Summary: As a priest in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus came to offer salvation full and free.
These past several weeks have taken us on a journey through portions of Job, Mark chapter 10, and the book of Hebrews. Through looking at the combinations of those Scripture passages, we’ve been reminded that Jesus is our Great High Priest, and that He journeys with us on the path to glory—which often leads through pain and suffering. Job set an example for us of endurance and perseverance through suffering, never giving up but pressing on until the end. We were encouraged to adjust our perspective on life before the hard times came, so that we would be able to weather the storm. We were reminded that the first will be last, that the Kingdom of God belongs to the weak and the innocent, and that we are to fulfill our callings instead of campaigning for greatness. And, we were encouraged with the knowledge that our Great High Priest goes before us, and that we can always find Jesus in the midst of the suffering. If you missed any of these messages, I’d like to encourage you to pick up copies of them on CD in the foyer, or to download them from our website—capenazarene.org. You might also know of someone that you could give a copy of the CD to, as an encouragement for them during a difficult time.
Part of the task of the author of Hebrews is to explain to a First Century Jewish audience how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Up until the time of Jesus, the Israelites were under the Mosaic covenant, upon which the sacrificial system in the temple was based. The author argues that Jesus is a great high priest, superior to the priests in the temple, so that his readers will follow the Son of God. This is one reason why the author reminded us that Jesus was not campaigning for greatness, but was being obedient to the calling given to Him by His Father.
As we’ve journeyed through the book of Hebrews, you may also have noticed that the author has continued to refer to an Old Testament character named Melchizedek. Melchizedek is mentioned eight times in the book of Hebrews, with three of those times quoting Psalm 110:4 which says, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” The only other time that Melchizedek is mentioned in scripture is the only time that he actually comes on the scene in the narrative of Genesis. And yet, the author of Hebrews gives a great deal of importance to this person who only appears once in the Old Testament story and once in the book of Psalms. Who was Melchizedek, anyway? And why was he so important?
If we go back to Genesis to learn about Melchizedek, we find ourselves in the time of Abram and his nephew Lot. You may remember that when Abram and Lot parted company, Abram allowed Lot to choose where he should go. He looked at the land, and realized that the Jordan river was well watered, and so he went to the east, leaving the hill country to Abram. You may also remember that Lot chose to live near Sodom, where there was great wickedness.
In Genesis chapter 14, we learn that there was a great military campaign to see which of the 9 kings in the area would control the land. During the course of these battles, Sodom and Gomorrah fell to one of the enemy kings who plundered the cities and captured its residents. Upon learning of this, Abram gathered together the 318 men that had been born in his household and chased after the armies to free Lot, his family, and the other people and possessions that had been captured.
Upon returning to the valley, he was greeted by two people of importance—the King of Sodom and the King of Salem. It is the King of Salem that we are primarily interested in this morning. In Genesis chapter 14, verses 18-20, we read these words:
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand."
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
So we have this very brief appearance of Melchizedek. He offers a meal of bread and wine, gives a blessing, and Abraham tithed to him. That’s it. This is the only appearance of this individual known as Melchizedek that we will find in the Old Testament. And yet, we read his name again in one of the Psalms, and the author of Hebrews makes a great deal of mention about this King of Salem—which was quite likely the same city that we now call Jerusalem.