Archive for May 2010

Jesus Is Our Priest

May 4, 2010

I look at the institutional church now days and I see a tremendous deficit, we have, in our modern context, taken a concept which would aid us immeasurably in understanding what God is doing, and we have distorted it beyond all recognition. I speak of the office of priest. In our day to day lives, if anyone would identify themselves as a priest we would instantly know him to be from the Roman Catholic or Anglican traditions or perhaps a little less familiarly from the Orthodox tradition. In the Protestant world I live in, priesthood is foreign, and all too often identified solely with the Roman Catholic world. In our culture we have allowed the Roman Catholic church to define priesthood, so we tend to avoid the subject, and give it short shrift whenever we encounter it in Scripture.
I am hoping that today we can get to the bottom of this subject. A subject which deserves far more attention than we have given it in the past.
So what is the definition of a priest? This is what the Merriam-Webster’s website says

“Main Entry: priest
Pronunciation: \ˈprēst\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English preist, from Old English prēost, ultimately from Late Latin presbyter — more at presbyter
Date: before 12th century

: one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God; specifically : an Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic clergyman ranking below a bishop and above a deacon.”*

Let’s look at the first part shall we?
Webster says; “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God;”
This definition is the most general possible and applies to human religious priesthood, christian or pagan.
If you dig into the Bible, for that is where we will find the full definition, you will discover another facet of priesthood, a true priest is one who is appointed by and sent from God. There is also a sense from the appearance of Melchizedek the King of Salem (Shalom or peace) in Genesis 14, that God will provide a priest.  So here is the first clear requirement of priesthood, a true priest is one whom God has chosen and sent.

A second requirement is that a priest be from among the people who are being represented. Melchizedek was a human and he represented humankind to God, Aaron was a Hebrew and he represented the descendants of Jacob to God.
An angel or any other kind of non-human could never be a priest for humans. Therefore to be our High Priest Jesus had to become one of us. By means of the creative power of the Holy Spirit, through Mary, He became a human being. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham through Mary and, by adoption, of David through Joseph in order to represent Israel and to be it’s King, but as a human being He represents us all. Therefore as one begotten of God, He is the God-man and at the same time the man-God.

So now we come to the wrinkle which God threw into the concept of priesthood, which departs from the Old Testament office of human priest. He is revealing the reality of priesthood to us, in that Jesus was, in His earthly form, Immanuel or God with us, So we have a person who is a human being to represent us to God, and He is at the same time God to represent God to us. This reflects the ministry of the high Priest of Israel, who went through the veil into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to bring the blood of the sacrifice into the presence of God, standing as a representative of the people to God, and then he would come back out through the veil to pronounce the blessing to the people, announcing the forgiveness of God to them, thereby representing God to the people. Jesus is the only person begotten of God, that is, who came directly from God, who was chosen and sent by God and revealed in human history. He is the only human who ever lived who is actually fully qualified to speak to God for humankind and to speak to us for God. Thus He is the only way to God. He is the door, He is the gate, He is the only true Shepherd.

A priest does what the rest of the people cannot do for themselves, he goes into the presence of God and pleads for those whom he represents. So it is that this man Jesus was the High Priest for all humanity on that day so long ago when He went through the veil of death into the very presence of God to present His blood as a sacrifice for us all. Then He came back out through that veil, back to life in His body, to announce God’s blessing of forgiveness, but as God sometimes does He introduces us to something new. Jesus did not simply repair His old body, to be just like ours, no, He raised it to be as it should be, the singular mark of representing God to us, and the signpost of our future as ones who will be like Him.

So let us review.
A true priest is one whom God has chosen and sent.
Jesus is the Messiah or the “anointed” or “chosen one” of God.
In our culture, in the traditions which ordain “priests”, we seem to think that we can choose someone, train him, and voila! he is a “priest”. We as humans wish to choose our own representatives. Yet in situation after situation in Scripture if someone whom God did not choose sets himself up as a priest, not only does God not accept this, but disaster usually follows. It is quite clear from Scripture that Jesus is the “chosen one”, let’s save ourselves a lot of grief and go with God’s choice.

A priest must be from among the people who are represented.
Jesus was a human being and a member of the tribe of Judah. therefore representing Israel and humankind before God.

In a twist from God, Jesus was divine, making Him uniquely qualified to speak to us as God. This confirms the chosen nature of priesthood, for God sent Jesus, a vital part of Himself, to show us Himself. This simply would not have been possible with anyone else, Jesus came from God, he was chosen by and sent from God.

Finally a priest does what we ourselves cannot. He prepares the sacrifice and He goes into the presence of God to present the sacrifice and to plead for us.
Jesus sacrificed Himself and went through the veil of death into the very presence of God to be “us” before God, that is why those of us who know Him are “in Him”. Then He came back through the veil of death to tell us that we have been reconciled to God. And He did more than that in sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to set up a Holy of Holies in our hearts, thus we are, each of us, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Just as the Temple of God in Jerusalem was the meeting place between God and man in the world during that time. Now we who know Him are the meeting place between God and man in this present world.
Therefore we are all priests under our great High Priest Jesus. We plead for our friends and neighbors to God, and we represent God to the world.

Blessings to you all,

*My sincere thanks to Merriam-Webster and their fine editorial staff for making this available,