And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power,
and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Mark 14:62 NAS
Question 54 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?” It gives the answer, “Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father, with all fulness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth, and doth gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth ministers and people with gifts and graces, and maketh intercession for them.” Last week we examined Christ’s ascension into heaven. This week we consider Him seated at the right hand of the Father.
The previous two questions in the Catechism began with the phrase, “How was Christ exalted.” Notice the different tense of the verb in today’s question, “How is Christ exalted.” All three questions address the same subject of Christ’s exaltation, but the resurrection and ascension are past events: Christ was resurrected, Christ has ascended. Only His being seated at the right hand of the Father is a continual exalting event that will not cease until His return in glory on the last day. And of course since the Bible is very clear that God does not have physical form (Deut. 4:12), we should not over-literalize the place of God’s right hand but recognize that by this phrase Scripture chiefly means, the place of highest authority, honor, power, and glory.
At God’s right hand, Jesus has the seat of ultimate authority. To be seated is to be in session. The court is in session when the judge takes his seat. Until the court breaks for recess, the judge has absolute authority over what goes on in his courtroom. Thus, the word session has come to be associated with the wielding of authority. Presbyterian churches are governed by a plurality of ruling and teaching elders, who together form each church’s “session.” When officially seated together, they have and are accountable to exercise Christ’s authority over His Church. The “session” of Jesus Christ began when He took His rightful place at the right hand of His Father and it will continue until He returns to judge the world in righteousness (Act. 17:31).
The right hand of a monarch was the highest seat of honor in ancient times. Even today you will occasionally hear someone crucial to an organization being referred to by the boss as “my right-hand man.” No one can take such an important position, he has to earn it. When James and John sought for Christ to “grant” that they each sit one on His right and one on His left hand in glory, Jesus answered that such a place was not His to give but was reserved “for those for whom it is prepared,” (Mark 10:40). That the ten other disciples understood the two were seeking greatest honors for themselves is clear, for the Scripture records, “And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers” (Matt. 20:24). Jesus Christ alone has earned such a position before God. Having successfully completed all that the Father has given Him to do; He has been exalted to the highest place possible: the right hand of God Himself!
The right hand of God is not only a position of honor but of power. Martin Luther, in studying the many passages which speak of God’s right hand or right arm, noted that God’s right hand is symbolic of the place of absolute power. Thus, we read, “Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces” (Ex. 15:6). Accordingly, the place where Jesus sits is the place of total power: “Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matt. 26:64). So also Paul teaches of Jesus that God the Father “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-21). Thus, Jesus at God’s right hand is our ongoing victory. For from there, as the Catechism teaches, He defends His church, subdues our enemies, gives us gifts and graces and makes intercession for us. He does this from God’s right hand the place of absolute power, where He will continue to be, invincibly ruling, defending, and caring for all of His Church until He returns!