Merry Christmas from Japan, everyone.
As we remember Christ today, I suppose it’s only appropriate to read this passage and remember just who he is. And he is far more than a baby in a manger.
The writer of Hebrews calls him a king and priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek was a character who “mysteriously” appears and disappears in Genesis 14. I say this not in a supernatural way, but unlike most characters we see in the Bible, we see nothing of his genealogy. We don’t know who his parents or children were. We see nothing recorded of his birth or death. He just appears in the story of Abraham, and then we never see him again. As far as we know, he could still be living (although he most certainly isn’t).
And in Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews sees a picture of Christ. Melchizedek’s name meant, “King of Righteousness.” And he was also the king of Salem, a city whose name means “peace.” (It would later become Jerusalem). And of course, in Jesus we see him who is the true king of righteousness and peace.
More, just as Melchizedek’s genealogy and very death is unknown, Jesus himself, though he had an earthly genealogy, lived much further back in eternity before the world even began. And having been raised from the dead, he will live forever, never to die again.
Why is this important? Because he has also become our priest forever. Back in the Old Testament under Mosaic law, there were many priests that came from the tribe of Levi. They served under a covenant that God made with the people, that if they would keep his commandments, he would be their God and they would be his people.
Why then do we need another priest if God’s law had already provided one, and not just one, but many throughout the years?
Because the law was imperfect. In what way was it imperfect? It was imperfect in that nobody could keep it perfectly, and could thus only bring judgment on those who were under it.
The priests themselves were imperfect. Day after day, they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer sins for the people.
And even the sacrifices they offered were imperfect. As the writer will point out later, if they had been perfect, we would have had no more need for sacrifices. One would have been enough. But the priests needed to offer the sacrifices day by day because they were insufficient to cover our sins.
So the writer of Hebrews tells us that we needed a better way to have a relationship with God and a better priest.
And both are found in Jesus. He was greater than all the other priests in several ways.
First, his “lineage.” He was of the spiritual line of Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham himself. The writer of Hebrews points out that the greater is always the one that blesses the lesser, and so the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than that which comes through Abraham’s descendant Levi. (4-10)
But more, God made an oath to Jesus that he made to no other priest. He said,
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’ (21)
And in that promise we see a third reason. Jesus was made a priest, not simply based on some law that said he had to be a descendant of Levi, but he was made a priest based on “indestructible life.” (16)
And so the writer of Hebrews tells us that now,
a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (19)
In what way?
Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The writer of Hebrews explains.
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (22-26)
Jesus offered one sacrifice for all time by dying on the cross for our sins. And because it was a perfect sacrifice, our salvation is complete. All we need to do now is put our trust in Him. (27)
That’s the hope we have. So this Christmas, let us praise the King who makes us righteous before God because of his sacrifice, who brings us peace with God, and who remains our priest forever.