He Sat Down!
God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath is in these last days
spoken unto us
by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins,
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Sitting down is no special thing. Secretaries sit down. Executives sit down. Students sit down much of the time. People sit down to eat their meals. People sit down to watch television. People sit down to socialize. People sit down to relax. Many people spend more time sitting down than lying down or standing up. It is a frequent, familiar, normal position.
Since sitting is a normal and common function, it is of particular interest that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews went out of his way to say that Jesus “sat down.” Only a proper understanding of the historical and cultural background gives the clue to its significance, and, properly understood, the implications are staggering. Perhaps no statement in the Bible is filled with greater importance. But let’s back up for a moment to put that statement in context and give it proper perspective.
God Hath Spoken
The opening thoughts of Hebrews chapter 1 are like a double-barrel shotgun. They are a salvo that blasts into the conscience with amazing force and lasting impact. “God, who at sundry times [that is, progressively throughout the Old Testament] and in diverse manners [that is, through dreams, visions, writing on tablets, direct communication and other means] spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”
That God has spoken is a glorious reality. That God has communicated to His creatures is a truth that grips the soul. God was not obligated to speak. He was under no moral commitment to communicate. He had no debt to pay. The psalmist said, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:3-4).
God is infinitely higher than man. That He spoke is simply an indication of His great grace and condescension. And, make no mistake about it, had He not spoken, man would not know from whence he came, whither he is tending, or how he is to live between those two termini points. If God had not spoken, it would be as though man were in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. If God had not spoken, forget light at the end of the tunnel; there would not even be a tunnel. If God had not spoken, men would be adrift in a storm with neither map nor compass.
But – blessed reality – God has spoken! He spoke in the Old Testament economy through prophets. God has spoken “in these last days” through His Son. And because He has spoken there is an answer to our question – a solution to our problem – a hope for our end. The phrase “last days” speaks of messianic expectation. The Jewish people understood that one day the Messiah (Christ) would come, and when He appeared He would reveal to men complete and final truth – all that men would ever need to know. The Samaritan woman, meeting Jesus at the well, understood that concept fully; she said, “I know that Messiah cometh, who is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things” (Jn. 4:25).
God has spoken in His Son, a completed and perfected revelation. That revelation is the New Testament. For men today to suggest, as many do, that they have added revelation – some new truth, an inside track that others have not known – is the height of pride and presumption. God has spoken conclusively and with finality through His Son – oh glorious reality!
Men Should Listen And Obey
There are six reasons – powerful, logical, overwhelming – why men should listen to what God has said through His Son. Not to listen is to play the fool and pay tragic consequences.
First, He is the Heir of all things. He is the Possessor of Heaven and earth. He is the first begotten Son. As such, He has the right of primogeniture, the right of the firstborn. Concerning that royal inheritance, the Father said to the Son, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:8). Men should heed His Word because He is Heir to all things.
Secondly, He is the Creator. When one reads in the holy Scriptures, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), Jesus participated in that creation. And when the beloved Apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:1, 3), the apostle was stating that Jesus participated in creation, and that is succinctly set forth in the words, “by whom also he made the worlds.” Men should heed His Word because He created all things.
Thirdly, Jesus is “the brightness of his [the Father’s] glory.” The point being made is crucial. The incarnated Son of God was not simply a mirror-like reflection of the Father’s glory; He literally and actually manifested the glory of the Father.
The holiness of the invisible Father could be seen in the visible Son. The truth of the invisible Father could be seen in the visible Son. The love, the grace, the mercy, the longsuffering and the goodness of the invisible Father could be seen in the incarnated and, therefore, visible Son; for His is, in truth, “the brightness of his glory.”’ Men should heed His Word because He manifests the attributes of the Heavenly Father.
Fourthly, Jesus is “the express image of his [the Father’s] person.” For life to exist, there must also exist substance or essence. Without some kind of substance, there can be no existence. Everything that lives possesses substance. Man possesses a physical substance. It is a visible, corporeal (corpse shape), mortal, corruptible, finite substance. God possesses a spirit substance. It is a substance of a different kind, but just as real. God’s substance is invisible, immortal, incorruptible, non-corporeal (non-corpse-like) and infinite. And the Son of God throughout all of eternity past possessed the same substance as the Father. Only in time did He take on human substance.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:5-6). “Form” is here a synonym for substance or essence. Jesus did not think it robbery (a thing to be grasped) to be equal with God because He was of the same substance. But, because of man’s desperate need He emptied Himself of appropriate divine prerogatives and took on human flesh (man’s substance for a time) to redeem men from the fall.
During His earthly sojourn, men could see Him and touch Him; but that very same Jesus existed in eternity past before He took on human substance and possessed divine substance. Of Him the Prophet Micah wrote, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2). There could be no clearer declaration of the deity and equality of Jesus with God the Father than is made in the statement “Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are of the same substance but distinct in subsistence. That is, they can exist apart from one another. Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan; the Father spoke out of Heaven; and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove (Mt 3:13-17). Men should heed His Word because He is equal with the Father.
Fifthly, He is the Sustainer of all things. The atoms that comprise the physical universe are held in place through His infinite power. It is through Him that all things adhere or hold together. If for one instant Jesus should take His hand off the controls of the universe, it would disintegrate into nothing.
Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36). All things are of Him – He is the Creator. All things are through Him – He is the Sustainer. All things are to Him – He is the Consummator. All things have their origin, movement and conclusion in Him. All that is summed up in the words, “and upholding all things by the word of his power.” Men should heed His Word because He is at the controls of the universe.
Sixthly, it is this very same Jesus who, having created a perfect world, stooped to redeem that lost creation. Rebellion by man required redemption by God. And so, Jesus “purged our sins.” He did it “by himself.” The deliberate play on words must not be overlooked: “when he had by himself purged our sins.” The thought is this: Jesus was the One who offered a sacrifice to the Father for sin. Jesus was the sacrifice that was offered. The job of the high priest – and such was Jesus – was to offer a sacrifice to God for sin. But since God is infinite and eternal, only a sacrifice that is infinite and eternal could satisfy (propitiate) an infinite, holy God. And since Jesus himself was the only sacrifice that qualified, He offered Himself. He knew full well that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. They were temporary, stopgap, imperfect, placed to one’s account until that perfect sacrifice was offered. And so, Jesus, as our great High Priest, offered a sacrifice for sin and then turned around and was Himself the sacrifice that was offered. He was both the agent and the object.
The emphasis in the Word of God is not so much on what wicked men did to Jesus, but on what Jesus did for man. He said of Himself, “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28); and on another occasion, “No man taketh it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (Jn. 10:18). When Peter, well-intentioned but without understanding, tried to intervene and prevent the Lord’s arrest, Jesus would gently rebuke His beloved apostle and say, “Put up again thy sword into its place. . .Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how, then, shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be [that is, His death]?” (Mt 26:52-54).
Jesus was undiminished deity and perfect humanity. His logic was, therefore, flawless, His communication skills perfect. Why then did He not speak up in His own defense before Roman rulers? Why did He choose to remain silent? Hear the eloquent prophet of old; “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb [does not make a sound], so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). He did not defend Himself because He came to die, “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). Jesus was not trying to stay off of Calvary; He was fighting to get onto that tree. For that purpose came He into the world (Jn. 18:37). Men should heed His Word – He died to save them.
Men ought to listen to what the Son has to say. He is the Heir of all things; the Creator of all things; the One who alone manifests God’s glory; the One who possesses the same substance as the Father and is, therefore, equal with the Father; the One who upholds all things; the One who provides redemption for all who call on God through Him – rather impressive credentials! A company pays for television time and every ten or twelve minutes interrupts the show to say, Now a word from the sponsor. Jesus created the universe. He is the source of life and light, He has spoken. He has given His “commercial,” but most men refuse to listen.
He Sat Down – The Work Is Finished
The Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ took 46 years to build. It was not that the Jews were slow builders; it was that the Temple was that magnificent. By today’s standards, it would cost billions of dollars. We know a great deal about that Temple and its furnishings, but, fascinatingly, there were no chairs in this billion-dollar building which took 46 years to complete. There were no chairs because the priests of Israel never sat down. They never sat down because their work was never done. Their work was never done because the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. It was stopgap; it was temporary; it was incomplete. And so, priest after priest, course after course, year after year, century after century, with monotonous repetition, would come to the Temple; and they would function, but they would never sit down. They could never rest for their work was never done, the task was never completed. But Jesus offered a sacrifice that was infinite; he offered a sacrifice that was eternal. You cannot improve on infinity; you cannot add to eternality. And so, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice once and for all. The work was done; it never had to be repeated. He sat down. That is the significance of His triumphant words on Calvary, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).
He Sat Down – His Position Is Fixed
Jesus had offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin. On the third day, He arose from the grave. Forty days later, He ascended into Heaven. And in Heaven, He “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The right hand, in the ancient world, was the place of power, honor and authority. The Levitical priests of ancient Israel functioned in the Temple and then withdrew. Even the high priest – with fear and trembling and with the blood of a slain animal – entered beyond the veil into the presence of God once a year, sprinkling the blood as he went. He never sat down, and from thence he would quickly withdraw.
At the death of Jesus, the Temple veil was rent from top to bottom, signifying that through the great High Priest, men now had access to God. Jesus alone, predicated on a perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice, is seated “on the right hand of the Majesty” – not simply as our great High Priest, but now as our King-Priest. He has ascended to the Father. He has been enthroned with great power and honor. He sat down. His position is fixed. He ever liveth to make intercession for all those who place their faith in Him (Heb. 7:25).
He Sat Down – The Implications Are Staggering
Israel’s ancient priests functioned on the earth in a Tabernacle made with hands. Jesus, as our great High Priest, has gone into the very throne room of God himself in Heaven. The writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus has not gone into a Tabernacle made with hands – which was the shadow, the type, the illustration, the object lesson – but He has gone into Heaven itself, “now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24).
The job of the ancient priest was to offer a sacrifice for sin and then to take the blood of that sacrifice into the presence of the Sovereign to intercede on behalf of the people. Jesus is enthroned “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” There He serves as our great High Priest. He functions as our advocate and intercessor. He pleads the sinner’s cause. Satan is the accuser of the believer; but Jesus, predicated upon a sacrifice infinite in worth and eternal in duration, is ever ready to plead our cause and say, But Father, I shed My blood for those sins.
Jesus sat down; the work is done. Jesus sat down; His position is fixed. Jesus sat down; the implications are staggering. He sat down that men, through Him, might stand up and become forever the sons and daughters of God.