Each and every one of us can be a priest!
Does that statement make sense to you? After all, when we hear the word “priest” we often think of the ordained clergy who preside at weddings, funerals, baptisms or weekly worship services. The truth is, we are all priests. Let me explain by talking about the role of a priest as outlined in Hebrews 5:1-10.
In Genesis 14:18-21, Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek. He was the king of Salem, which was the ancient name for Jerusalem, and he was a priest of the true God. He lived many centuries before Aaron and is described in Hebrews 7:3 as “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God.” In other words, his ancestry is unknown.
Jesus is also a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus was morally perfect, but he was further perfected by the discipline of suffering, where he completed his qualification course foe becoming the eternal High Priest. Jesus did what no Old Testament priest could do-not even Melchizedek. The Old Testament priests had to atone for the sins of the people and their own sins as well. Jesus provided eternal salvation by being the sinless author of salvation.
Jesus was a high priest for everyone. He reconciled us to God, thereby healing any and all divisions. In return, we are to be ministers to everyone in that we are to show God’s love to everyone, regardless of race, colour, creed or ethnicity.
Jesus was never shielded from suffering. His sufferings were real and intense and included every human woe. That’s the difference between innocence and virtue. Innocence is life untested, virtue is innocence tested and triumphant. Jesus was tested and triumphant, and in the testing he learned obedience. Jesus took on human flesh and came to earth to die for our sins and to identify with every area of our lives except for sin but including suffering. Jesus suffered pain on the cross so we can have eternal life.
The community of the baptized, the church and its members, is supposed to follow Jesus’ example. We are supposed to show up when people need us. We are to share others’ suffering, pain and joy, even when we are suffering. Even when our pain is not by our own choice, God can use our pain for good if we let him. For example, Jesus ministered to the repentant thief on the cross even while he (that is, Jesus) was in agony on the cross. Christians find in suffering an opportunity to learn discipline, obedience, grace and faith, just like Jesus did.
When we suffer, we must not complain, especially if our suffering is caused by something we can’t control-for example, the harsh conditions we have experienced this winter. Accepting the things that we can’t change when we suffer is the first step toward overcoming them in a Christian way. Times of suffering aren’t times for us to withdraw and engage in self-pity. They are precisely the times when we need to offer ourselves to others, because they are the second step toward overcoming life’s trials and hardships.
Christ and Aaron were divinely called to serve as High Priests. High priests do not grasp at this position for its honour and glory. Those who seize the office in arrogance are disqualified. Aaron and those who followed him as high priest came to their position because God called and appointed them. The High Priest must be able to deal with the ignorant and the errant because he is beset by human weakness.
Christ was mentioned as both God’s Son and as a priest of the order of Melchizedek. His calling as a priest was natural given that as God’s son he sits and rules at God’s right hand. Jesus was faithful to God, even to the point of death on the cross. Jesus aligned his will with God’s plan for his life. As Christians we are called on to make sure that our lives are in line with God’s plans for our lives. In other words, our plans for our lives must be the same as God’s plans for our lives. We are to place our lives in God’s hands.
As our High Priest, Jesus stands between us and God. Consequently, we have the right to approach the throne of God. Jesus has experienced all of our human weaknesses and identifies with them because he was tempted like all of us. He isn’t scared of our sin. He has felt all of our human emotions. The only difference between Jesus and us is that Jesus is without sin. We don’t have to ask twice for forgiveness. We don’t have to be afraid of approaching God’s throne.
God’s love outlines boundaries. Without these boundaries we would be easy targets for every kind of harmful influence. Our obedience to God’s will ushers in God’s protection and blessings. Obedience comes from our relationship with God. That relationship is built not by our own efforts, but by grace through faith.
As part of being a High Priest, Jesus made prayer and supplication part of his daily life. He was wholly dependent on his Father and obeyed him even when he wrestled with temptation. In his humanity, Jesus served with a broken heart. He was heartbroken over the condition of the people. His ministry was a tearful ministry. In Hebrews 5:7 we are told that “while Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with loud cries and tears, to the one who could deliver him.” Jesus learned obedience when he suffered. Jesus’ passionate prayers must be our guide to prayer. Our prayers must be as passionate as his were.
In his humanity, Christ struggled with the assignment God gave him: death on the cross. Even though God heard his cries, the plan was not changed. Jesus walked through all of it in complete submission, just like he had done with every assignment God gave him throughout his earthly life. When we suffer in faith, when we suffer for being God’s love in the world, when we move through an unbelieving world and pay the price for our faith, we show God’s values. These values reflect Jesus and result in a way and a model for salvation.
As we travel life’s road, we are constantly tempted to sin just like Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. If we sin, we are lost. The only hope we have is to throw ourselves on Christ’s mercy and ask for his help. He can meet our needs. He is willing to represent us before God because he has gone before us as the perfect Son of God.
When we become Christians, God enrolls us in the same school of “hard knocks” that Jesus was enrolled in. The problem is that we have to choose between our earthly lives and our heavenly lives. We have to choose which one we want to live in, because we can’t live in both. God helps us to make that choice by getting our minds off of the things of this world and teaching us obedience in preparation for life in the next world.
When we pray to God, we must be obedient to God. Obedience is necessary for our salvation. We can’t earn our salvation by good deeds. The only deeds that can save us are those by which we receive God’s unmerited gift of salvation. Our zeal for completing the mission God gives each and every one of us to do involves moving our lives and the life of the church toward a model of priesthood according to the order of both Melchizedek and Jesus. It also involves caring for the deep physical and spiritual needs that we have in our daily lives.
So how are we like priests? We are appointed by God. We sacrifice ourselves and our desires to God. We continually pray to God about the human condition. We offer prayers and supplication with genuine care and concern. Finally, we ask other to join with us to do God’s work in our world-just like any priest would do.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “The School of Obedience.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
- Ron Moore, “Source of Eternal Salvation.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Learning Obedience through Suffering.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Rick Ezell, “Let Your Heart Be Broken.” Retrieved from www.greerfbc.org
- The Rev. Dr. James D. Kegel, “Christ the Center.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org.
- Mark J. Moldrem, “Prayer Clothes.” Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- Erskine White, “How to Deal with Suffering.” Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- The Rev. Eugenia Gamble, “Suffering for Faith.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Thomas G. Long, “What God Wants.” Retrieved from www.religion-online.org./showarticle.asp?title=3336
- Stephen Paul Bouman, “Parking Lot Palms.” Retrieved from www.religion-online.org./showarticle.asp?title=2913
- Bryan J. Whitefield, “Commentary on Hebrews 5:1-10.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=423