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Ascension, Part II

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?”

(Romans 8:33–34 RSV)

Q: What does Jesus do for you as he sits at the Father’s right hand?

A: Because Jesus intercedes for us as our great high priest, I may now boldly approach the Father and offer my confessions, praises, thanksgivings, and requests to him. (Hebrews 7:23-25) (To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism)

Having contemplated the joy of a savior who shows us the fullness of redemption by ascending to the Father’s right hand, we now turn to the Lord’s ministry from the heavenly realm.

The New Testament teaches us that the ministry of Jesus at the right hand of the Father is primarily one of intercession. For Paul, the priestly intercession of the Son of God is the cause for our hope, allowing us to put away all thought of final condemnation, to bear up all manner of suffering in this life. The Letter to the Hebrews paints a picture of Jesus as the perfect priest, a mediator between God and man, “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him.” We can so easily become discouraged and full of fear. I have often been buoyed by the prayers of my brothers and sisters. I need to be reminded that my Lord and Savior pours out his life in prayer and intercession before the Father, and that it is this continual reality which makes the prayers of the saints possible. On the flip side, I forget to pray. I forget to ask people to pray for me. Consequently, I become bogged down in the presumption that comes from thinking that I can do all things through my own strength rather than in and through the strengthening grace and help of Jesus.

We easily forget that the Christian life is one of dependence and inter-dependence. We rely on the priestly ministry of Jesus as well as the prayers and help of our brothers and sisters in this earthly pilgrimage, one in which love and sanctification often elude us. We can so easily feel abandoned and alone. Prayer shows us as we are made for communion, not only with God, but with each other. In the ascended Christ, we see both of these realities come together, Christ’s intercession before the Father being carried out in two natures, one divine and the other human. As Saint Augustine puts it:

“No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace.”

That is the reason we address our prayers through Jesus. In Him by grace, we have ascended to the Father as members of His beloved body. When we make intercession for this world, we do so confident that our prayers are heard!

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