Hebrews 4:14–5:10, Matthew 26:36-40
This is one of those Bible readings that have names we may recognize but may not know who some of the characters really are. As usual, knowing who is who in the zoo matters a great deal to understanding the point of the story. In this case, it is of course the character with the hardest name to pronounce that is the key underpinning to understanding what is happening.
That is Melchizedek. Now Melchizedek translated means King of Righteousness so for our purposes today, let’s just call him King M. I’ll get tired of remembering to pronounce Melchizedek correctly and you’ll get tired of me saying Melchizedek. We’ll just go with King M and you’ll know who I’m talking about.
King M only appears in the Bible a few times so there’s not a ton of details about who he is. The few things we do know are the cornerstone of how today’s story plays out. King M was known as the high priest of the most high God. By any standard, he’s an important kind of person. He’s important enough that he brings a blessing from the most high God to Abram. That takes him way back to before Abraham was Abraham so King M predates all the people who would eventually become the people of God. Let me say that again, King M, Melchizedek was high priest of the most high God before there were people of God.
Lots of names and timeframes there but it’s important because this all happened before the people of God worked out to become the Jewish faith in ancient Israel with the Jewish temple priesthood. We here lots of stories of the temple priests, some flattering and some not flattering, but King M is not of that group. He is the high priest of the most high God long, long before any of this other business happened.
So when we hear that Jesus is our high priest, of the order of Melchizedek that means something specific. The authority and power that Jesus brings to the people, and to us, far predates anything people of faith came up with from the time of Abraham up until today. Over the millennia people have come up with different ways to worship and understand God but our high priest of the order of Melchizedek, Jesus, is how we worship and understand God.
Much of what we learn from Jesus we learn from his example and today’s reading is a good example of that. Jesus, as the high priest from before the very beginning, could have just taken it upon himself to be the big mucky mucky of the week. That was certainly within his power to do so but Jesus is a servant leader and takes his direction from God. The reading from vv 4-6 in the middle of today’s reading are instructive on how this plays out, 4 And one does not presume to take this honor (that is to say, the honor of being a high priest), but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Jesus sets aside his authority and power to become a servant who is then appointed by God to be our savior. Jesus sets his ego aside, not looking for acclaim and adoration, to be the one who would give his life for the forgiveness of our sins. He could have taken another path but instead he obediently takes the path appointed for him by God.
That’s the message for us today. Follow where Jesus leads and do what Jesus does. Set aside our ego and our preconceived notions about right and wrong and give ourselves to following Jesus instead of the things of man. That ego business that lurks around the corner for every one of us is a problem area. In today’s society we regularly see examples where someone’s ego, perhaps our own, sets them up to think too much of themselves. Too often we see people, perhaps us, who are concerned more with themselves than with others.
You know, that taking the parking spot when the other person was there first. XXXXX I’ll get mine and I don’t care if anyone else does. Which of course starts a downward spiral as we respond in kind to those situations. Pretty soon everyone is working on what serves them best and forget anyone else. It’s a bit of a race to the bottom.
And also the exact opposite of what Jesus said and did in his life. Jesus could have appointed himself as chief mucky muck of the week but instead obeyed God and took the path appointed to him. Jesus could have bypassed the cross and lived happily ever after but instead he obeyed God and died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and now all of us will live forever.
With the assurance of God declaring Jesus is a priest of the order of Melchizedek, that is the one who defies time and is here for us, now and forever, we can live out God’s calling on us. To live as Jesus did, loving and caring for others above loving and caring for ourselves. That’s Bringing Christ’s Love to Life.