Intercession

Last week I wrote an entry about Jesus as hour High Priest. In it, I claimed that the qualification of Jesus to be our High Priest is that he made intercession for us. That is an interesting qualification, if you think about it. I’ve been reading through Numbers recently, in a “chronological Bible”, and I find it fascinating how much animal sacrifice was supposed to go on regularly for the people. Daily, monthly, festivals, annually, all the time. Since they ate many of those sacrifices, the Temple would have been one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem.

But what were those sacrifices for? What did they accomplish in the covenant relationship between Israel and Yahweh? That’s not as easy or simple a question as it sounds, because it depends on what you read in the law. Basically though, in one way or the other, these sacrifices are made on behalf of the people. So, in a very practical sense, they are a form of intercession. Therefore, the role of priests, as administers of the sacrifices of the people of Israel to Yahweh, was intercession on behalf of the people.

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 7:23-25 NASB

The Greek word for “intercession” in the above passage is “entygchano” (Strong’s G1793), which not terribly common in the Christian Scriptures. When it’s used with the Greek preposition “over” (Strong’s G5228), then “entygchano” means to “intercede on behalf of another”, and specifically to intercede to our Creator on behalf of His human creatures.

As common a theme of prayer as that is, you’d think that this word would be more common in the Christian Scriptures, but it’s only used this way three times (2X in Rom 8, and once here in Heb 7). There is actually a compound word made up of both the Greek word for intercession, and the preposition “under” used in Romans 8:26, but that word only occurs there in all of the Christian Scriptures. So, four times total, even so, still more rare than the common practice would suggest. Why is that?

Because the more common way to refer to intercession is “to pray for” someone. Suddenly the common quality becomes obvious, that phrase is used all over, by nearly every Christian author. But now the question becomes, why is “entygchano”, a technical term, different than “praying for someone”? And that question helps us understand the role of Jesus as High Priest.

Jesus is not sacrificing, daily, for the sins of His disciples. He sacrificed Himself, once, and that was all that was needed:

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Hebrews 7:26,27 NASB

Therefore, intercession done by our Savior is not the daily regular sacrifice, even though He “always lives to make intercession for them.” Something else is meant when Jesus intercedes for us as our High Priest. What is it? What does Jesus do in the role as High Priest which intercedes for us?

To answer that, I refer you back to my prior entry, “Why A High Priest” (see the first sentence of this entry). Basically, Jesus offered up “prayers and supplications” on our behalf. It wasn’t presiding over the death and burning of animals, but more the role Moses played in going before God on behalf of the people (see this repeatedly in Exodus and Numbers). Jesus is more a “priest” in the sense of Moses than that of Aaron. Although, Moses’ role is more often thought of as prophet, and Jesus is our Messiah of that type as well.

I believe it’s the right time to state the obvious conclusion. Jesus is our King, Prophet, and High Priest, because each of those designations is simply a different way of saying the same thing. We have needs which categorically fall into each of those roles. Jesus fulfills each and every one of those needs, as He completely fulfills each and every one of those roles. So, once again, through the venue of obfuscating elucidations, we have ended up with a simple answer. Perhaps I should have led with that…

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