Israel’s sin to God and transferred Israel’s sins away from Israel and placed them on the goat. The goat took away Israel’s sins into the wilderness. The priest mediated forgiveness to Israel by means of his ministry of intercession, confession, and prayer.
Last we visited Isa 53. Isa 53 is about the suffering servant. What we see with the suffering servant is that he performs the tasks of the priesthood. The sacrifice the Suffering Servant presents is himself. However, after his death, he is still alive. He “bore” the sins of many (past tense) and makes intercession (present tense) for the transgressors. His ministry to bring about salvation for his people continues even after he bears their sins. His work of intercession is the continual renewal and application of his bearing their sins. Hm. I wonder who this is?
This OT background provides the sufficient background for understanding the OT. We cannot understand the NT apart from the OT. The better we understand the OT, the better we will understand the NT. This OT theology will help us as we try to understand Heb 7.
Please come back next week, after having studying the important passages on Jesus as Intercessor, and hear what God has to say to us from Heb 7. Pray with me.