Portraits of Christ
Jesus the Intercessor
By Beverly Nickles
Jesus, the Great Intercessor who lives eternally, continually intercedes for us before the Father. Throughout His earthly life He devoted Himself to prayer, making it a personal priority and instructing His disciples to do the same. Now, as Resurrected Savior and High Priest, He lives to intercede continually before the Father on our behalf. He is the only Mediator between God and man.
Intercession is a specific type of conversation with God. Intercessory prayer is mediation between God and man or, stated simply, praying for others. An intercessor stands in the place of another person who needs God’s intervention and pleads his case.
Literally, an intercessor is “one who fills the gap”. In its highest sense, Jesus closed the gap separating man and God when he sacrificed himself and died on the cross. He overcame death, rose again, and is now seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father interceding continually for us. Jesus, our mediator, stands as our priest before God and between God and sinful man.
Jesus ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God the Father, returning to the glory He had before the Incarnation. He carries on His role of King of Kings and Lord of Lords --- His role as the second person in the Triune God.
If we belong to Him, He is our righteous representative in court who advocates on our behalf and defends us before the Father. A penitent believer can have confidence that the One most intimate with the Father and who has continual access to Him is advocating for him.
Jesus is our Defender, always presenting our case before the Father like a defense lawyer. Satan the accuser is accusing us, pointing out our sins and frailties before God. His accusations accomplish nothing because Jesus’ work on the Cross paid our sin debt in full. God always sees in His children the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
Though seated at Father’s right hand, exalted to the highest place of unlimited power, we can partner with Him in intercession, praying the will of Heaven into the earth.
Jesus can provide eternal spiritual salvation because His priesthood will continue uninterrupted forevermore. This salvation includes from now on deliverance from evil and enjoyment of good.
Jesus authored perfect salvation, and His earthly work fulfilled the Law, satisfied Justice, and carried, removed and atoned for sin. He was called, promised and sent by the Father to accomplish this work, and was the only one who could fulfill it. He died as a man, rose from the dead, and will never die again but live forevermore.
This fallen world full of sin blocked our access to God. A Mediator was required by which a person could come to God. Christ made peace between God and man, satisfied God’s requirement for justice, and provided everlasting righteousness. He is totally fit for this work as only Mediator and prevalent Intercessor, which He always performs willingly and successfully.
Jesus Christ forever lives to make intercession for His people, a function of His priestly office. In contrast to His days on earth where He frequently prayed, he intercedes now in heaven. His prayers aren’t vocal, and he doesn’t plead as one standing before an angry judge. As the person of Christ, He stands on behalf of His own. He presents His sacrifice, blood and righteousness, and declares His will to bless, recommend their prayers, and eliminate Satan’s charges and accusations.
His death and resurrection made salvation possible; and His continuing intercession applies it. He intercedes for the conversion of His elect, comfort of the distressed, pardon for fallen believers, renewed strength, and perseverance in faith and holiness. He lives eternally to secure and represent His people, so they enjoy the endless benefits.
Jesus’ priesthood was like none other. First, God appointed His Own Son, established Him by an oath, and will never change His mind. In the priesthood existing before Jesus, a priest eventually died and needed to be replaced. Second, Jesus was Himself the perfect sacrifice for sin, having offered Himself once for all. As a priest, He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices day after day for Himself or others.
Also, as a priest He comes alongside us offering intimate human relations. Tenderly drawing at the same time man nearer to God, and God nearer to man. A priest forever, separate from sinners and undefiled, and yet drawn into the closest union with humanity. He can face God with Holy reverence; He loves man and desires our best from a pure heart.
Jesus’s Model Intercessory Prayer
On the last day of his earthly life just before his arrest and crucifixion --- the darkest day of his life --- Jesus stopped to intercede. He had just gotten up from an extended time of fellowship with his disciples in which he gave them final instructions. With his disciples gathered around, he prayed out loud to the Father by the Holy Spirit as his disciples listened. Called his “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, it is the longest prayer in the Bible. This prayer gives insights into Jesus’ prayer life.
In this model intercessory prayer (John 17), Jesus prays first for himself, then at length for his closest disciples he’s about to leave, and then for all those who would become his disciples throughout time.
Jesus prays for himself
Jesus lifted his eyes toward heaven and called upon the Father. “Father, the hour has come.” He stood at the climax of the work he came to do on earth. Jesus knew he was about to face cruel public humiliation and a brutal and bloody crucifixion on a Roman cross.
His request to the Father revealed no desire to shrink back, though he understood fully the ordeal coming upon him. He said, “glorify thy son.” Jesus asked only for help to go through this horrendous trial in a way that brought honor to the Father.
Jesus’ imminent glorification is in line with the Father’s purpose in giving him power over men. Only by his glorification, after his death and resurrection, could he fulfill his commission of giving eternal life to all those the Father gave to him.
Jesus gave eternal life by making known the only true God; and making the way to be for personal relationship with him. Jesus Christ, the Savior-God anointed immeasurably with Holy Spirit fullness, alone was in a position to do this.
Petitioning further, Jesus states that the work he came to earth to do will soon be finished. There is no further need or desire on his part for him to stay. “I have glorified thee on the earth.”
What glorification does he look forward to now? To his return to the glory he enjoyed from before the foundation of the world. The divine glory he set aside to accomplish his work on earth. Jesus says to the Father, “I have glorified you, now glorify me.”
Jesus prays for his disciples
Now Jesus shifts to praying for his close circle of disciples. He states that he has finished his work by making the holy and loving God known to those the Father separated out from the world and gave him as disciples. They belong to God and have kept his word.
Jesus had fulfilled the plan for his time on earth, that is, through his life to make God known. Jesus had faithfully given his disciples the Father’s words. They had received his words and believed that God sent him. Jesus now prayed for these ones taken out of the world and given to him.
He said, “And all mine are thine, and thine are mine…” clearly stating that Jesus and the Father owned all things in common. They are one.
At this point, Jesus had already said goodbye to the world. But his disciples would remain and be more vulnerable without him there to defend them in a corrupt world. He asked his gracious and holy Father to help his disciples retain the knowledge of him already imparted. They would need this to help them stand. Further, living together in harmony would be critical for maintaining their witness in the world.
Jesus himself, as the Father’s representative, had protected the disciples up to now. The only one lost was Judas, who was permitted to enter the group so the prophecy about Christ could be fulfilled.
He petitioned the Father on their behalf out loud in their hearing, so they could recognize that Christ had engaged God’s power to protect them. By this he made it possible for them to experience the same joy that helped him overcome fears and trials.
The Father’s truth received through Christ by which they now lived separated them from the world. They were set apart as Christ’s representatives. Because of this, the world would hate them. Christ didn’t belong in the world, and now neither did they. The easiest out would be to escape the hostile environment. But they had work to do for eternity. The world needed them.
As Christ’s presence in the world was necessary for the fulfillment of Gods’ purpose, so the disciples need to remain in the world.
Jesus consecrated himself for his disciples. His consecration made possible the disciples separation from the world and their filling with the same spirit of sacrifice and devotion.
Jesus prays for future disciples
Consecrating his disciples and sending them forth clearly suggests future expansion of the church and Christ’s concerns on earth. Jesus prays for future generations of those who would come to believe on him through his disciples’ words.
Jesus prays for unity among those who later would come to believe through the disciple’s preaching. The more the church expands, the more difficult to maintain unity. The indwelling Holy Spirit provides the perfect bond of unity joining believers together. The ideal example of this unity is seen between the Father and Son.
The greatest impression made upon the world that Christ’s mission comes from God comes by the unity among believers. Not formal or mechanical unity, but the Holy Spirit controlling the hearts of genuine believers, drawing them to each other, and provoking them to cooperate in Christ’s mission. This loving cooperation helps convince the world that Christianity comes from God. And contributes to belief in Christ’s mission.
To achieve unity, the glory the Father gave to Christ must be given to his people by the indwelling Holy Spirit. True unity comes after they are made one by Christ’s Spirit dwelling in each believer.