Within the following post I would like put forth a new insight that has shed some light on the activity of intercession for me. Throughout the writings of Paul we can see a theme of “fellowships” that have been laid out and he called us to. His epistles speak of the “fellowship of the Son” (1 Cor. 1:9), the “fellowship of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1), the “fellowship of faith” (Philem. 6), and even John notes a “fellowship” we have with “one another” (1 Jn. 1:7). But the one we will be addressing throughout this post is what Paul refers to as the “fellowship of sufferings,” found in Phil. 3:10. I have always looked to this verse as being mostly the partnership we make with the Spirit through our denial of self unto the pursuit of holiness. For instance, I will deny giving into my carnal desires, fast from food, entertainment, external pleasures, pray on a consistent basis, try to be humble, and view this as the majority of that which Paul called us to in this fellowship (excluding the “external sufferings” that we will briefly discuss below). And it is this, but only a part. It’s one side of a two-sided coin.
In all three Synoptic Gospels Jesus is quoted as saying “he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:38; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 14:27). This verse has been exhaustively taught, preached, and exhorted upon, but I have yet to hear (not saying it has not been said) someone stand behind the pulpit and say the entry point into fellowshipping with the sufferings of the “cross,” is intercession. Is that not what the cross is — the ultimate act of intercession? Isaiah made this very clear in 59:16: “He saw…that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness it sustained Him.” God became a man so that He could become the ultimate intercessor on our behalf. He bears flesh forever, for no other purpose than the reconciliation of humans to God through this unthinkable act of intercession. He knows pain, weakness, heartache, anger, hunger, thirst, and misery so He can have a burden for humanity that surpasses that which He had before hand. That is the power of Romans 5:8-10, in that if God had enough of a burden of love prior to His humanity to become human, then how much more now does He have a burden as He can relate to us on our own lowly, broken level.
As believers, entering into the fellowship of the cross is to bear the same burdens Jesus did as He hung from that tree on Calvary. The desire of the God-man is to share the burden He now bears for humanity. An intercessor is someone who partners with the ones he shares a burden for to the point of consumption. It is “burdensome” because you can feel the weight of it. A true intercessor cannot pray from a distance. They feel, pay attention, and are consumed with the dealings of that which has been rested on their shoulders. It is a very intimate dealing in the ways of another. This can be clearly seen with the priest Aaron when he would go before the Lord to pray on behalf of the Israelites. In Ex. 28:15-30 we see the description of a breastplate that Aaron was to wear when he would enter into intercession. The reason he was to wear this breastplate, was so that he could bear the burden of judgment for Israel (vv. 15, 29-30). The weight of this article was something that he could not easily forget was being worn as he entered the tabernacle to pray. It was obviously very heavy, being made of gold and stones. Though symbolic, he literally “wore” a burden.
Intercession is the entrance into an already existing burden through a partnership with Jesus as He sits at the right hand of the Father on our behalf (Heb. 8:1). We cry out to God for the outcome of things that He was Himself already crying out for (Rom. 8:34). It was this depth of partnership that I believe Paul was walking in when he wrote the book of Romans. The burden he carried for Israel, was something he desired to impart to other believers. Romans 9:1-3 is the result of a weighty burden that he received through partnership with Jesus. What follows is the discourse concerning Israel and where they fall in the grand plan of God. He was convoking the Church of Rome to partner with this encompassing burden he had. We should look at this and see the importance of Israel and their place in this eschatological age, but that is not the focus of this post. The point of seeing this, is to see the weight of a true burden through intercession. It consumed Paul to the point that he would be accursed from God forever if his fellow Jewish brethren would come to Jesus.
We must enter into the sufferings of intercession. It is in this place that we truly begin to bear our cross and walk into the fellowship of sufferings. This is one of the greatest expressions of love one could ever have. Paul said it best in calling us to be “living sacrifices” in Romans 12:1. To sacrifice our lives for a burden that drives us to partner with Jesus and fall in love with humanity at a supernatural level – what more could a believer ask for? It is an entry point into the fulfilling of those two things Jesus considered were more important than all others – “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” and “you shall love you neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40).