How Intercessory Prayer Works in Christ According to the Bible


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Does the Bible tell us to go ‘directly to Jesus’, or is there something else it reveals about Christian intercessory prayer?

Among those sections that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, independent of Mark, have in common, almost all are directly didactic. That is to say, those sections almost invariably consist of the explicit teachings of Jesus, with no attention to events in Jesus’ life. Those shared sections convey, for instance, the sort of material we find in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7) and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (6:20-49). When, on the other hand, Matthew and Luke do tell a common story about Jesus’ life, Mark has that story too.

The clear exception to this pattern is Matthew’s and Luke’s narrative of the centurion who sought healing for his cherished servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). As an account of a person beseeching the Lord on behalf of someone else, this shared narrative resembles other stories in the gospels, such as Jairus and the Syro-Phoenician woman praying for their daughters (Mark 5:23; 7:24-30), and another man and a centurion pleading for their sons (9:17; John 4:46-53). These are all accounts of intercessory prayer on behalf of loved ones, especially parents praying for their children.

Such stories surely had a great influence on the patterns of Christian intercessory prayer. We note, for instance, that the petitions in these accounts are addressed to Jesus. Although in Jesus’ specific teaching about prayer, the normal emphasis was on prayer addressed to the heavenly Father (Luke 11:2) in Jesus’ name (John 15:16), the emphasis is different in these particular gospel stories. One of their singular values is that they unambiguously answer a practical question that might arise among Christians, namely,

“If one of your children gets sick, is there some special Trinitarian protocol to follow, or is it all right just to take the problem right to Jesus?”

However, the idea of taking one’s problems “right to Jesus” is surely not to be understood in the sense of foregoing the mediating prayer of others. It is not as though the unique mediation of Jesus our Lord (1 Timothy 2:5) excludes certain saints from mediating on behalf of other saints, and these various Gospel stories are the proof of it. In fact, it is the entire point and the whole business of the foregoing stories to validate such mediation. This is called intercessory prayer.

To see how this works out, let us return to the story of the centurion pleading on behalf of his servant. If we compare the differing accounts of this event in Matthew and Luke, we first observe that Matthew’s is the shorter and simpler version. In this account the centurion simply goes to Jesus, requesting that the Lord speak the commanding word, so that the servant will be healed. It takes only six verses.

In Luke, however, the story requires ten verses and is considerably more complicated. First, the centurion himself does not approach Jesus directly. He sends some friends who will speak for him. Now this is interesting, because it introduces another level of mediation. The friends are interceding for the centurion, who is in turn interceding for his servant. We have here the beginnings of a prayer list, as it were.

Then, when Jesus starts moving towards the centurion’s home, the latter dispatches still another group of friends, who will speak the famous words that characterize this story:

“I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”

It is surely significant that the centurion does not speak these words, deeply personal as they are, to Jesus directly. Others say them to Jesus on the centurion’s behalf. In Luke’s version of the story, in fact, there is no face-to-face encounter of the centurion with Jesus at all. The centurion’s faith is conveyed by those he chooses to intercede for him.

Finally, in Luke’s version of the story, there is a striking parallel, surely deliberate, between this centurion and Cornelius in Chapter 10 of the Acts of the Apostles. Both of these centurions send others to speak on their behalf, and in each case the one solicited—Jesus in the first and Simon Peter in the second—goes immediately to respond to the need. At this point the two stories start to form a contrast.

In the first instance the centurion, wanting to spare Jesus the uncleanness of entering a gentile house, solicits His aid from a distance.

In the case of Peter and Cornelius, however, the barrier between Jew and gentile has now been removed forever, and Peter comes to his home.



How Intercessory Prayer Works in Christ According to the Bible

The Sole Forum Where Creation Can Examine Itself


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

The thinking man, if he wants his thought about freedom to be complete, must also reflect—on the basis of his own experience—that freedom is inseparable from consciousness and the conscious experience of pursuing and discerning truth. If freedom is really free, it must be part of self-reflective thought, or logos; otherwise freedom would be identical with chaos. To say that man is truly free, then, implies that he is gifted with the ability to think reflectively. He is self-determined because he is self-conscious.

In this consideration we are touching man’s special place in the Universe. According to St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-395), this complex psychological quality is what confers on the human being his dominance over all other things. Adam was—and knew himself to be—the head of the Cosmos, its sole deliberative agent. “Self-governed and directed autocratically by his own will,” man’s

“nature was, from the beginning, crafted for royalty (tyrannis).”

The human being, then, is not only a part of the Universe; he is also the thinking part. Human thought is the only place where the Cosmos is conscious, critical, self-reflective, and free. The human mind is the sole forum where Creation can examine itself, render an assessment, and even make cognitive adjustments as they are required. For this reason, man is the only being capable of perverting what God has made.

The human being is also the only part of the created Universe where thoughts—both interpretive ideas and thoughts of resolve—are deliberately chosen. Man’s mind, we noted, is conscious of being free; indeed, cognitive freedom and critical self-reflection are so bound together that man may experience them as identical.

In this respect, man’s mind is the sole portion of the Universe where “effects” cannot be adequately explained by purely physical causes. Man is innately aware of this freedom, nor does it take him very long to infer the moral responsibility it imposes upon his life. He is the only being in the Universe that can choose, but his choices are felt everywhere.

The human being, then, is the only place where the Cosmos itself can deliberately, intentionally change its mind. Man’s organic and formal cohesion to the rest of material Creation is the reason Adam, when he fell, took the Universe down with him. For all of its brevity Genesis 3:6—

“she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat”

—identifies the metaphysical mix-up of Creation itself. When the Universe fell into confusion and death, it fell head first.

Saint Paul is explicit on this point.

“Through one man,” he wrote, “he hamartia eis ton Kosmon eiselthen, sin entered into the Cosmos, and, by sin, death” (Romans 5:12).

In Adam everything—ta panta—succumbed to mortality and metaphysical bondage, and the very Universe became a medium of confusion and corruption. From that point on,

“death reigned” (5:14).

So why did God, with a view to redeeming that hopeless situation, “give his only begotten Son”? Very simply, says Saint John,

“because God so loved the Cosmos”— Houtos gar egapesen ho Theos to Kosmon .

Saints Paul and Irenaeus argued that the Universe had to be “re-headed” by Christ, the incarnate Logos. The Universe can only head in the right direction, they believed, when it receives its proper Head.

From Cosmology we should go on to speak of History. But to speak of History, we must speak of language. There is no separating the two. None of the foregoing activity—thought, reflection, consciousness, choice—is possible without language, and language, in its turn, is inherited. It is derived from History. It is through language that Cosmology and History converge in human consciousness.

There is an obvious corollary to this observation: History, as an object of man’s knowledge, must actually precede Cosmology; man cannot think about the world until he has, at least for a while, lived in it. Israel certainly regarded reality in the sequence from-History-to-Cosmology. In the New Testament, likewise, the thinking of the Church worked—backwards, as it were—from the historical experience of the Man Jesus to the contemplation of the eternally begotten Word, in whom

“all things came to be (panta egeneto).”

The importance of these considerations is apparent if we bear in mind that a major underlying assumption of Christian Theology is—and here we come to the nub—the historical nature of Revelation and Redemption. Indeed, this assumption has the quality of a principle.

In the biblical faith man neither seeks nor receives “deliverance” by escaping from history and time. In the Bible “deliverance” comes only in and through a historical process; indeed, it is found only within a specific line of history.




Jesus, Gentiles, and the Hour of Glory

palm sunday crossby Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

What have Gentiles to do with Jesus’ Hour of Glory?

The third dominical prophecy in which John employs the verb hypsoo is found in the discourse that follows the inquiry of the Greeks who wished to see Jesus:

“And I, if I am lifted up (hypsotho) from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).

In this case, two features of its immediate context make the reference to Jesus’ death more explicit: First, this logion of the Lord immediately follows His parable of the perishing seed:

“Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (12:24).

Second, the evangelist himself, as though to make doubly sure the meaning is not missed, adds the explanation:

“He said this, signifying by what death He would die” (12:33; cf. 18:32).

The subsequent remark of Jesus’ enemies shows that they understand these words as a reference to His death:

“The people answered Him, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah remains forever; and how can You say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up (dei hypsothenai)”? Who is this Son of Man?'” (12:34).

These references to Jesus’ coming death, moreover, pertain to the dramatic and larger setting introduced by the arrival of the Greeks. To grasp the significance of this context, we need to look at the whole passage in greater detail. It begins,

Therefore the people, who were with Him when He summoned Lazarus from his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves,

“You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying,

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them, saying,

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

The arrival of inquiring Greeks in Jerusalem was not unusual. Indeed, the Second Temple’s “Court of the Gentiles” was designed as a place of prayer for the Gentiles—many of them, like Cornelius, “fearers of God”-who came to worship in Jerusalem on the high holy days. The notice of their arrival gives concrete support to the complaint of Jesus’ enemies,

“Look, the world has gone after Him!”

In the mind of John these Greeks represent the God-willed expansion of the People of God, a theme that the evangelist introduced earlier. Already, in the Good Shepherd parable, Jesus declared,

“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (10:16).

Then came the ironical plot/prophecy of Caiaphas,

You know nothing! Nor do you consider that it is to our advantage that one man should die for the people (laos), and not that the whole nation (holon ton ethnon) should perish (11:49-50).

John comments on the deeper significance of these perilous words:

This he did not say on his own. But, being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (hyper tou ethnous), and not for the nation only, but also that He would gather together (synagogei) God’s scattered children into one (11:51-52).

This “one,” into which Jesus is to gather God’s scattered children, is John’s designation of the Church, further symbolized in the seamless, undivided garment of which the Savior was stripped at the crucifixion (19:23-24). It is, as well, the “one” for which He prayed,

“Holy Father, in Your name, which You have given Me, them keep them, that that they may be one, even as We.”vii

And then,

I do not pray only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (17:20-23).

In short, the arrival of these Gentiles, who come to gather in worship with the Jews, tells Jesus,

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

This is the “hour” of which He said to His mother,

“My hour has not yet come” (2:4),

and concerning which He prophesied to the Samaritan woman,

“there comes an hour—and it is now!—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (4:23).

It was of this hour that Jesus affirmed,

“Amen, amen, I say to you, there comes an hour—and it is now!—when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (5:25; cf. 5:28).

These earlier declarations that the hour is “now” should be understood in an anticipatory sense, however, inasmuch as John knew that

“His hour had not yet come” (7:30; 8:20).

This “hour” is the designated time of which Jesus declared,

“My time is not yet present—Ho kairos ho Emos oupo paresten” (7:6),


“My time has not yet been fulfilled—Ho kairos ho Emos oupo peplerotai” (7:8).

But now, with the arrival of these Gentiles, the appointed time has come. Jesus turns to prayer:

Now is My soul troubled. And what do I say? “Father, save Me from this hour (ek tes horas tavtes)?” But it was for this that I have come unto this hour (eis ten horan tavten)! Father, glorify Your name!) (12:27-28).

This prayer is as close as John comes to describing the Agony in the Garden.

“Now,” Jesus says, “is My soul (he psyche Mou) troubled,”

putting the reader in mind of His words at the Agony:

“Saddened unto death is My soul (he psyche Mou)” (Mark 14:34).

Indeed, Jesus refuses to make here the very prayer of which Mark wrote,

“He went off a little ways and fell to the ground and was praying that, if possible, the hour (hora) might pass from Him” (Mark 14:35).

Jesus, Gentiles, and the Hour of Glory


The Lord Commanded…

plugged in

Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should earn their living by the Gospel.

 – 1 Corinthians 9:14

This is a reality for all the Church. Almost everyone has vehicles, cell phones, computers.

This is a command of the Lord.




P.S. – I’m going to be publishing an article on Small Parish Permaculture shortly, which will go a long way towards making  up for what is lacking in parish commitments to their clergy. Stay tuned.

What the Apostle Paul Learned When He Joined the Church

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon


Several decades ago, when our family was still Episcopalian, a new parishioner remarked that I seemed to have a “high Christology.” Responding to my comment that I had no idea what he was talking about, he explained that a high Christology believes in Jesus’ pre-existence as God’s Son. A “low Christology,” on the other hand, believes that the human being Jesus was adopted as God’s Son, whether at his Baptism, or his Resurrection, or whatever.

“Christians,” I asked, “who don’t believe Jesus is God’s eternal Son? How can that be?”

As I have thought about this matter over the years, one idea has become perfectly clear: The early Christians knew nothing about a “low” Christology; even the Arians believed in a pre-existence of Christ!

Our earliest New Testament sources testify to a firm conviction on the pre-existence of God’s Son. Take, for instance, the fragment of the pre-Pauline hymn preserved in Philippians 2:6-8. It speaks of “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be seized.” In other words, Christ was divine before he became human; he did not start out as a human being whom God adopted as His Son.

This (exceedingly high) Christology is what Paul learned when he joined the Church.

Two verbs, in particular, testify to this primitive conviction of the Church: First, “send”; God sent His Son. Second, “come”; the Son came into the world.

First, when Paul says that God sent His Son, the context of this expression indicates something quite different from His sending of the Prophets. In the reference to God

“sending (pempsas) His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3),

the participle refers to the Son’s new state, his entrance into history. That is to say, the Son existed prior to his Enfleshment as a human being.

The same thesis is affirmed in Galatians 4:4. There we are told, not simply that God sent His Son, but that “God sent forth His Son”—exsapesteilen (Cf. Acts 13:16). The verb’s prefix implies the Son’s pre-existence.

For Paul Christ’s pre-existence is presumed in the very concept of the Incarnation; he speaks of the Son in two “states.” Thus, he tells the Corinthians that Christ,

“though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Virtually all interpreters of this text recognize its reliance on the hymnic theology preserved in Philippians: God’s eternal Son emptied himself, humbled himself, and assumed our low estate.

Second, there is the verb, “come,” which appears in various dominical sayings of self-reference; Jesus speaks of himself as someone who has “come” into the world. Indeed, it is hard to explain why Paul and the pre-Pauline Church thought of Jesus as “sent” unless we take at face-value Jesus’ assertions that he had “come.” 

In the gospels these dominical logia appear in two forms: In the tradition represented in the Synoptic Gospels the subject is the “Son of Man”; in the Fourth Gospel the subject is “I.

Thus, according to the Synoptics, Jesus proclaimed that the Son of Man came to call sinners, not the righteous (Mark 2:17). He came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). He came to give his life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28). In these saying Jesus manifests a self-consciousness of being transcendent to anything merely human.

These declarations demonstrate a remarkably “high” Christology in the Synoptics. I readily agree with Johannes Schneider’s assessment, more than a half-century ago, that they

“derive from the Messianic self-awareness of Jesus and are to be explained thereby.”

In the Fourth Gospel the use of “have come” in the dominical logia is an explicit self-attestation, expressed in the first person singular. Thus, Jesus says,

“I came forth (exselthon) from God” (8:42),

“I have come in my Father’s name” (5:43),

“I know where I came from” (8:14),

“I have come that they may have life” (10:10),

“I have come as a light into the world” (12:46), and

“For judgment I have come into this world” (9:39). 

Such logia are consistent with the Baptist’s declaration that God’s Son,

“who comes after me . . . was before me”(1:15).

The Son already existed before he came.



The Lenten Question

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

questionsIf there is a single question most appropriate to the approach of Lent, I suggest it is the query

“What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

This is not a fun question; it does not lend itself to frivolity. It is the most serious question posed to the human mind. I suggest there are three things especially to be said about the loss of the soul.

First, it is difficult to pose this as a question today, because ours is the first age in which there is widespread disbelief in the very existence of the soul. People now demand some form of proof for it.

We must say that this is a strange situation, because in prior times the existence of the soul was considered self-evident. If there is widespread doubt about the existence of the soul these days, it is not because the truth of it is less clear, but because men’s minds are sorely distracted by weird and dogmatic theories of materialism.

Because many modern men have been misdirected to believe that everything is material, they have lost contact with their spirits, unsure they even have spirits. Such folk imagine that human thought is simply a mechanical process of the brain. They fancy that human choice is determined solely by emotional impulses. They no longer think of human beings as chiefly distinguished by critical thought and free choice.

The Gothic writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft explored this modern phenomenon explicitly in a series of short stories called “Herbert West – Reanimator.” In those tales Lovecraft described the efforts of a purely materialistic doctor, someone with no belief in the immortal soul, to restore vitality to dead bodies. He did this with various kinds of animating fluids of his own creation. Dr. West had a very strange career and came to a bad end. All his efforts could produce was a series of monsters that eventually banded together and put him out of his misery.

Literature of this kind points to a real problem of modern life: the monstrosities that man creates by assuming a purely materialist view of human experience. Let us assert this much about a man’s loss of his soul – namely, he is most likely to lose his soul who begins by denying that he has one.

Second, there are many other people these days, who, while not exactly losing their soul, tend to lose track of it. Even though they theoretically admit the existence of the soul, thy have had almost no experience of themselves as spiritual beings. That is to say, they are so completely distracted by various kinds of noises—both external and internal noises—that they never, or almost never, make contact with their inner selves. Their heads are so full of garbage that they walk around clueless about who they are, where they came from, and where they’re going.

In all honesty we must say that contemporary culture, including much of contemporary education, discourages us from finding our souls. We have in large measure lost the traditional meaning of education in this respect. There was a time-nor was it so very long ago-when music, art, and literature served as normal paths in the discovery of the soul. In former days our teachers taught us the nature and structure of our souls by introducing us to the likes of Mozart, Rafael, and Jane Austen.

It sounds old-fashioned to say such things, but there really is a reliable canon of standard texts that have served the test of time in the discovery of the soul, and only at great peril do we abandon that canon.

Third, to find our souls it is helpful to close our eyes and go within, to discover the height and depth, the length and breadth of our spirit. We must purge our inner recesses from passions and distractions.

By this question-

“What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

-Christ our Teacher gives the back of his hand to all that is trivial, transient, and frivolous.

When we beat our breasts in prayer, one of the important things we are trying to do, I believe, is to summon our inner selves. We beat on our hearts as though to inquire

“Is anybody in there? Is anybody home?”

Lent is the proper time to knock on that door, in the hope of not losing our souls.



A Little About Hebrews 12:2


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

After his long panegyric on the heroes of faith, the author of the Epistle makes reference to Jesus as

“the leader and perfecter of faith” (12:2).

This expression requires closer inspection, in order to understand Jesus’ relationship to faith.

First, we should clear up the misunderstanding created by the incorrect insertion of “our” with respect to faith. There is no manuscript support for this insertion, and it fits ill with the large historical sweep of the author’s view of faith. Hebrews is concerned about faith, or perhaps the faith, and not just our faith. Faith permeates the whole of salvation history. It does this as a principle of continuity, because

“without faith it is impossible to please” God (Hebrews 11:6).

Second, we observe that Hebrews juxtaposes the two nouns—“leader and perfecter”—to form a polarity implied in their roots: Archegos (“leader”) is based on the root arche, which means “beginning,” and teleotes (“perfecter”) is derived from telos, which means “end.” “Beginning” and “end” are syntactical poles. Thus, as the two nouns are employed in this text—covered by a single Greek article—they convey the tension of contrast.

This combination-“leader and perfecter”-is similar to Jesus’ self-identifications in the Book of Revelation. For example,

“I am the Alpha and Omega” (1:8)


“I am the first and the last”—ego eimi ho protos kai ho eschatos (1:17; cf. 2:8).

Indeed, at the end of Revelation all these terms are combined into a triple polarity:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the protos and the eschatos, the arche and the telos” (22:13).

Third, in what sense does Hebrews call Jesus the “leader” of faith? As we observed above, “leader” translates the noun “A ,” which conveys the sense, not of a manager or director, but of someone who actually “begins” something. In classical Greek it often conveys the sense of a “founder,” “author,” or “originator.”

Such a meaning of the noun is consistent with the other place where Hebrews uses it in reference to Jesus:

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make perfect [teleiosai], through sufferings, the archegos of their salvation” (2:10).

The image of Jesus as archegos is apparently derived from the traditional apostolic preaching. St. Peter used the word twice in reference to Jesus, calling him the

“leader [or author]of life” – archegos tes zoes

and declaring,

“God exalted him to His right hand as archegos and Savior (soter)” (Acts 3:15; 5:31).

As Jesus inaugurates both “life” and “salvation,” he also inaugurates faith. In the context of Hebrews, he does this by going out ahead of believers as the leader who shows them where and how to run:

“With endurance let us run the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.”

He modeled this faith chiefly in his Passion, inasmuch as he

“endured the cross, despising the shame” (12:1-2).

Fourth, Jesus is the “perfecter of faith” in the sense that he brought to its proper completion the faith earlier exemplified in the lives of those champions of faith celebrated in the previous chapter of Hebrews. He brings to perfection those who preceded him.

It seems probable that the author of Hebrews coined the noun he uses here–teleotes, “perfecter”—inasmuch as the expression is otherwise unknown in either the Greek Bible or other literature of the time. This suggestion is consistent with the emphasis on “perfection” all through Hebrews (cf. 2:10; 5:7-9; 7:28; 9:14; 10:5-10,14). Jesus is the “perfecter” of all the faith that preceded his coming, during the course of salvation history.

The Old Testament saints had faith, of course, but it was not perfect,

“God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:40).

The “perfection” accomplished by Jesus was not simply a supplement-a “more”-added to the faith of the ancients. After all, the relationship between “perfect” and “less than perfect” is not just quantitative. The perfect is qualitatively different from the “less than perfect.” It is of a different order. Indeed, the Epistle to the Hebrews began with that qualitative distinction: The God who earlier spoke through the prophets has now spoken through a Son (1:1-2; cf. 3:5-6).

Did He Stay or Did He Go?

great commission

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

It is instructive to compare and contrast the closing scenes of Jesus’ earthly presence as they are presented in Luke/Acts and Matthew. The scenes are similar in that both depict Jesus’ final meeting with the group known as the Eleven (hoi Hendeka, Mt 28:16 and Lk 24:33). Connected with each presentation, likewise, is an evangelical mandate (Mt 28:19-20 ; Lk 24:46-47 ; Acts 1:8). In both cases the Eleven prostrate themselves before Jesus (prokyneo, Matthew 28:17 and Luke 24:52).

Another similarity is that both scenes take place on a hill.

These similarities, however, serve chiefly to highlight the differences between the two presentations. For example, the “hill” (oros) in Matthew 28:16 is found in Galilee, whereas Luke’s hill is, by implication, the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem (24:50).

The major difference between the two stories, however, has to do with what happens to the Lord. According to Luke, he takes leave of the Church and ascends into heaven, whereas in Matthew’s account he does not take leave of the Church. He declares, on the contrary,

“Behold, I am with you all days, even till the end of the world.”

There is not one word about his ascending. According to Luke Jesus departs; according to Matthew he stays. Which is it, then? Did Jesus leave this earth or did he remain here?

The later editor of Mark’s Gospel apparently sensed the point of this question. According to the final scene he added to the Markan account, the risen Lord both goes and stays:

“So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs (Mark 16:19-20; emphasis added).

One grasps the point made here if he reflects that this text twice calls Jesus “the Lord.” because his lordship is manifest in two ways: by his Ascension into glory and through his continued presence in the ministry of the Church.

Both aspects of Jesus’ lordship-in heaven and on earth-are conveyed in the opening lines of Psalm 109 (110):

“The Lord said to my Lord, / ‘Sit as My right hand, / until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet.’ / The Lord will send the rod of your power out of Zion. Rule in the midst of your enemies.”

In the first assertion of this psalm, Jesus is enthroned in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father. The next lines, however, speak of his “power” (dynamis) going forth from Zion, that is, Jerusalem.

This dual exercise of Jesus’ lordship is precisely what we find in the New Testament, where the Apostles, after they witness the Ascension, receive “power” (dynamis) when the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 1:8).

The Church Fathers believed this to be the correct sense of the opening lines of Psalm 109. Justin Martyr, for example, explained the psalm this way in the mid-second century:

“And that God the Father of all would bring Christ up to heaven after He had raised him from the dead, and would keep him there until He subdues his demonic enemies, and until the number of those who are foreknown by Him as good and virtuous, is complete. . . . Hear what was said by the prophet David. These are his words: ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. The Lord will send to you the rod of power (hrabdon dynameos) out of Jerusalem; and rule in the midst of your enemies.’ . . . That which he says, ‘He shall send the rod of power out of Jerusalem,’ was a prophecy of the mighty word, which his apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere” (Apology 45).

Justin perceives two icons of lordship in this psalm: The first is Jesus’ session at the right hand of the Father in heaven; the second is the extension of his scepter, his “rod of power,” in this world. In both places—triumphant in heaven and militant in this world—Jesus is Lord.

The reign of Christ in heaven is not separable from the evangelical mission of the Church on earth. St. Peter, in his first sermon, established the union of these two ideas, citing the opening lines of Psalm 109 as the basis of the Church’s message and summons to repentance:

“This Jesus God raised up, of whom we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he, himself, says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, / ‘Sit at My right hand, / Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. . . . Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33-39).