• Introduction: It is an accurate doctrine of Christ that He holds three offices: Prophet; Priest; King.  The scriptures testify that He holds these roles in life to this day, and will forever. Briefly, the 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism explains these roles as follows:
    • As our Prophet, Jesus proclaims the Word of God to us[1].
    • As our Priest, Jesus offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, and He intercedes with the Father on our behalf[2].
      • The catechism cites a portion of our Epistle text selected for today as evidence of Jesus’ priestly work.
    • And lastly, as our King, Jesus rules over all creation, especially for the good of His Church[3].  Despite there being two kingdoms, heaven and earth, Jesus rules over both.  Right now, the earthly kingdom groans under the burden of sin, but even so, He rules until the Father decides enough is enough and brings an end to this Age.
    • Today, we look into Jesus’ Priestly role as an intercessor on behalf of us.  We just confessed before the sermon hymn that Jesus is seated at the right-hand of God the Father, which is a good place to make intercessions for each and every one of us.  And as He intercedes and advocates on our behalf, He exhorts us to do the same for one another as well as on behalf of the Holy Christian Church on earth.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank You for sending not only Your Son, but also the Holy Spirit to work on our behalf to save us from our own sins and make us holy.  We would be eternally lost if we did not have them interceding before You to get us through this life and into eternal life with You.  Send the Holy Spirit to continue to build faith in us to trust in You, so that when we pray, we are confident You have heard our prayers through Your Son Christ. We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: One of the duties of a priest is to intercede for the congregation. Called servants of the Lord who minister in the church to this day pray on behalf of the church and its saints.
    • This is a long-standing role of a priest, and there probably is no better an example of an early priest in the Old Testament than Moses.  Just last week, we discussed the truly evil sin the Israelites committed while Moses was on Mt Sinai meeting with a preincarnate Jesus to receive the Ten Commandments.  The Israelites had witnessed the Ten Plagues, the defeat of the Egyptian army without so much as shooting a spear after crossing the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba on dry ground, and then receiving manna on a daily basis.  But in the “what have you done for me lately” attitude we all are capable of displaying against God, because Moses took too long to come back from meeting with Jesus, they decided to manufacture their own gods in the form of calf images made from gold.
      • I hope you agree God had every right to say to Moses: …“Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have behaved corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a cast metal calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10 So now leave Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.[4]
      • We’ve heard of Moses’ frustration with these same people when they were later complaining about only having manna to eat instead of all-you-can-eat fish and vegetables.  And yet, just after Jesus said those words I just read to you from Exodus 32, Moses interceded with God after Israel’s great sin with the golden calves.  Listen to Moses’ reply to the Almighty, Sovereign Lord: 11 …“Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians talk, saying, ‘With evil motives He brought them out, to kill them on the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and relent of doing harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented of the harm which He said He would do to His people[5].
    • I suspect Jesus threatened to wipe out the Israelites in order to test the priestly heart of Moses.  The Father sent Jesus into this world to redeem it from its own harm it brought onto itself.  Jesus met with Moses on the same mountain where the burning bush was first seen by Moses, and communicated to Moses the love of the Father for His people.  That love of the Father would have been something that rubbed off from Jesus and onto Moses, just like it does when we are in the presence of Jesus here at Christus Rex each Sunday.
      • Thankfully, Jesus relented of the threatened harm, modeling His own behavior to this day some 3400yrs later.  Jesus does the same thing in 2021 when we sin, just like our forefathers in the faith did at Mt Sinai.  John the Apostle wrote: 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous[6];
    • It is through Jesus’ righteousness that when the Father looks upon us and witnesses the wicked things we do, Jesus immediately advocates on our behalf. No please don’t think Jesus excuses us before our Father. No! Jesus’ advocating for us is more along the lines of Jesus reminding the Father that we sinners who are cleansed by Christ, claim by faith the righteousness that Jesus won for us on the cross.  All our sins were nailed to the same cross Jesus once died on.  In other words, Jesus advocates for us before the Father by telling the Father we are clean of sin, because He is clean of the sin He took upon Himself from mankind and left it on the cross.
      • And thankfully, Jesus is well-positioned to intercede for us. When we confess from the Ecumenical Creeds that Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father, that doctrine is taken right out of Rom 8:33-34 - 33 Who will bring charges against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, but rather, was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us[7].
  • Analysis: Incidentally, that same word rendered from Rom 8:34 as “intercedes” has the same verb root as our text for today.  The Greek verb in common is ἐντυγχάνω (en-teeng-kha'-no); which means to confer with; by extension to entreat (in favor or against):— make intercession[8].  Heb 7:25 has a similar message to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians - 25 Therefore [Jesus] is also able to save forever those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them[9].
    • Forms of ἐντυγχάνω appear also in Rom 8:26-27,34, 11:2 and Act 25:24 in addition to Heb 7:25.
      • Some of these examples advocate in a different way either before God or people:
        • For instance, Paul in Rom 11:2, pointed out the prayers of Elijah the prophet interceding before God in prayer to bring drought in order to call the Northern Kingdom back to God. Elijah had prophesied to evil King Ahab in 1Ki 17:1 that there would be “…neither dew nor rain…except by my word.”  That drought lasted for over 3yrs, and ended with the powerful witness of God burning up a sacrifice that had been soaked 3x with pitchers of water. This happened after the prophets of Baal spent all day acting silly with their calls to their false god.  Can you imagine interceding for over 3yrs to *not* make it rain?
          • Contrasted with that, we prayed right here last summer, when there was no sign of a monsoon, that God would bring a bountiful monsoon season. We remembered the “non-soon” of summer of 2020 with that prayer, and what happened?  We experienced the wettest July on record.  God can grant both scenarios.
        • The Jews interceded to the Romans to get rid of the Apostle Paul in Act 25:24.  The Romans couldn’t figure out why the Jews were all upset.  Those intercessions were nothing but noise. However, God does not ever consider the prayers of His faithful people to be a bunch of babble.
      • The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us in prayer.   The Apostle Paul apparently liked the Greek word, ἐντυγχάνω, because he used that word to describe the work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf in each verse of Rom 8:26-27 - 26 Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes (ὑπερεντυγχάνει) for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes (ἐντυγχάνει) for the saints according to the will of God.
        • I hope this is registering: two members of the Trinity are both this very moment interceding on our behalf!!! As Paul wrote a couple verses later, 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us[10]?
  • Conclusion: There are two take-aways from ἐντυγχάνω: trust in God’s work and follow Jesus’ example.
    • Trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both interceding on your behalf before the Father.  All three persons of the Trinity participated in the creation of the world about 7200yrs ago. They knew we would corrupt everything they made, but they went ahead with creation anyway.  And since they knew this, they weren’t caught flat-footed. They had a plan figured out for how they would redeem mankind from its own rebellion, even before the foundation of the earth was laid.  Jesus would come in the flesh so He could share in our humanity.  He would take upon Himself our sins and provide the perfect sacrifice for sins no one in the history of mankind was ever able to make. He would then raise from the dead to show that neither death nor hell has any power over Him. The Holy Spirit would then continue to work in the souls of believers, ushering them toward heaven by testifying the Word of Truth in souls, and thereby building faith.  It is faith which gets a person into heaven – nothing else.  And so the Holy Spirit would keep that testimony going so long as the person does not blaspheme Him and deny what is being testified.
      • Keep today’s message in mind when times are tough.  Believers in Christ have both Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf.  They each ask the Father to provide special and unique gifts that work toward the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:26).
        • This is especially true when we are so messed up, we don’t know where to start in prayer.  I’ve been there, and I’ll bet each of us here on today have been, or maybe are there right now.  If so, please let me know.  I am a priest called by God to bring to you His gifts of grace, mercy, and peace.  Moreover, thanks be to the Holy Spirit who knows us sufficiently to ask on our behalf for the things which will bring peace and satisfaction!
        • We also see how Jesus advocates on our behalf  in 1Tim 2:5-6 -  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.  In a secular vain, it’s nice to know if we screw up on our taxes for instance, there is good counsel available to work with the IRS to get penalties reduced or eliminated.  This must be a big problem in our society, given the number of radio and TV ad’s I’ve heard about lawyers providing tax advocacy. ☹
        • However, that doesn’t do us any good to have a tax attorney when we’re arrested for something.  We would need a criminal law attorney.  Jesus is an advocate who handles any and all kinds of sins.  He is a High Priest who can sympathize with our needs (Heb 4:15-16), because He lived 33yrs as a man with flesh like you & I have.  He was tempted by Satan after fasting for 40 days just to make it fair, and yet did not sin.
        • Jesus sympathized with the blind man named Bartimaeus in our Gospel reading (Mark 10:46-52).  The guy would not stop pleading with Jesus to have mercy on him.  Jesus as the blind man’s advocate had mercy and restored his sight.  Jesus as our advocate also opens our eyes to God’s grace, saving us from a fate worse than mere physical blindness.
    • The second take-away is God’s desire that we should follow Jesus’ and the Holy Spirit’s example of intercession.  The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy - First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Ti 2:1-4).
      • Each Sunday in church, we devote about 5min’s of a service praying in the Spirit on behalf of fellow saints, and being alert to the needs of people (Eph 6:18-20).
      • Let’s do this in our daily prayer life as well.  Paul wrote to the Philippians - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God[11].  We can do this confidently, because the Psalmist wrote - 15 Call upon Me on the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.[12]
    • Our last thought to contemplate is something from Martin Luther’s sermons on the Gospel according to John, chapters 14-16. Martin said, “A Christian without prayer is just as impossible as a living person without a pulse. The pulse is never motionless; it moved and beats constantly, whether one is asleep or something else keeps one from being aware of it.[13]”  What he meant is that prayers of intercession by the Holy Spirit on behalf of a Christian is constant.  They are without ceasing.  You could not have anyone be a better advocate than the Holy Spirit praying on your behalf.  And, you couldn’t have a better advocate on your behalf when you sin, than Jesus Christ our Lord!  If God be for us, who or what can be against us?!  Amen.


 


[1] Luther, Martin. Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation - 2017 Edition. Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition, location 4097.

[2] IBID, location 4121

[3] IBID, location 4135

[4] Ex 32:7-10 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+32&version=NASB

[5] Ex 32:11-14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+32&version=NASB

[6] 1Jn 2:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+2&version=NASB

[7] Rom 8:33-34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+8&version=NASB

[8] Strong’s Definition from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1793/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[9] Heb 7:25 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/heb/7/1/s_1140001

[10] Rom 8:31 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%208&version=NASB

[11] Phil 4:6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=phil+4&version=NASB

[12] Ps 50:15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+50&version=NASB

[13] Luther, Martin, (translation by) Bertram, Martin, (edited by) Pelikan, Jarolsav, Luther’s Works, Vol 24, Sermons on John 14-16, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 1961, p.89