Christ’s Present Ministry

For any battlefield observers that day at Rephidim (Exo 17), the sight would have been both perplexing and intriguing. In the valley were the two armies in combat, Israel, under Joshua’s command, and Amalek, their long-standing enemy. But on the hill overlooking the battlefield stood a man with his hands outstretched to heaven. Amazingly, as long as his hands were held up, Israel prevailed, but when his hands were lowered, Amalek moved in prevailing power. As the day progressed, it became abundantly clear that what was taking place in the valley was being dramatically affected from above.

Wonderfully, we too have a Man in the glory, for our Lord not only died for us but now is living for us in our pilgrim journey. Hebrews 9:24 makes this great truth abundantly clear: “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands … but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”[1] Although Calvary has settled the great issue of our sin, day by day we are being saved by His ongoing ministry in heaven. As a sinner, I needed a Mediator with a righteous God (1Ti 2:4); as a child in the family, I needed an Advocate with the Father; but as a pilgrim, I needed an Intercessor in view of my weaknesses and infirmities. Our Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished all of this and more. So, what exactly is He now doing?

The Intercession of a Faithful High Priest

The wilderness journeys were not easy for the Israelites, nor are they for us. But our God has not left us to face these difficulties alone, for Christ our Great High Priest invites us to draw near to experience His presence and power. His intercession on our behalf is not related to our sin but rather to the weaknesses and infirmities that mark us. The KJV uses the word “succour,” which really means to “help” in view of our needs. The woman of Canaan who appealed to the Lord on behalf of her daughter finally cried in desperation, “Lord, help me!” (Mat 15:25), and the Lord graciously healed her daughter. Many of us have cried the same prayer in the greatness of our need, with similar results. What a tremendous resource we have in this One who knows every detail about us, who remembers our frailty, who pities us as a father pities his children, and who delights to answer our calls. He has been where we are and, “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb 2:18 ESV). He truly sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, for He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:15), and thus we can come with boldness to the throne of grace to obtain the mercy and grace for the trial.

Our access to Him is unlimited – 24/7 – as He is marked by an eternal and unchanging priesthood. Because of this, “he is able to save to the uttermost [or, at all times] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (9:25 ESV). But our Lord’s intercessions don’t always begin when we approach Him. In Peter’s case, Christ revealed to him that He had already prayed for him that his faith would not fail. His intercession had preceded the trial and temptation, and although Peter sadly failed his Lord, the Lord’s gracious intercession ultimately preserved and restored him to a life and ministry of great blessing.

The Advocacy of a Righteous Christ

Not only is Christ marked by intercession on our behalf, but He is also our advocate with the Father in view of sin in our life. The only reference to this great work is found in 1 John 2:1: “If any man [believer] sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” An advocate (Greek, parakletos) is one who “comes alongside to help” at a time when sin has broken fellowship with the Father. Our sin is never minimized or disregarded, but because of who He is and what He has done, our Advocate pleads the merits of His own sacrifice at Calvary before the Father, for He is the “propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins.” Because He is the “Righteous One,” our union with the Father is maintained. Calvary is the place where propitiation was accomplished, but here in 1 John 2, it is the wonderful person of Christ Himself who has satisfied the righteous demands of an offended God. What a tremendous blessing to have One in the glory who is both fit and willing to represent us as a defense lawyer and plead our cause.

But there’s another focus in view with His advocacy, for the Greek word contains the idea of “comforter.” In the Upper Room, our Lord promised to send another comforter, the Holy Spirit; and just as He promised, the Spirit came at Pentecost. Thus, we have a Comforter above maintaining our link with the Father and a Comforter below who maintains us in our walk of faith. Christ’s advocacy for us is ongoing and without failure, for He has paid a tremendous price to make us His own and tenderly cares for us all along the way. He ensures our security in the family and seeks to maintain our enjoyment of the Father.

The Guidance of a Loving Shepherd

There are other aspects to Christ’s present ministry, but I need to add a brief reminder of His ongoing work as the Good Shepherd. His care and sacrifice for His own while here on earth is the theme of our worship and praise, but is He not still shepherding His flock? Part of that work has been given to “under-shepherds” but, as we sometimes sing, “He tends with sweet, unwearied care the flock for which He bled.” Who has not been able to look back on life and appreciate His faithful care, His tender compassion and His wonderful guidance? No wonder we love to sing,

All the way my Saviour leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide?[2]

We love to thank our Lord for His finished work at Calvary, but do we bow with worship and appreciation for His present work for us in the glory? What we need to remember is that we could not live here if He were not living for us there!

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Fanny J. Crosby (1820–1915)