JESUS CHRIST, OUR HIGH PRIEST
by Wayne S. Walker
“The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'” (Psalm 110:4). The 110th Psalm was universally understood in Bible times to be a Messianic Psalm. Verse 1 says, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'” In Matt. 22:41-46, Jesus Himself quoted this verse as applying to the Messiah, which He claimed to be, and while the Pharisees could not answer His question, they did not dispute His premise. And the inspired Hebrew writer quoted it in Heb. 1:13 as applicable to the Son by whom the Father speaks to us today to show that He is so much better than the angels (vs. 1-4).
Verse four of Psalm 110 says that this Messiah was to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Even before God gave the law of Moses to the people of Israel, He obviously had priests. Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes, was both king of Salem and priest of the Most High God (Gen. 14:18-20). Moses’s father-in-law, Reuel (or Jethro) is described as the priest of Midian (Exo. 2:16-21). Then, under the old law, Aaron and his descendents from the tribe of Levi were appointed to serve Israel as priests (Exo. 40:12-15). However, the Hebrew writer argues, quoting from Psalm 110:4, that Jesus’s priesthood was like that of Melchizedek rather than that of Aaron (Heb. 5:5-6).
The Aaronic priesthood had a beginning, when Aaron or one of his descendents was anointed as high priest, and it had an ending when that high priest died and had to be succeeded by another. But the priesthood of Melchizedek was without beginning or ending because he had no father or son in the priesthood (Heb. 7:1-3). This means not that Melchizedek had no father or son period, but that his priesthood was not given to him by his father and was not passed on to his son. Of course, the old law prescribed priests from Levi and Jesus was from Judah, so the Hebrew writer also argues that the law had to be changed (Heb. 7:11-16). Thus, in contrast to the Old Testament priests, Jesus, as our High Priest, ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:23-25). And we come to God by Him, not the old law (Heb. 10:19-22). What a great High Priest we have!