Heb7 AN UNIQUE HIGH PRIEST.
The aim of this discourse is to see how Jesus' priesthood is like Melchizedek's and then to examine the implications for Christians. This will involve studying the Old Testament passage Gen14v15to20 that introduces Melchizedek alongside Heb7.
Jesus' priesthood is like Melchizedek's in it's:
(B) Unique Authority
Melchizedek was a solitary figure. There is none other like him in the Old Testament record; he was both priest and king; his was a royal priesthood. Even Abraham, the father of the Chosen People acknowledged his authority. He who had the promises (v6) knelt before Melchizedek to receive his blessing. The writer makes sure we do not miss the point: And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. (v7) Abraham also offered to Melchizedek one tenth of all the plunder gained from routing the army of the four kings that had earlier defeated the King of Sodom in battle and captured Lot. We are urged: Just think how great he was. (v4)
Anyone who has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek (Ch6v20) is equally great. Jesus, too, has unique authority by appointment. The messianic Psalm 110 is quoted to confirm that Jesus was appointed to the priesthood by God. Not only appointed but unlike other priests appointed with an oath.(v21) Just think how great he was:
There are implications for the believer:
(b) We should be glad to reverence Jesus. Abraham did not show his respect for Melchizedek reluctantly. He knelt before him and gladly gave him a tenth of the plunder. I can remember as a youthful worker at a Christian camp being told by a rather sour girl, "We don't respect you." She thought this reflected badly on me but, of course, it could have reflected badly on her. As a teacher I discovered that it was the best scholars that respected me most. Those that were lazy, disaffected and disinterested respected me least. If we lack respect for Jesus, or if it is grudgingly given at best, this does not detract from his status but it does detract from ours. One only has to watch Mr Milosovitch on trial for war crimes to realise that many a vanquished foe bows the knee with great reluctance. The Christian is not defeated by force of arms but conquered by love. See 1 John3v13. This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. This should make all the difference.
(c) We acknowledge no other Lord and Master. Just think how great he is. We do not need another Master. Our commitment is not to a body of doctrine, the denominational hierarchy, a charismatic church leader or, indeed, an influential friend but to Christ. We need no other priest. None of the leaders in the early church were called priests. The writer says in v18 And a better hope is introduced by which we draw near to God. We are able to draw near to God individually through Jesus the priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek made only a brief appearance in recorded history as priest of the Most High God. He was a priest before breaking into history but nothing is known of his beginning and he remained a priest after breaking into history but nothing is known of his ending. This was mysterious and suggestive to the writer to the Hebrews. Melchizedek was without beginning of days or end of life ..... he remains a priest for ever. (v3) This is true as far as the Scriptural record is concerned and so Melchizedek's priesthood is suggestive of the permanent priesthood of Jesus.
Jesus only spent a brief time on earth. We know relatively little about his life before or after his earthly ministry. However we do know that his life has no beginning and no end - he is our priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek. In v15 we read the marvellous words: He has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of an indestructable life. This thrilling truth has great implications for the believer. It is because his is a permanent priesthood that Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.. This is such a glorious statement of the Christian's hope that it is worth having again in the AV: Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. There are some Bible texts that have happy memories for us. My father loved to proclaim in his preaching, "Jesus is able save from the guttermost to the uttermost."
The permanency of Jesus' priesthood should give us enormous comfort and confidence:
(b) Finally death removes us from the world of men and we can no longer influence events. The writer says of the old Jewish priests: death prevented them from continuing in office. v23. A man in our church often used to say, "No one is indispensable, but some people are greatly missed." We miss those most who did us good. I still miss old Wilky the village doctor who treated me as a boy. I miss my friend Len who was the Brockley village blacksmith. If ever I needed some help with my lawn mower or needed to borrow a tool he was so happy to oblige. He was never so busy that he couldn't stop for a chat.
I am so glad that Jesus' powers do not wane. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and for ever. Heb13v8. He has conquered death and is alive for evermore. He cannot fail; he is a priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. There is none like him. He is the one upon which our hope is based. Our anchor of the soul is grounded in that indestructible life.
Melchizedek was of no known racial or ethnic group. He wasn't a Hebrew. The fact that we do not know the people he belonged to means that it is irrelevant to his ministry as God's great high priest, a priest even to Abraham a prince amongst men and of faith.
Jesus was a Jew but like Melchizedek he ministers to all. He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.v25. The only condition we have to satisfy to benefit from his willingness to speak up for us at God's right hand is to make our approach through him. Otherwise his assistance is guaranteed unconditionally.
We can be very selective for whom we care and help. There are some people that we are much more prepared to help than others. I had two grandmothers who were very different. One was a gaunt, rather scraggy woman who dressed plainly and lacked that kind of smiley personality we find attractive. She came to our church a few times and nobody made a fuss of her. She said to my mother, "The people at Brockley are not very friendly." My other grandmother was petite, tastefully dressed, ladylike and not without charm on a good day. She was always welcomed with open arms! My gaunt grandmother was a selfless, hard-working woman with a heart of gold. My other grandmother was much more self-centred. The one who deserved some attention and appreciation did not get it. Sadly we are all guilty of bias. I find it much easier to visit Dorothy who is invariably jolly, pleasant and feeds me platefuls of cake than Jack who can be morose, bad tempered, tactless and hectoring. I wonder who gets the most visits? It is easy for Head teachers to adopt a caring policy in schools - it is not so easy to implement it consistently. Some teachers are not seen to benefit much from it!
There is only one thing that matters to Jesus - do we believe in him and are we committed to him. If we are then we can rest assured that we have a priest of indestructible power who saves to the uttermost and ever lives to make intercession for us.
We all long for someone to stick up for us at times, to speak on our behalf. This has rarely happened to me. I am grateful to those who on a few occasions have offered support and spoken in my favour. I am always moved by the episode in G. Eliot's, 'The Mill on the Floss' where Maggie stands up for her father, the miller, Mr Tulliver. He brought ruin on himself and his family by his own folly. Maggie went in to her father and took her old place on her father's bed. G Eliot continues:
Jesus died for us so that none should blame us. He always defends and supports us. Our loving remembrance of his tenderness should be a force within us enabling us to do and bear anything for his sake.
He is our intermediary, an ally, a friend who cannot be vanquished, whose ministry never loses its power, whose influence is undiminished, whose authority is invincible - he is there for us at the right hand of God on high - he is there for us forever - loving, caring, interceding - the great high priest of the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek performed only two acts on behalf of Abraham that are recorded:
(b) He blessed the Father of the Nation. We should not underestimate the significance of the blessing. It is important:
(2) As an assurance of good intent. It promises future benefits.
Jesus' time on earth is remarkable for these two self same qualities:
(b) His teaching was full of blessings. The Beatitudes express approval for the Christian who is humble, submissive, kind, honest, does good, and accepts persecution. It should never be forgotten that those same Beatitudes promise many future benefits. A Christian who displays these qualities truly belongs to God's Kingdom, will see God and receive mercy. So we are encouraged to be loyal subjects of the Servant King.
We have to ask ourselves to what extent are we like Jesus in serving and blessing others:
(F) His Name and Character.
Melchizedek's name means King of Righteousness. He was also called the King of Salem which means King of Peace. So he was a priest of upright character under whose wise rule men experienced peace, a sense of well-being.
Jesus is like Melchizedek in his name and character v28 The son .. has been made perfect for ever, (v26) who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. In this Jesus is very different from the Jewish priests of the old dispensation, those established by the law given to Moses. There were rank bad priests like Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and the high priests at the time of Christ: Caiaphas and Annas. Even the very best of priests needed to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. The writer concludes in triumph: v27 Unlike the other high priests he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.. This is as clear a statement of the Protestant position on the Roman Catholic Mass as you are likely to get. Christianity has no need of priests because Jesus made the final, the ultimate, sacrifice when he offered himself. No further sacrifices are required - God was perfectly satisfied with the saving, redemptive, work of his son. When Jesus said upon the cross, "It is finished," he meant what he said.
Such a high priest meets our need. (v26) He saves us completely from sin and repairs our relationship with God. We are made fit for, and adopted into, the family of God. This should produce a sense of well-being. I read today that it took a gift, legacy or lottery win of about one million pounds to make a person significantly happier. Christians do not need a million pounds to be happy. We are sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus. We shouldn't be defensive, insecure, edgy or aggressive. Our relationship with God should give us confidence. We are assured of Christ's support in all we do for him. We should revel in being valued and loved.
It is easy to overlook the fact that Jesus is able to save completely because he always lives to intercede for believers. We are being saved. Perhaps you believe that Jesus died for you but doubt that he still does anything on your behalf. You are not aware of it!
During my time at the King Edward Sixth Grammar School I was never made a prefect. I was a small, scruffy and rather disreputable boy. The Headmaster thought I was peculiar because of my strong religious views. I was a fairly militant Christian! I learned later that a deputation of staff went to see the Headmaster to ask him to reconsider his decision and make me a prefect. They interceded for me. I never knew. I was wholly unaware of the support that I was getting. My Headmaster was an obstinate man and didn't like being told that he had made a mistake and so I was never made a prefect. It would seem that the intercession of those teachers was futile. Five years later I wrote to my former Headmaster to inform him that I was going to start applying for a teaching post and to ask him for a reference. He wrote back and said that there was a teaching post available at the King Edward. He would consult with his colleagues and if they were in agreement I could have it. You see, their intercession paid off after all. Yes, he would consult with his colleagues and put an old wrong right. He had ignored them once but now he would give them the opportunity to confirm my appointment as a Geography teacher at my old school. My life would have been entirely different without the intercession of those teachers. Not only would my life have been different but hundreds of other lives too.
We do not know what intercessions Jesus makes for us but we can be confident that they make a huge difference to our lives. I pray frequently: lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. I know that prayer has been answered and the intervention of Jesus has kept me from straying too far from the straight and narrow way that leads to life. Perhaps, too, we might be encouraged to stick up for someone who is being unfairly treated. It might make more difference than we think.