We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In particular we’ve been looking at how Christ was exalted. We’ve seen that he was exalted by his resurrection and ascension into heaven. Another way that Christ is exalted is by his sitting at the right hand of God – also known as his session.
In our society, we recognise that those who are exalted are people who are allowed to be close to the rich and powerful. If a certain celebrity or powerful politician permits you to come into their presence and sit next to them, you are an exalted person. Otherwise their bodyguards would repel all your attempts to get near them.
So if Jesus is allowed to sit down at God’s right hand, then God has exalted him. And that is exactly what Christ has done.
Jesus knew he would sit at God’s right hand and told others this truth. In fact, it was Jesus’ prediction that he would sit at God’s right hand that led to his execution. At his trial before the Jewish priests, we read: ‘The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered’ (Matthew 26:63-66).
The Jewish priests knew exactly what Christ was claiming by saying that he would sit at God’s right hand. Jesus was claiming a level of exaltation that they simply could not believe or tolerate. And so they killed him.
But the right hand of God is exactly where Jesus went. Peter tells the crowd: ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear’ (Acts 2:32-33). And as a result we read people were ‘cut to the heart ‘ and became Christians.
Moreover, Stephen actually sees Christ at God’s right hand: ‘But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him’ (Acts 7:55-58). Once again we see that the Jews knew what sitting at God’s right hand meant and couldn’t bear the thought of such exaltation.
So what are you going to do about the news that the Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God? Are you going to react violently to such news as some of the Jews did in the Scriptures? Or are you going to believe in Christ and exalt him too?