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In the early days after becoming a Christian I first heard of this idea that Jesus Christ somehow ‘intercedes’ for me before the Father. I got this out of the book of Hebrews, where Jesus is depicted as our great high priest who stands before the Father for us, as priests in the Old Testament did for the people. When I first heard the idea of Jesus Christ representing me before the Father, it made me think of him going before the throne like this: ‘Good morning, Father, I represent Tim Keller. And my client, I admit it, is having a very, very bad week. He’s broken three or four promises he made to you. He has broken several of your laws that he knows and acknowledges. He has sinned a lot this week. He deserves to be punished— but cut him a break, please, Father? For my sake? I really ask that you give him another chance.’ That’s how I imagined him speaking. And I also imagined the Father saying in reply, ‘Well, all right. Okay. For you, one more chance.’

Now the trouble with that imaginary scenario is that Jesus does not have a case. He is simply pleading for another chance. And I remember thinking, ‘I wonder how long even Jesus can keep that sort of thing up?’ I wondered when the Father would finally say, ‘That does it! I’ve had it!’ But my imagination was ill-informed. It is not sufficient for a lawyer to just resort to tugging on the heartstrings of the jury or the judge, or to try to delay the verdict, or to appeal to technicalities. The lawyer doesn’t need spin or emotional manipulation – but a real case. And that is just what Jesus has.

What is his case? John goes on to tell us in 1 John 2: 2. First, he says, ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ When Jesus goes before the Father he is not actually asking for mercy for us. Of course it was infinitely merciful of God to send Christ to die for us, but that mercy has now been granted, so Jesus does not need to beg for it. 1 John 1: 9 says that ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ Notice it does not say that if Christians confess their sins God forgives because he mercifully gives them another chance. No, it says he forgives because he is faithful and just. To not forgive us would be unjust.

– Tim Keller