Jesus and Melchizedek
God can—and does!—make His presence known to any one of us at any time. But in the Old Testament, He created three roles for those designated among His people to intercede between Him and His people:
When God the Son became Incarnate, He took on each of those three roles, and became the intercessor between the Father and His people.
The Levitical Priesthood of the Old Testament
The priesthood that was created after the Children of Israel left Egypt was the Levitical priesthood. It began with Moses, who ordained Aaron, and both were of the Tribe of Levi (which is why it’s called the “Levitical” priesthood).
Their role as priests was to offer sacrifices to God so that the sins of the people would be forgiven.
But what about the other priesthood, the one that came before the Levitical priesthood?
The Priesthood of Melchizedek
Melchizedek only appears once in the Bible, in Genesis 14. When Abram (he’s not yet called, “Abraham”) returns from defeating King Chedorlaomer and his allies, he’s met by both the King of Sodom and the King of Salem, who was Melchizedek.
Two Things Are Interesting About This
Abram, who was fresh from victory in defeating 5 kings in battle, offered a tithe (a tenth of everything he had) to Melchizedek.
You wouldn’t tithe to your kids, or people who are below you in any kind of hierarchy—a tithe is offered to someone who is superior in some way to you, and that person is owed something from you.
Melchizedek, who was a king, brings an offering of bread and wine to bless Abram, and offers them as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God Most High on behalf of Abram.
His sacrificial offering is why he’s identified as both a king and a priest.
Who Made Him a Priest?
You have to be ordained by someone else to be a priest (or a priestess, in pagan religions).
Moses ordained Aaron, but who ordained Melchizedek?
The Bible doesn’t say anything about him before he appears in that one passage in Genesis 14, but Abram sees Melchizedek, the King of Salem, as someone that is above him.
Where he actually came from isn’t known, but he’s still both a king and a priest, and both of those roles represent someone who is supposed to act as God’s intercessor for His people.
Psalms and Hebrews
This is why it’s interesting that Psalm 110:4 says,
“You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”
And the Book of Hebrews identifies Jesus as a priest of Melchizedek twice, in Hebrews 5:6 and 7:17.
That Priesthood Ended on Calvary
At the Last Supper, Jesus offered up the sacrifice of thanksgiving of bread and wine. He then commanded His Apostles to “do this in memory of me.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He acted as both the High Priest who offered the sacrifice, and the sacrifice itself as the Lamb of God.
Jesus was From the Tribe of Judah, not Levi
So His priesthood is not the Levitical priesthood, but the priesthood of Melchizedek, the King of Peace. When He ordained the Apostles at the Last Supper, they were ordained in the priesthood of Melchizedek, not the Levitical priesthood.
This is why when priests offer up the sacrifice during the Mass or Divine Liturgy, they repeat the words of Christ at the Last Supper. They are standing in the person of Christ, repeating His words, and making His sacrifice present to the people of God.
This is also why when a man is ordained as a priest in the Catholic or Orthodox Churches, he is always a priest. Even when he goes to Heaven, he’s a priest, because if you are ordained in the order of Melchizedek, you are a priest forever.
Posts in the Series: Jesus and the Old Testament
Jesus and Adam Jesus and Melchizedek (this post)
Next Posts in the Series:
Jesus and Abraham
Jesus and Moses
Jesus and Joshua
Jesus and David
Jesus and Jeremiah
Jesus and Elisha