No angel, and no mere saint, could work so great a wonder. But Jesus can. He is none other than the Father’s “beloved Son” (Mark 1:11), whom heaven always hears (John 11:42). He is “the righteous” one, “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1–2), whose wounds and words satisfy every claim of justice. And best of all, he is the advocate of the Father’s own appointing. It was the Father who sent Christ, the Father who raised Christ, the Father who installed Christ as our everlasting advocate. All the intercession of Christ, then, only echoes his own heart-love.
He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
Some phrases carry such strong comfort, such enduring consolation, that they ought to be engraved on the walls of the heart. Airplanes ought to write them daily in our spiritual sky. They ought to be carved on every tree in the forest of the soul. “To the uttermost” is such a phrase.
Jesus is able to save to the uttermost. “That word ‘uttermost’ includes all that can be said,” John Newton once wrote. “Take an estimate of all our sins, all our temptations, all our difficulties, all our fears, and all our backslidings of every kind, still the word ‘uttermost’ goes beyond them all.” The word carries the idea of both fullness and finality: Jesus is able to save completely, and he is able to save forever.
And the reason he is able to save his people so fully, so completely, is because “he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). In a world of ever-present danger, we have an ever-praying Savior.
Our Praying Savior
For many, a mist surrounds the present ministry of our exalted Lord. We know Jesus as a past Savior who lived, died, and rose for us. We know him as a future Savior who will come again for us. But now, between the two trumpet blasts of his resurrection and return, we can struggle to speak of him in the present tense. What is Jesus doing right now?
He “is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Though exalted in glory, the head has not forgotten his body, nor the bridegroom his bride, nor the older brother his little siblings. Our great Moses upon the mountain, our true Aaron within the veil, Christ ever keeps us on his heart. He prays for us.
We may wonder, however, what his intercession really means. Does Jesus literally pray to the Father, vocally asking for our deliverance, forgiveness, protection? Some theologians (like Stephen Charnock, 1628–1680) think so, while others (like John Calvin) argue that he intercedes metaphorically, his glorified scars (representing his death) serving as our eternal plea. Either way, how intercession works matters less than what intercession is: at every moment, the living Jesus applies the power of his past sacrifice for our present help.
Like Israel’s high priest of old, who would enter the temple wearing stones upon his chest and shoulders that represented the people (Exodus 28:15–30), so Jesus carries us and our concerns into the very heart of heaven. As Michael Reeves writes, “God the Son came from his Father, became one of us, died our death — and all to bring us back with him to be before his Father like the jewels on the heart of the high priest” (Delighting in the Trinity, 74). Because he died and rose then, Jesus represents us in heaven now, able and willing to save us to the uttermost.
To get a sense of the height and length and breadth and depth of that word uttermost, consider three promises guaranteed by the present prayers of Jesus for his redeemed people.
1. Your faith will not fail you.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. (Luke 22:31–32)
At the dawn of Good Friday, the streets of Jerusalem were stained with the apostle Peter’s tears. The same man who had once leaped from his boat to follow Jesus, and raised his voice to confess Jesus, and walked on the water to meet Jesus somehow, someway found himself denying Jesus. Satan had taken the rock and thrown him like a pebble.
Yet even then, somehow, someway, Peter’s faith did not fail — not completely. Unlike Judas, he would meet Jesus once again by the sea, and once again he would leap from his boat to follow him (John 21:7, 19). And why?