The story of Jesus and Melchizedek doesn’t begin here at the beginning of Hebrews 7; it goes all the way back to Genesis and the story of Abraham. Our author has mentioned earlier in the letter how all of this worked, beginning with a basic definition of what a priest actually is:
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
While priesthood has all of the characteristics mentioned in these verses, Jesus (and Melchizedek) was no garden variety priest. Aaron’s descendants were born to the (Levitical) priesthood, but Jesus was born to the royal line of David; our author explains how Jesus could also become a priest:
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 5:5-6 (cf. Psalm 2:7; 110:4)
In Jesus’ case, He became a high priest in the Order of Melchizedek because His Father directly intervened. That is amazing enough, but as you can see, there is so much more to it:
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
So, there it is: Jesus, during His earthly ministry, demonstrated the role of a priest in His selfless devotion not only to God, but in the way that He interceded for Mankind- even to the extreme of going to the cross in which, He brought Himself as the superior sacrifice from the superior high priest to establish a superior Covenant based upon superior sacrifices.
With that freshly in mind, we can resume to narrative in chapter 7… See you next time!