THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER
The Apostle's Creed puts it this way: He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The Nicene Creed is briefer in stating: and sitteth at the right hand of the Father. Either way these are strange words for twentieth century people. We do not live in an age of heroes. But the apostles in the fifth chapter of Acts call Jesus the Hero and Savior. The Greek word usually meant the founding father of a city. When the apostles add "and Savior" to it they mean that Jesus is not content to be the past Hero, but would fight for us forever. That's why He needed witnesses to His ascension. He could have just vanished from sight. Instead, He wanted to drive home the fact that He was going to heaven as a man, slowly, visibly, ending forever His work as the Servant. Jesus was not going to heaven to rest. He was going far higher than the angels, going to that mysterious place we call "the right hand of the Father," to assume His proper role as Lord and King of heaven and earth. But what He means to us has not changed in the least. He remains our Prophet, Priest and King.
What would happen to the Church if there were no Prophet? All their days the disciples had left the big decisions to Jesus. So before He left them, He showed them many infallible proofs that He was indeed risen from the dead. He knew people would say that the Ascension was a convenient way of explaining the absence of the supposedly alive Jesus, sSo for forty days He remained visible and tangible among them. Neither was it only for that generation. Jesus has not left us like sheep without a shepherd. True, the Church is divided. True, people do follow false teachers. That is because they follow their vain imaginations rather than Christ's clear words. Jesus must always be the sole Teacher of the Church. Ministers can be His instruments as long as they are willing to bind themselves to the infallible teachings of the Bible. They must control their desire to speculate, avoid nostrums for social improvement, and forsake bold claims that the Holy Spirit told them some nutty thing or another. The Bible is the voice of Christ. Through the preaching of the Divine Word we can hear our Prophet even today.
Nor would Jesus cast us adrift without a Priest. You can imagine the confusion 2000 years ago when the disciples realized that the time for animal sacrifice had come to an end, but how were they to worship now? First, the Lord assured them that His sacrifice was all-sufficient, that He had offered it once for all. Then, He told them to remember it by means of Holy Communion. Finally, He promised He would intercede for them in heaven. All priestly functions remain with our ascended Lord. He fulfilled what Job had said long ago, Even now my witness is in heaven, and He that vouches for me lives on high.
Jesus is unique in that respect. He alone is truly risen from the dead. His blood atones for our sins. We must not pray to the dead for they cannot hear us. No matter how exemplary the saints might have lived, they have neither the right nor the power to help us now, but Jesus can. Because of the world we live in, we have to be skeptical about many things, but the intercession of Jesus is not one of them. No, He doesn't intercede just by giving us a good example. Hear what St. Paul says in Romans 8:34 It is Christ Jesus who died, yea, who was raised again, who is at the right hand of God and makes intercession for us. He has all the power and glory of God. He can and will hear our prayers. The daughter of Jairus, the widow's son, and Lazarus were all raised from the dead personally by Jesus, but they all died again and are dead now. Jesus lives on.
Nor would Jesus leave us without a King. We are surrounded by human enemies too numerous to mention besides the evil angels and powers of darkness who seek to overwhelm us, but our Leader and Deliverer is in complete control of the situation. A millennium before Jesus David had prophesied: The Lord said to my Lord sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter: rule in the midst of your foes. Yes, in the first instance this is referring to Christ's rule from the cross. No doubt about it, but that is phase one. There is also a phase two, in which His enemies are held down under His feet. As St. Paul tells us in the first chapter of Ephesians: He raised Him from the dead and made him sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above every principality and power and over every name that is named... and has put all things under His feet, and made Him the Head of all things for the sake of the Church. There you have it. From the right hand of God Jesus looks at us and rules in our interest. No matter what may happen to us, do not be afraid because our Lord is still in power. He cannot lose His power. When Stephen, the first of the martyrs, lay dying from the stoning, Jesus strengthened him with a vision. When he saw that, he knew that all was well, that his death was part of God's plan, so he departed in peace. Jesus is our King, too. We must remain confident that He is ruling over all things for the best, no matter how it looks from our earthly perspective.
Dying may be awkward when we look at it from this side, so view it from Christ's eyes, and see it as the entry way to eternal peace. Jesus may have something for us to do there. We really know very little about how we will occupy ourselves in the next life. What He does promise us is no more misery, no more conflict, no more not being able to make ends meet, no more people laughing at us or scolding us. Perhaps the greatest thing of all, in heaven there will be no guilt, past, present, or future. Our Lord Jesus is the King of Glory, the Great Physician who will put an end to all disease, the great Counselor who will settle every contention, the Great Teacher who will end all doctrinal controversies, the Architect who will build the heavenly mansions which will never collapse. He fills heaven and earth from the right hand of the Father. We will always be in His presence, even in this world, and that constitutes paradise. AMEN.
~ Rev. Lloyd E. Gross