The Session of Christ
“He is seated at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty”
Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23,
The Apostles’ Creed that tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven, goes on to note that “He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
The Pervasive Phrase
This fact seems to be as crucial in the mind of the earliest Christians as was the reality of his death & resurrection. The first three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, tell us that Jesus before his death announced that after his death he would be exalted to sit at God’s right hand. (Matthew25:31, 26:64, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69) The Gospel of John near its beginning reminds us that we would see Jesus ascending back to where he had come from.
In the book of Acts, Peter in his first sermons announces the good news that Jesus is now seated at God’s right hand. (Acts 2:33, 5:31) and years later in his letters Peter still is heard telling his readers of the Lord being “seated at God’s right hand, with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (I Peter 3:22)
Paul cannot get his being seated off his mind either. Whether he writes to the Romans (Romans 8:34) or the Colossians, (Col 3:1) or the Church in Ephesus, (Eph 1:20-22) he reminds each of them that “Jesus is Seated at the Right Hand of God.”
But it is the writer to the book of Hebrews that is obsessed with the fact. (1:3, 12:2) All the way through his book he reminds us of the location of Jesus. Seated. Seated at the right Hand of His Father.
Then the final book of the New Testament, The Book of The Revelation, gives us the picture of The Lamb who was slain eternally seated upon the Throne of Heaven.
But what does this all mean?
The Right Hand of God
The phrase “At the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty” tells us something about the attitude of the Father towards Jesus. In the ancient world, to be placed at the right hand of someone was to be given the place of honour – the place of preferment.
At the crucifixion it looked like the Father had abandoned and deserted his son. Jesus Cries out “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Since he was accused of Blasphemy against God, that was a normal presumption. But when He is seated at the right hand of God it tells us that was a misreading of the evidence. The one who was vilified has now been vindicated by God Himself. Jesus had become God’s Right Hand Man.
Do you remember the story of what took place at the moment of Jesus’ Baptism? For 30 years he had lived in obscurity. But at the moment of his baptism, the heavens open and God speaks, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased!”
A few months later as Jesus approached Jerusalem after his time of ministry among the towns and villages of Palestine, he and three of his followers go up a mountain to spend time in prayer. As he is praying, suddenly the whole scene is transfigured, and in the glory of those moments the voice of God is heard a second time, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am very pleased. Listen to him.”
But when, after the ascension, he is seated by His father at his own right hand, it is then that he receives the overwhelming word of approval, Jesus has been given the seat of honor.
So Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. But the question comes, Why seated? Why that posture? Several reasons come to mind.
1. His work is finished
Being seated can indicate being at rest, just as God created in six days, then on the 7th day rested. Was it because God was tired and all tuckered out? No! It was because he had completed his part in the work of creating. And so Jesus, being seated, declares that He has finished the task God had given him to do. All that was needed to bring about the world’s salvation has been completed. Nothing more needs to be done. Hear the words from the Book of Hebrews:
- Hebrews 1:3 “When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
- Hebrews 10:12 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God.”
- Hebrews 12:2 “Let us look to Jesus … who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has now taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It is interesting that when a picture of Satan is given he is seen as a restless one, going to and from across the earth. He is busy because he knows his time is short. There is a frantic-ness in evil. But Jesus is seated because the victory has been won already.
2. He is our Teacher
But being seated in the ancient world had another implication. It reminds us that Jesus is not just a savior but he is a teacher.
Luke chapter 4 tells of Jesus being invited to speak to his home town congregation in Nazareth. And verse 20 says “And Jesus closed the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down, and began to teach them….”
In Luke chapter 5 we find Jesus needing to speak to the crowds, so gets into a boat and it reads in verse 3, “And Jesus sat down and taught the people out of the ship.”
In Matthew 5 in the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew tells us “Jesus went up the mountain, and when he was seated his disciples gathered around him.”
Why seated? Crowds could hear better if he was standing. He could project his voice better when standing. But Jesus is adopting the posture of the Rabbis in Israel and most teachers of that ancient world. Talking while standing was for casual conversation, but being seated suggests, “this is a teaching moment. I have something important I need to share.”
It is interesting to note that we call our universities, “Seats of Learning”. And donors endow “Chairs” such as the Robert Lawton Chair of Economics, and so on.
And Jesus is still the primary teacher of the church. He still instructs us through His word, by His Spirit, and through his teaching assistants such as Sunday School teachers & pastors.
For Jesus wants not only to be the one who rescues us from our addiction to sin and its consequences, but he want to teach us how to live life all the days of our life.
3. He is Enthroned as King
There is a third reason, however, for him being seated. Jesus is not simply sitting on a chair. He is seated on a throne.
Being at the right hand signifies more than the elevation to honor and approval. The right hand is the place of authority. When the Judean Kings were crowned they were made co-rulers with God. They were given the power of attorney for God in the affairs of the nation of Israel. When Jesus is placed at His Father’s right hand it indicates that God shares the rule of his Kingdom with His Son as co-regent.
By the way, the language of ruling while seated is still in our language. The Chairman or Chairwoman presides and leads the meeting. We speak about the “Seat of Government.”
This is the reason the early church is aware that Jesus is “Lord.” He is the One who rescues us, Thanks be to God! He is also our prime teacher, and to him we need to listen. But, he is also our “Commander in Chief” and his is the right to command, and ours is the privilege to follow and obey.
Christ is King, enthroned in power, but sharing that power with us through our empowerment by His Holy Spirit.
4. He lives to intercede
The Book of Hebrews, knowing full well that Jesus sits on a King’s throne, is not quite content with that image. Certainly a Throne. A King’s Throne. But the writer of that book knows that Jesus sits also as a Priest. The High Priest of his people.
Listen to his words, (Heb 4:14-16)
“Since then we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession, for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore with confidence draw near to the Throne of Grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
But how does a Priest’s throne differ from a King’s throne. The work of a Priest is to make intercession for the people. He is the “Pontifex” – The bridge between God and humanity. He is to plead for God’s people before God. He is to pray for us. And if the question were asked, what is Jesus doing right now, the New Testament answer is very clear, “He ever lives to make intercession for us.”
Romans 8:34, “Christ died, yes, and was raised, and is seated at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.”
Hebrews 7:25. “Christ is able for all time to save those who approach God through Him, since he lives for ever to make intercession for them.”
Does that mean that he is pleading with his Father to be kind to us, as though God our Father were very reluctant to give us what we need? Oh no. Grave mistake. God is more concerned for our welfare than we ourselves are. From God Himself goes up the best prayers ever prayed for us. As he prayed for his disciples while he lived below, so he continues to pray for us as he lives above. Why? For he not only loved us once upon a time, but loves us all forever.
On the evening before his crucifixion Jesus prayed what is called the High Priestly Prayer. It is probably very close to the kind of prayers he still offers for all of us. In that prayer he prayed for their protection from evil. He prayed for their sanctity. He prayed that they might know joy even in the face of the world’s hate. He prayed for their unity. He prays for their usefulness. He also prayed for all those who would believe because of their witness. He concluded by asking that they would share finally in his glory.
What is Jesus doing for us in these moments? He prays for us and with us. “Where two or three are gathered together in his name, there he is in the midst of us.” When God’s people pray together, Jesus joins with us in such moments.
In my mind I can see Jesus watching the progress of our lives, and as he watches us he sees the crises that come our way. He sees us in our moments of fear and dread. He sees us in our stumblings. He sees us making self-serving decisions, and he prays for us, “O Father keep that one who struggles. Strengthen her life. Fortify his faith. Keep her true. Help him to be kind.”
On the night of Simon Peter’s denial of him Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, I have prayed for you that your faith fail not.” It is my guess that as Jesus watches our lives he prays for us that we might not fail. That we might remain true. And my friends, that is great news. When life has inundated us in its difficulties, there is one who prays for us. He is active on our behalf. When our own prayers are so shallow and ineffectual, there is another whose prayers are deeply rooted in both His goodness and His love.
Jesus as saviour and sacrifice has redeemed us from sin.
He is our prime instructor for the way we are to live life.
He is Lord & King, with the right to command us as his servants.
And he is our prayer partner in all our concerns.
Thanks be to God!