“I bring a message from your master, by command of his most merciful excellency your lives are to be spared. Slaves you were and slaves you remain, but the terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus.”
If you’ve seen the movie, Spartacus, you know what comes next. Kirk Douglas—who plays the slave Spartacus—stands up to identify himself as the rebellious slave leader wanted by the Roman officials. Instead, Tony Curtis—who plays Antonius—stands up and identifies himself as Spartacus…beating the real Spartacus to the draw. Suddenly, a chorus of slaves stand and exclaim, “I am Spartacus” while one single tear cascades down the cheek of Kirk Douglas. It’s emotional…to say the least.
There is power and emotion when someone intercedes on behalf of another. It is especially formidable, when that intercession provides salvation for someone who is rebellious and deserving punishment.
I play Monopoly with my kids. Probably too much—seeing as I really don’t like the game. Playing Monopoly in and of itself is a sacrifice. There are two cards in Monopoly that I find rather appealing. They’re the “GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE” cards. How amazing would it be to come across one of these cards in real life? Personally, I think it would be extremely detrimental to the maintenance of law and order in society as we know it. Could you imagine what crimes would be committed if someone got their hands on a “GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE” card? Watch out mother in-laws! The “GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE” card is intercession for rebellion, pure and simple.
Numbers 16 presents us with a rebellion in the middle of the wilderness. Some of the elders and leaders of the people were fed up with the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses didn’t initially shoot the rebellion down. Instead, he had all the rebellious leaders gather in front of the Tabernacle and let God sort things out. To make a long story short, God definitely did some sorting. That next day, when the rebellious elders stood before God at the Tabernacle, God opened up the earth, which swallowed all of them and their families. When those participating in the rebellion took off running, God had fire from the earth consume them all.
The next day all of Israel complained to Moses and Aaron saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” When this happened, God informed Moses and Aaron that he would consume the entire nation of Israel with a plague.
At that, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and prayed for the people. Finding God’s sentence unacceptable, Moses had Aaron take his censer, put fire on it, and lay incense on the fire. He then had him carry the censer to the congregation in order to make atonement for them. Even though the plague had already begun, Aaron did as Moses commanded and stood between the dead and the living in order to intercede and make atonement for the people. Aaron’s actions saved the people of Israel. He gave thousands of Israelites “GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE” cards, and when he did, a single tear cascaded down Moses’ cheek (Numbers 16—the tear down Moses’ cheek is my addition).
Ouch. You can see why I hesitate to write about the book of Numbers and why my blog posts have been few and far between as of late. Truth be told, if we didn’t exist on the backside of the cross, I would avoid Numbers altogether. The good news—The Gospel—is we do exist on the backside of the cross. We’re all rebellious! We all pull and strain against the leadership of God’s Spirit as He guides us from the destitution of slavery to sin toward the Promised Land of redemption—a land filled with milk and honey. How often don’t we find ourselves telling God that we can handle things better than He can? We frequently rebel against God’s guidance to rise up and embrace His leadership in our lives and say, “We will not come up!” (Numbers 16:12b).
For the rebellious souls in the wilderness—who followed Korah and told God that they could handle things better than He could—their fate appeared to be sealed along with their leaders and several of their friends. Thankfully, for their sake, Moses and Aaron took pity upon them and appealed to the mercy of a God who took disobedience, rebellion, and justice seriously. Because Moses and Aaron interceded—because they provided the people with a “GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE” card— thousands of lives were saved.
Aaron’s intercession between the plague and the living was a window into the grace of God that would come to the world through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus stood between death and life and protected all those who seek God’s mercy from the plague that our rebellion brings. Jesus is our “GET OUT OF JAIL, FREE” card! Jesus is our Antonius going before God and exclaiming “I am Spartacus!”
“I am Shawn!”
Our natural response to Christ’s intercession should always be tears of gratitude streaming down our cheeks.
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.