Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Last week we heard how it is impossible to gain eternal life by what we do, but rather it is a gift, freely given, by God the Father to you through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit in Baptism. In today’s sermon we’ll look at what that means for us here and now, with Christ Jesus, The High Priest of the order of Melchizedek.
I’ll say a bit on Melchizedek, king of Salem because he’s an interesting character, Jesus is part of his priesthood and so we are too, and his name is fun to say. Melchizedek, he was the king of Salem in Abraham’s time and Abraham gave to him a tithe before there was any thought on Earth about the temple or tabernacle tithe. The name Melchizedek literally means ‘king of righteousness’ and he was the king of Salem, king of peace. He appears for a brief time in Genesis 14:18-20 and is not heard from again. Certainly a mysterious figure.
But more certainly the priestly order of Melchizedek is superior to the order of Aaron, descendent of Abraham and first High Priest of Israel; as the writer of Hebrews says later in chapter 7, if perfection could’ve come through the old priesthood why was a new priestly order needed? And later the former is set aside because it is weak and useless, (for the law made nothing perfect) and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God (Hebrews 7:11, 18-19). The old has gone and the new has come.
And what is this new priesthood? How is Jesus The High Priest of the order of Melchizedek? The High Priest is the one who approaches God’s throne and intercedes between us and the one who can save both Him and us from death. Jesus is the one who lived the true and right life, He was tempted in every way as we are, yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). And in that life here on earth He brought to God His needs and peace offerings with loud cries and tears, sweat like blood (Luke 22:44), and God heard Him because of His holy reverence, fear and respect. Jesus, our High Priest, is the one who stands between God Almighty, the consuming fire of holiness and light, and you. How small and insignificant we seem in this world and against the greatness of God why should He care for us? But He loves you.
When God Almighty first established the order of Aaron there were priests who ignored God’s command in how they should worship, and they worshipped in their own way. Fire came out of the tabernacle and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2). Rejecting God Almighty and going our own way has dreadful consequences. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus is there between us, is there for us, true God and true man and able to deal with us compassionately in our sin and failure and also forgives us. He has suffered our temptations and knows our struggles, our weakness, and He loves us; just as He turned and loved that rich young man last week. Because He suffered being tempted, He is able to help us who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18). If it were not for Jesus, this High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, we would be lost; but God, being rich in mercy, has made you alive together with Christ the High Priest (Ephesians 2:4). Adopted as His children, as inheritors with Christ, through Baptism by the Holy Spirit, you have eternal life. The life of Jesus.
He is the eternal Son of God, a High Priest who has given himself wholly to God, who even though He was Son of God Almighty, King of kings, became a humble servant to serve you. He learned obedience through His suffering here on earth and was made perfect and the source of eternal life for you who obey Him. A life of obedience, suffering, prayer and ultimately joy and love. This is the one who we follow, not a glorious ruler with great armies, power and riches [though He has them] but rather the suffering servant and High Priest who obeys The Heavenly Father and devotes Himself to your salvation.
Do you who are saved listen to Him and obey Him? When you are tempted to go your own way, do you reject yourself and turn to God and His way? Do you suffer in your life in this world because of the Faith and the gifts of God? The world rejected Jesus 2000yrs ago, He was executed before He was 40yrs old, He suffered because of His obedience and devotion. You are one in Christ, called to the same devotion, called to obey God’s Law. Do you intend with the help of the Holy Spirit to life as in God’s presence, and to strive daily to lead a holy life, even as Christ has made you holy? Part of one of our confessions. With the help of the Holy Spirit, with God all things are possible, strive daily to obey God’s Law, it’s hard work, even as Christ has made you holy by His blood, His life death and resurrection.
In Christ you have eternal life, forgiveness and peace, freed from sin, death and the devil. Jesus lived that life and we are joined in Him, you are holy in God’s sight, but here again we have encouragement to live as the holy people we are in Christ Jesus, to devote our lives to God and to turn away from our selfish sin. You are saved, now live in that newness of life.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guide and guard your hearts in Christ Jesus. Go in that peace and serve the Lord. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham