Summary: The priesthood of Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to that of Aaron and this is the main purpose behind the introduction of Melchizedek
A better priest – Heb 7
We have seen that Melchizedek is put forward as a type or picture of Christ in that he was a king of Righteousness and Peace. In Jesus we see both God’s perfect righteousness and His plan to restore peace with His creation – even at the cost of the death of His beloved Son.
However, the main purpose behind the introduction of Melchizedek was to show that the priesthood of Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to that of Aaron. Chapter 7 starts the second major section of the book and he priesthood of Christ is its focus. In chapter 7 the point is that His high-priesthood is superior in its order. In chapter 8 the emphasis is His better covenant and in chapter 9 it is the better sanctuary. Chapter 10 gloriously rounds off the section by focusing on Christ’s better sacrifice.
The Jewish people were familiar with the priesthood of the tribe of Levi. The Levites were chosen by God to serve in the tabernacle (Ex 29; Num 18). Aaron was the first high priest appointed by God and in ch 5 we saw how Christ fulfilled the Aaronic type and that He possessed all the qualities needed to be a high-priest. But although the Holy Spirit showed that Christ fully met those requirements, that was not enough, He also wanted to make it clear that Christ is an infinitely better priest.
To say that Christ was a High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” was tantamount to declaring that the Aaronic priesthood with its sacrifices and ceremonies was divinely set aside. That is exactly why v 12 talks about the priesthood being changed. This was desperately hard for a Hebrew, even a converted one, for it meant giving up all the traditions and rituals that they had been brought up in and which their fathers had gloried in for fifteen hundred years for something invisible.
An eternal priesthood
Although Aaron was a picture of Christ he was an imperfect type, in particular, because, like all the priests, he died –. 38Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the LORD, and died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. 39Aaron was one hundred and twenty–three years old when he died. Num 33
So the chief way Christ’s priesthood is better than that of Aaron is that it is an eternal priesthood. Aaron and his sons lived, for better or worse, served and died. Jesus died and rose again, never more to die! See how many times this point is rammed home:
• High Priest forever 5v20
• a priest continually 6v3
• the power of an endless life v16
• a priest forever v21
• He continues forever v24
• He always lives to make intercession for them v25
• perfected forever v28
If God says something once it is important. How important do you think something is then when Scripture says it 7 times in 29 verses? If 7 is the number of perfection then perhaps God wants this to be perfectly clear! Do you get the message? Jesus will never die and pass the job on to someone else! In OT times there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing v23. They grew up and learned their role, got to know their people and, hopefully, their God. Then, just as they were getting the hang of things, age caught them and they retired and died. You see the impact of this on the life of Israel over and over again eg 2Ch 24:2 Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest… 17 Now after the death of Jehoiada …they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass.
It is always frustrating when you find someone, perhaps a doctor or a lawyer, who proves to be a lot of help and then they retire, die or just move on. Often things just aren’t the same with their successor. When it comes to our salvation it could be disastrous if our case was passed on to another high-priest. Imagine getting to the gates of heaven and saying ‘your predecessor said that I had been forgiven and could come in.’ But the new high-priest says ‘well I can’t find anything to that effect in your file, so I’m sorry but you can’t come in. I’m sure you are telling the truth, but I’m afraid my predecessor wasn’t very good with the paperwork!’
What a wonderful contrast we have with our beloved Saviour! 25Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. There is no change, no ‘fresh perspective,’ no new, unsympathetic high-priest who does not know our history. He who died to save us always lives to make intercession for us and, because He is always there for us, He is also able to save to the uttermost! As our Saviour Christ delivers us, but we also need Him as our high-priest to watch over us and represent us before the Throne of Grace now we are saved – to preserve us, moment by moment, for the rest of our lives.