Hebrews 7:11-28 “Intercess”
I have never shared this in a sermon, but I know some of you know this already about me: I am really good with a gun. In fact, a friend who used to like to practice targets shooting with me calls me a “dead eye.” The first time he used that phrase with me I had to laugh. The fact of the matter is, I really do have a dead eye. I am blind in my right eye. I have come to assume that this strange liability that does not allow me to judge distances, that is to say that I have no depth perception, actually is really helpful for hitting targets. When one takes aim, one should close one eye, right? That act is perfectly natural for me.
The other strange thing that happens when I shoot is that because I am right handed but can only use my left eye, I end up supporting the gun with my stronger hand. I only use my weaker hand to touch the trigger. Put all this happenstance together, and I end up being reasonable good at hitting the bulls-eye on the target. I am trying to stay humble here.
My wife is here to keep me humble, too. She is a better shot than me and likes the Colt 45 handgun rather than the 22 rifle. She gets a kick out of it.
What does this all have to do with the text for this morning. I want to talk about intercession today because of what verse 25 tells us here: “Consequently He is able for all time to save those who approach God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” If you were wondering through this very long and highly theological speech in Hebrews 7 what the crux of the discussion is, this it!
First, having to do with “intercession.” What does intercession mean actually? If you are in a regular four year college, then you might think that “intersession” is that wonderful time between semesters that you can go home to be with family or plan outrageous trips with your college chums. That is a homophone of course! That is not what it means!
What we have here is a really great word in the Greek! Εντυγχάνειν is the word. If you use your imagination and think that the word might actually mean what it sounds like, that it is onomatopoeic, then you might come up with “to hit.” Do you hear it? “Tougch”! It is the sound of something hitting a target actually. Hear the arrow going in. “Entougch” means precisely hitting a target.
This is so cool when we consider that the Greek word that is always being used in the New Testament for “sin” is “αρματία” (harmatia) , and it actually means to “miss the mark” or “not hit the target.” When we talk about what Jesus does for us in this world, in this life that we lead, it is that he causes us to finally “entougch” or hit the target.
If our target in this life is to leave this world to join God in that New Jerusalem that has been prepared for us, then we really do not have a shot at hitting that on our own. We ALL miss the mark and cannot hit that target. We all have sin in our bones and flesh that make that impossible.
When I was a boy growing up in La Habra, California, we had a community-wide festival once a year, not unlike our Waimea Town Celebration. It was called the La Habra Corn Festival. They used to grow a lot of corn in the area. So, our family would go down to the Corn Festival where there was a circus going on. It was nice little circus. No elephants or tigers. They did have a high wire act and even a cannon for shooting a man into a net.
I remember sitting there in the bleachers waiting for the man to be shot out of the canon. There was so much talking. Finally the man gave a wave to the audience and slid himself into the tube. A girl with a snare drum gave a drum roll. The grand master of the circus pulled a rope at the bottom, and the man came out about ten feet across the lawn and landed in the net just fine. Everybody clapped politely. Honestly, he did not go that far, and we were all kind of disappointed. Well, the corn was good!
Now compare that to the Ascension of Jesus Christ in Acts 1! Acts 1:9 and on: “When he has said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. . . .” And there is the crux of the issue, our target is out of sight! Only Jesus can get us to heaven because He is out of sight! How can you hit that target if you cannot even see it? It would be like my shooting out of my right eye. I am not going to hit a thing!
I want to make sure we contextualize this to the Jews in Rome in the First Century AD. That is the original target audience. How did this hit them? In verse 26 of Hebrews 7 we read: “For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens, unlike the other high priests. . . .” Did you get that? “Unlike the other high priests.”
The Jews in Rome had been going to the other high priests all of their lives. Yet, these other priests were obviously filled with sin, if for no other reason we see that they all died. In fact the Romans had just gone through and killed most if not all of them.
Jesus lives forever continuously. He is “blameless.” Now I know you just want to hear another Greek word this morning! Right? Okay, just one more because I know you love them soooo much. This word for Jesus being “blameless” is ακακα (a-ka-ka). So, the initial “a” we know means “the opposite of” in Greek. What does “kaka” mean? WE all know the word because we still use it in English. So, here we have the Bible literally saying to the Jews of Rome that the priests they had before are “kaka.” Their bodies are decaying in the earth. Why would you ever go to someone who is “kaka”?
I need to explain something that you may have already noticed about the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus never assumed the role of a priest. When we talk about priestly functions in the church, Jesus never really did any of that. Jesus never performed the sacrament of marriage. Jesus never baptized. Jesus never welcomed anyone into church membership. Jesus never said last rights for anyone—in fact just the opposite, he liked raising people up like Lazarus!
Ha, what about communion? He did do the communion rights and serve the priestly function at the Last Supper, right? Well, technically not. What Jesus did was say that as “often as you eat or drink, do this in remembrance of me.” (Check 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). That means that Jesus never said that we must go to a priest who will say the exact words of institution for us, then only hold up a cup during worship because of Covid! Quite the opposite. Every time we eat, we must do so in remembrance that Jesus was once here living in flesh and blood among us and also ate and drank as we do.
In this is the idea that was echoed by our Protestant forebears Martin Luther and John Calvin. They base their understanding on that of a “priesthood of all believers.” That is to say, we should all be baptizing, endorsing marriage, laying on hands in healing, and remembering Christ when we eat. We just do not have to be wearing fancy robes when we do it, too!
We should all be reminded that during the ministry days of Jesus on this planet, it was always the ones wearing the priestly garb that were causing Jesus so many problems. They were the “kaka” priests. Now that we all have Jesus as our true undying sharpshooter, we can finally hit the target that we could not even really see before.
Anybody remember the final scenes of the original Star Wars movie when Luke Skywalker is flying his x-wing fighter against the giant deaths star? Luke has all of his computer guidance to help him target the vent that will lead to the power core of the death star. As he makes his approach, he suddenly hears the voice of his dead mentor Obi Wan Kanobi: “Luke, use the Force.” Luke then turns off all of his missile guidance systems and aim manually. That is the perfect example of intercession as we must come to realize from our Scripture this morning.
Whenever I know that I cannot accomplish anything, I turn it over to Jesus who can. When I go to a hospital bed and realize that there is no way that I can heal a person there, I know that Jesus can. So, I pray in the name of Jesus to intercede—to hit the mark and get it right. Jesus just “entougch”! I keep missing it, but He hits the target every time.