Jesus is Greater than Melchizedek

In God’s providence he chose the nation of Israel carry out his purposes and plans. Part of that plan was to give Israel the law and to help them it carry out the law God chose the tribe of Levi to be the priests. The Levite priests taught the people the law and they were responsible to offer sacrifices on behalf of the entire nation. Even though the Levite priests would offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, not one of the priests was without sin himself (v.11).

“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’”

Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

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 truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 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. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” – Hebrews 7:11-28, ESV

Melchizedek and Jesus show that there was the possibility of another priesthood.  Jesus changes things.  He was from a different priest than the former Levite priest of Israel.

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Jesus is unique and his priesthood is forever.  There is no need for another priest to offer sacrifices.  He stepped into the office of the priesthood though another way. When law was weak and made nothing perfect not even its priests, Jesus offers a better way of drawing near to God. Jesus is the greater hope. Jesus fulfills both the perfect priesthood and perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus saves us forever, intercedes for us always, and offers complete salvation. This makes Jesus the Greater High Priest.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What was the job description of a Levite priest?
  • How was Jesus a priest? How is he a greater priest?
  • What is a covenant? How does Jesus fulfill all previous covenants?
  • How was Jesus a different priest than the Levite priest?
  • Why is it important that Jesus is a priest forever? What does that mean for you today?
  • Why do you need a high priest? How does Jesus minister to you as priest?

Jesus is a Priest in order of Melchizedek

Have you ever met someone you’ve never met before, but you swear you know them from somewhere? There is a mystery to them. There is an example of this in the Bible when Abraham met the king priest named Melchizedek (Gen.14:17ff). They had never met, but they did have in common a fear of God.

Melchizedek has been a mystery man throughout the centuries. Even Bible scholars are stumped because there isn’t a lot said about him. Some scholars say he was either an angel-man, Christophany, or simply a human.

“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people —that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” – Hebrews 7:1-10

While no one is really sure who Melchizedek was we can conclude that he was a type. A type is an Old Testament person (or practice) that had a counterpart in the New Testament in Jesus Christ. Often times a type showed what the their counterpart would be like. Melchizedek is the OT example of what the NT Jesus would look like and he does “resemble the Son of God.” (v.3)

What is clear from Hebrews 7 is that while Jesus comes from the order of the priest-king Melchizedek, he is far superior. Below are a few ways Jesus is superior (vs.1-3):

Jesus and Melchizedek Comparison

It is interesting that the author of Hebrews doesn’t interpret the story of Melchizedek, but simply shows how Jesus is a priest in his order and that he is a far superior priest to any before him or after him. Through Melchizedek and the OT there is a shadow cast that Jesus brings light to. The entire OT points to Jesus.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Who was Melchizedek?
  • How are Jesus and Melchizedek similar? How are they different?
  • How is Jesus superior to Melchizedek?
  • Why is Melchizedek an important Bible character? Why is he important to understanding Jesus?
  • What do you learn about Jesus’ uniqueness and his unique role from this biblical text?

Jesus is the Greater Priest

Each of us carry a weigh of responsibility. Whether we are spouse, parent, student, or employee we have people around us or under us that can demand our care.

Up until 70 AD Israel had high priest who would bear the weight of responsibility of the entire nation of Israel and plead to God on their behalf for the forgiveness of their sins. What an enormous responsibility and yet he was just a mere man chosen among men to act on behalf of men (v.1).

“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 5:1-10

Interestingly, every high priest was weak and inadequate for the job and needed to seek forgiveness for his sins before he could ask for the forgiveness of the sins of the nation (vs.2-3). No priest was perfect or chosen for the job because he was somehow super spiritual. The honor of the high priest, including Aaron (the first Levitical priest), was not earned, but given by God (v.4).

Jesus was also given the title of high priest (v.5). Unlike other priests, He obeyed God in all things and was sent to earth to be the sacrifice for sin (vs.5, 7-8). A sacrifice that was once and for all. Jesus is unique among high priests in that he did not need to atone for his own sins because he is sinless (v.9). This makes Jesus the greater high priest; your great high priest.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What was the job of the priest? How was this a compassionate job?
  • How did the priest prepare for his job? Why did he need to deal with his own weakness?
  • How is Jesus more compassionate and prepared for the job?
  • How does Jesus’ suffering and sympathy help you to have confidence in God?
  • How does Jesus’ example encourage you to show compassion to another sinner?
  • Dig Deeper: Who was Melchizedek? (Gen. 14:17-20; Ps. 110:4) What does it mean that Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek? What does the relationship between Jesus and Melchizedek tell you about God’s orchestration of history?

 

Side Notes: Scholars don’t know much about Melchizedek. He is a symbolic picture of Jesus Christ. Long before Moses, Melchizedek was a Canaanite priest-king in a city that centuries later became Jerusalem and he was the head of an order of Jerusalem priests older than Moses’ brother Aaron.