15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 7:15-17 (ESV)
In general, I don’t really think much about priests. As a Protestant, I’ve been to a couple of Catholic weddings, sat at a lunch table with a priest once and I’ve heard about the scandals in the Catholic Church, but that’s about the extent of my interactions with priests.
From a theological standpoint, of course there’s the “priesthood of the believer” doctrine, but unfortunately, that’s also not something that specifically crosses my mind a whole lot.
But maybe I should think more about priests. Maybe we all should, because we need one.
Specifically, we need “another priest,” one from the order and “likeness of Melchizedek” (v. 15). But why do we need this type? Because this is talking about Jesus.
The early audience of this letter would have also understood that the writer is talking about something incredibly radical with this call for another priest and verse 16 screams out this call:
“who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.”
Not just anyone could become a Levitical priest. For starters, one would need the proper “bodily descent,” or put another way, one would need to be a descendant of Levi. If not, there was no chance you would be a priest.
But whereas a Levitical priest obtained the right to the priesthood by birth, Jesus’ qualification as priest included “the power of an indestructible life.” When I think about this related to Jesus, certain things come to mind. I think of the eternal nature of Jesus. He wasn’t created; He has always been. I think of the sinless life He lived on earth. And I think about how He destroyed the power of sin and death by His resurrection. Jesus, in His role as our High Priest, is able to serve on the basis of “an indestructible life.”
Jesus, however, had His earthly descent through Judah, and not through Levi, so how does this affect His qualifications to be our High Priest? It’s simple: God didn’t make Him a priest in the “order of Aaron.” He made Him a priest from another order – “after the order of Melchizedek” (v. 17).
This is neat and I really love discussing this and it’s very important. But what does this really mean? I think there are several things to take away from this:
- God is in the details. While He had specific requirements for Levitical priests and how they would serve His people, He also had a specific way – a better way, for a better priest – to serve His people for all time.
- We need a priest. We need someone to approach God on our behalf and in Jesus we have “another priest,” who serves to the uttermost.
- We need a Savior. Jesus isn’t just our High Priest, He is also our sacrifice. And because Jesus has “an indestructible life,” His work for us, as our sacrifice, is sufficient for all time.