As he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:6
Every language is limited in descriptors. For instance, the word ‘love’ is vast. Saying that I love pizza and I love my child are far removed from each other. If you tell me that your father was the kindest person you’ve ever known, I would ask you, “Tell me how he was kind.” Your stories would help me understand kindness as it related to him.
These challenges in language apply to attempts to describe Jesus. When I read that He was compassionate, I can think of compassion as something I have experienced from others. The problem is that the compassion of Jesus is way outside the box of normality. Take any of His attributes and they are so far out on the continuum that they test our ability to comprehend them. This wordlessness is the foundation of worship and the beginning of awe.
Today’s description of a high priest is related. First, if God hadn’t instituted the office, there would be no such thing. We wouldn’t put the word ‘high’ with the word ‘priest’. The tribe of Levi would have no distinction. But God always thinks and plans outside the box. If you were a contemporary of Aaron, how could you have known that the concept of a high priest would be so important in a book called Hebrews? How could you have known that a Messiah would come and be known as the great High Priest? Aaron would have asked, “And what will make him a great high priest, a priest like none other?” Descriptors are needed yet again.
To help you and I understand that Jesus is distinct from all other high priests, God created a man named Melchizedek. He lived in the time of Abram, many generations before God’s people would be delivered out of exile, far before the Levitical system would even exist. Yet because God is eternal and lives outside of time, He knew that Melchizedek’s life was significant for believers down through the ages as a way for us to understand how different Jesus was from all other priests. He was not from the tribe of Levi as Levi hadn’t been born yet. Melchizedek might be the only character in the book of Genesis whose lineage was not unwrapped. He comes out of nowhere. He is a king, and a priest, and blesses Abram so powerfully that Abram tithes to his ministry, the first instance of a tithe in scripture. Melchizedek’s name means ‘My King is righteousness.’ To say that Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek is to set him apart from all other priests. Jesus had no beginning and will have no end. He does not have a lineage either as He is not begotten of anyone.
Melchizedek is a big descriptor of Jesus as High Priest. Equating him with Aaron and the sons of Levi is as limiting as saying that God is loving as you and I are loving. I’m so glad that God wrote history and included a King of Salem in our history to influence our understanding of how different Jesus is from the mainstream of High Priests down through the ages. This High Priest is the sacrifice and is the only One worthy of worship.
This is so deep, Lord, that I can’t take it in. What a story You have written down through the ages. You connect the dots like no one I’ll ever know. Amen