The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was ‘perfected’ on three occasions. We have examined how Jesus was perfected in Gethsemane and on the cross. Now we come to see how he was perfected through his resurrection.
The word ‘perfected’ does not, of course, mean that Jesus had some moral blemish or flaw. As we have seen, it refers rather to his being equipped to carry out the task of redemption.
Hebrews 7:28 states: ‘the Son … has been perfected for ever’. Linked with verses 23-24, these words must be understood as a reference to Christ’s resurrection. But how did the resurrection ‘perfect’ or equip the Lord Jesus Christ? What additional redemptive equipment did the Lord Jesus take up when he rose from the dead?
The work of a priest
Recalling Jesus’ cry on the cross – ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30) – some may argue that Jesus did not need to do anything more. But what he finished on the cross was the provisionof redemption – its applicationis ongoing.
I am saying that the resurrection enabled Jesus to carry out this work of applying his justifying work because it gave him permanence as the High Priest of his people.
Now, it was the job of the high priest to represent his people before God, but to do so he had to be one of them.
When Jesus rose from the grave, therefore, he did so in our humanity. Yes, it was resurrected humanity but it was still our humanity. And in that humanity he ascended to the Father in heaven, where he now reigns as our High Priest.
If Jesus’ body had decayed in the tomb, and he had simply returned to his pre-incarnate heavenly state, he would not be able to function as our High Priest.
The work of intercession
So Jesus’ resurrection equipped him with permanent humanity, enabling him to carry on his work as our High Priest. But what is he actually doing in this role?
Hebrews tells us: ‘Because he continues for ever [he] has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he ever lives to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 7:24-25).
Jesus’ ongoing priestly work is to make continual intercession for his people. The risen and ascended Christ saves sinners ‘to the uttermost’ by making unending ‘intercession’ for them.
The intercessory work of Jesus takes us into the realm of ‘infinities and immensities’. Who can understand it? Moreover, there is a particular mystery here. Hebrews tells us elsewhere that ‘having offered one sacrifice for sins for ever [Christ] sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till his enemies are made his footstool’ (Hebrews 10:12-13).
In that sense, he has finished his redeeming work and simply awaits its outcome. Yet at the same time the Lord Jesus Christ is constantly at work, interceding on behalf of his people that they might attain to glory. How can we reconcile these two concepts?
Supply of the Spirit
Basically, it is Jesus’ living presence in heaven as ‘the lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8) that constituteshis intercession for us, allowing us to come to the Father through him. But at the same time he is actively engaged in the support and sustenance of his people.
Of Christ’s intercession J. I. Packer says, ‘it primarily means, not making requests alone, but actively intervening in a situation on someone’s behalf to do whatever necessary to secure their welfare’.
How does Christ so intervene? By means of his Holy Spirit – by what Paul calls ‘the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:19). It is the Spirit who ‘helps our weaknesses’ and ‘makes intercession for us [i.e. on our behalf] with groanings that cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26). He is truly our helper.
Whatever your need, child of God, you can come to Christ with the confidence that he can and will help.
The consequences of intercession
What are the results of Christ’s intercession? The author tells us: ‘because he continues for ever … he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him’ (vv. 24-25).
To ‘save to the uttermost’ means to save completely. Kent Hughes writes, ‘The term “completely” is unusual, being used elsewhere only in Luke 11:31, and combines the idea of completeness with the idea of eternality: “for all time”. It means complete, absolute, total, eternal salvation’.
If Christ saves completely, there is absolutely nothing that we can do to contribute to salvation or to earn it. The apostle Paul makes this plain: ‘by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Finally, the fact that Jesus bears our humanity in heaven means that all he saves will inevitably follow. Christ has entered heaven as our forerunner (Hebrews 6:20).
The word ‘forerunner’ means that he is more than our representative – he has gone ahead of us and we will most surely follow in our own resurrected humanity. Jesus will return for his redeemed ones – to raise the dead and rapture the living (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
He is the perfect Saviour because he saves perfectly.