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He always lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:25
Michael Ramsey was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, reigning from 1961-1974. In 1979 he wrote a fantastic little book called The Christian Priest Today in which he has a number of short chapters about various aspects of the priesthood. Many of these chapters were addresses or homilies said to a group of seminarians. Chapter 3 is called Man of Prayer, and is a marvelous reflection on the prayer life of the priest. Although it is written especially for, to, and about priests, the insights about prayer are valuable for any Christian seeking growth in closeness with God. Each of these fifteen posts (which I will endeavor to maintain as a weekly series on Thursdays) is a reflection on one paragraph from the late Archbishop’s chapter, Man of Prayer, from his book The Christian Priest Today.
But we may go deeper, and when we do so we find the concept of the interceding high priest simpler still. When we say “he lives to make intercession” we note that the verb εντυγχανειν which we habitually translate “intercede” means literally not to make petitions or indeed to utter words at all but to meet to encounter, to be with someone on behalf of or in relation to others. Jesus is with the Father; with him in the intimate response of perfect humanity; with him in the power of Calvary and Easter; with him as one who bears us all upon his heart, our Son of Man, our friend, our priest; with him as our own. That is the continuing intercession of Jesus the high priest.
Archbishop Ramsey here takes us deeper into the simplicity of the definition of intercession. Normally we think of it as praying on behalf of someone else; this is true, but the direct translation of the Greek word for ‘intercession’ has a more vivid basic translation: “to meet with someone.” And thus, in the context of prayer, this means that to intercede for someone means to be with God on behalf of someone else. It’s just not the talking, it’s the personal time, the intimate presence.
This explains Jesus’ high priesthood by showing that, as the perfect human, he is the one who perfectly fulfills that call to be with God in heaven to be with him on behalf of his people. So if you want to be close to God, make sure Jesus is your high priest, because Jesus is the only high priest who is always and perfectly in the Father’s presence.