Paul tells us that the first priority of a Christian assembly is prayer. He mentions various forms of prayer, of which one is intercession. To ‘intercede’ means literally “to come in between.” The intercessor is one who comes in between God and those who deserve His just wrath and punishment. They lift their hands to God and say, “God, these deserve Your judgement; You have every right to punish; but if You do, You have to punish me first, because I am standing in between You and them.” In the Old Testament we find various accounts of cities and nations being spared God’s judgement through the ministry of an intercessor. We will study some of these examples, but first, let us consider the ministry of intercession in the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Intercession was one of the great marks of the ministry of Jesus. Isaiah 53 gives a description of His atoning work, concluding with verse 12:
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
There are four things recorded there of Jesus. First, He poured out His soul unto death. Leviticus 17:11 says that the soul of all flesh is in the blood, so Jesus poured out His soul unto death when He poured out His blood.
Second, He was numbered with the transgressors; He was crucified with thieves. Third, He bore the sin of many; He became the sin offering for us all. Fourth, He made intercession for the transgressors; He did this from the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). He was saying, “The judgement that is due to them, let it come upon Me.” And it did.
Hebrews 7 speaks of Jesus after His death, resurrection and ascension. We’re told that Jesus is our High Priest at God’s right hand. Because He has an unchangeable priesthood, one that never passes from Him, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
If we do a study of the life and ministry of Jesus, we arrive at a rather interesting comparison: He spent thirty years in obscurity in perfect family life; three and a half years in dramatic public ministry; and nearly two thousand years in intercession, unseen by the natural eye. Ever since He ascended He has been interceding for us before the Father.