A sermon by Rev Richard Keith on Psalm 110:1 and Hebrews 1:1-4 on Sunday 24 May 2020
Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t just sit there, do something”? It’s a call to action. It’s the announcement that the time for rest has finished, and it is now time to get busy. I understand what people mean when they say it, but I wonder if it’s fair. I mean, I don’t know about you, but over the last couple of months I’ve been sitting down a lot, more than usual. And I’ve never felt busier. After all, there’s a lot of things you can do, sitting down. Right now, I’m breathing in and out, I’m digesting my breakfast, I’m talking, in fact, I’m preaching, and I’m doing it all while sitting down. There are hundreds of things you can do while sitting down. You can read a book. You can watch a movie. You can plan your future. You can make life changing decisions.
The Apostles’ Creed tells us that the Lord Jesus is sitting down. That’s what he’s doing right now. Everything the creed says about Jesus up to that point is about the past. “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. He rose again on the third day. He ascended to heaven.” They tell us what happened to Jesus or what he did in the past. Long ago. In the thirteenth article of the Creed there is a statement about his future. “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” But the twelfth article tells us what Jesus is doing right now. “He is seated at the right hand of the Father.” The Lord Jesus is sitting down and he is not doing nothing. In fact he is doing at least four things at the same time.
Firstly, he is ruling. That’s what it means to sit at the right hand of the Father. The Father is the great king. He sits upon his throne in heaven. He is the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. By whom and for whom all things were made. Everyone else in his throne room is standing ready to serve or kneeling in submission. But his beloved son is seated at his right hand side. The right hand is a position of trust and of influence. The one at the king’s right hand can give advice and can receive instructions. It is the place reserved for the king’s most trusted advisor or for his heir.
The Lord Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and ascended, is the Father’s beloved son and the sole heir to his kingdom. He had been sent on a mission to earth, to announce the kingdom of God, to proclaim the great king’s rule. But the rulers of Judah refused to recognise his claim. They dismissed his words. They grabbed him, and insulted him. They whipped him and crucified him. And he died in weakness and shame. But the great king raised him up. The Father vindicated his faithful son. He proved him right and defended his claim. He restored his honour and power and welcomed him home. And now he sits at the right hand of the Father. He is not doing nothing. You would not dare to stride into his presence and to look him in the eye and say, “Don’t just sit there, do something.” Because the heir of the kingdom of God, his beloved son is ruling.
As David prophesied in Psalm 110 in a verse quoted in the New Testament more times than any other,
The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
A prophecy fulfilled in Jesus. The right hand is a position of honour. It is a position of power and authority. Jesus is king of kings and lord of lords.
This is the heart of the gospel, God’s good news. The heart of the gospel is not that God loves you, although he does. The heart of the gospel is not that God has a wonderful plan for your life, although he has. The heart of the gospel is not that God has provided a way for you to enjoy heaven forever, although he has. God has good news for you, but his good news is not about you. The gospel is about Jesus. It’s message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. It’s not about you it’s about him. He is risen from the dead and he is Lord. As Peter said in Acts chapter 2.
God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Of course God loves you. I don’t mean he doesn’t. Of course he does have a wonderful plan for your life. But his good news isn’t about you, it’s about his Son. Jesus is Lord. He sits at the right hand of the Father, and he rules. He is the sole head and ruler of his church, and his people live by his word and they do what he says.
Secondly, the Lord Jesus is pleading. He is interceding for us before the Father. To sit at the right hand of the great king is not just a position of power. It is also a position of influence. Because the great king sees all and hears all. He knows his own mind and everything works out according to his plan. But because he has also revealed his will to his son, he bends his head to the right to listen to what he says. And when the Lord Jesus speaks, he speaks for his people, his followers, for those who have submitted to his rule and are members of his body. He is our advocate. He speaks on our behalf before the great king. Because he loves us. He gave his life for us.
In Romans chapter 8, Paul asks a question and then answers it himself.
Who will condemn us? Not Christ Jesus, who died, more than that, who was raised to life. He is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
The Lord Jesus uses his influence on our behalf for our good. He prays for us before the Father.
It’s like the old saying. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It’s a fact of life. Some of the best opportunities we get in life will come, not because of who we are or what we’ve achieved, but because of who we know, the friends we’ve made in high places. When we apply for a job, the marks we got at school and the awards we’ve won are insignificant compared to good references from people who know us, from people whom others know and trust.
And the Bible is full of things that you can know, that people can teach and you can learn. But the most important thing is that the Bible teaches you who to know. And if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you have a friend in the highest place.
When we pray and we pray in Jesus’ name, we don’t do it to let God know that we’ve almost finished. We pray in Jesus’ name because he is the one who has given us the right to pray to the Father, and because he is the one who is praying with us and for us. Not for what we want. But for what we need. For mercy. For grace. For strength. For courage. For faith. He sits at the right hand of the Father and he is not doing nothing. He has the Father’s ear and he is pleading for us.
Thirdly, he is resting from his work. Nothing beats a good sit down after a hard day’s work. I love those days when I’ve worked hard and been productive and I’m on schedule and at 5 or 6 o’clock I can just switch my mind from all my work and just relax. Nothing beats a good sit down after a hard day’s work.
The book of Hebrews reminds us that there is a very good reason why the Lord Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father. It is because his work has finished. His work of providing a sacrifice of atonement for our sin is at an end. Hebrews chapter 1 verse 3 says,
After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
“After he had provided purification”, when the work was done, when the job was over, he sat down. Hebrews chapter 10 is even clearer. These verses talks about the Old Testament priests who served in the temple in Jerusalem, offering the blood of sheep and bulls.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Jesus had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
The priests of the old Testament stood because their work was never done. Their offerings of the blood of animals never took away sin. But Jesus sits, because he offered himself and that sacrifice last forever. As he said with his last breath upon the cross, “it is finished.” There is no need to add to his work. Either by him or me or you.
The minister is not your priest. He is simply your servant, leading public worship and preaching God’s word. The moderator of NSW and ACT is not your high priest. He is simply the servant to the servants. Your priest is in heaven and he is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Not because he isn’t doing anything, but because he is resting from his labours. There is nothing more that needs to be done for your salvation except that you respond, that you repent and believe God’s promise.
And fourthly, he is waiting. As David prophesied,
The Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.
He sits “until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” For a time will come when the court of the great king will sit and the Son will stand to execute judgment on the wicked and to save for all time those who have taken refuge in him.
For example, Acts chapter 7 tells how the evangelist Stephen was grabbed by a mob and dragged before the council of Jewish leaders and elders. Just when they were about to carry out their sentence, just as they were picking up the stones to hurl at him, Stephen received a vision of the lord Jesus in heaven. Stephen said,
Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.
Not sitting, but standing. An appropriate posture to stand in judgment against this unjust execution and to receive his faithful servant into his presence.
It’s an important reminder that the lord Jesus isn’t chained to his chair. He isn’t kept there against his will to stop him from helping us. Nor is he some kind of lounge lizard, too lazy to get up from his chair. But he is sitting, waiting for the time appointed by his Father. And when it comes he will stand and the whole world will be brought to judgment before him and he will welcome into his presence his faithful people.
…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In conclusion, the Lord Jesus was born and lived and died and was raised to new life and ascended to heaven. And one day he will come again to judge the living and the dead. But right now he is sitting at the right hand of the Father. And he is not doing nothing. He is ruling as king of kings. He is pleading for us, praying with us and for us. He is resting from his completed work of atonement. And he is waiting for the day when he rid the world of injustice and evil.
It means that we can trust him. We can entrust our lives to him. We too can rest in his completed work. And we can wait patiently for his coming when he will wipe away every tear from our face. Come, Lord Jesus, come.