This doctrine derives from several verses in the New Testament (Acts 2:29-36), all of which seem to be quoting an Old Testament psalm, specifically Psalm 110. In that Psalm (and in the later passages that appealed to it), sitting at the right hand of God was understood to mean that one had received ultimate power and prestige from God.
So when the creed, following the Bible, states that’s where Jesus sits, it’s declaring that he exists in the presence of the Almighty, that he is indeed God’s highly favored right-hand man.
The Bible goes on to say that Jesus currently uses his position of access and influence for our benefit. As the Epistle to the Hebrews states, we can think of Jesus as our high priest.
And given his unparalleled access to the Father, our high priest is interceding for us, pleading our case before God when we stumble. When we sin, Jesus is right there, reminding God, as it were, of his own perfect and eternally sufficient sacrifice on the cross, which atones for that sin (Hebrews 7:23-25).
The Apostle Paul makes the same point in his Epistle to the Romans when he states, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
Now it’s hard to say how much of this is meant literally and how much of it is figurative. Either way, though, it’s a comforting thought and one that can encourage us to press on in faith despite our occasional moral failures.
In other words, while we may struggle in our discipleship and sin from time to time, we can trust that God still accepts us – that Jesus is there, the debt has been paid, and the ledger of our failures (so to speak) has been blotted out. In this way, Jesus’ ongoing “work” of interceding on our behalf is precisely what ensures our place in God’s glorious future.
It is what Jesus meant in saying he would prepare a place for us in his Father’s “house” (John 14:2-3).
Jesus’ presence is made real in families and congregations giving purpose and direction to those at the beginning of life.
For followers at the end of life, Jesus promises to come and take them unto himself with a blessing of eternal companionship (John 14:3).
For those devastated by disaster and destruction, Jesus’ heart is the first of all hearts to break.
For those yearning for peace to prevail in situations of strife and war, Jesus is there in the imaginations of those planning projects and giving witness to more excellent ways of living.
Jesus’ presence is made real whenever anyone senses an injustice or a deficit in the human community, particularly among those with whom he ultimately identified – “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
John Steinbeck’s character Tom Joad in his Pulitzer-winning novel “The Grapes of Wrath” echoes that solidarity: “I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. … I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready …”
In mysterious and strange ways, Jesus is providing encouragement and compassion in a manner that eludes final definition. In other, equally wondrous ways, what Jesus is up to is up to those who live his way of life.