by Austin Ariail
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
The fourth Thursday in November every year happens to be one of my favorite holidays. Families, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances gather around a table for a delicious meal of turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mash potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The menu for every Thanksgiving meal in America varies, but one thing remains: the first helping is never the most filling. While the first pass on the Thanksgiving dishes lends itself to larger portions and a variety of delectables, one generally finds his or herself eventually going back for another round. The first helping isn’t always the best, complete, or perfect. A second helping is needed.1
The writer of Hebrews tells the reader about Melchizedek, a priest of the Most-High God and a king of righteousness and peace. Melchizedek, a priest not from the lineage of Levi, is a forerunner of the better Priest to come. Jesus Christ, the final and better Priest-King, ministers and reigns with righteousness and peace for His people for eternity.
While Melchizedek is a positive example, the writer of Hebrews also reminds the reader that he is not the only priest in the Old Testament. The former priests that originate from the tribe of Levi have a reputation that is less than stellar. Each of those priests have come and gone since death prevented them from doing their priestly duties for all time. They were plagued by their own sin, and with needs and struggles of their own, and unable to perfectly, completely perform their priestly duties. The first priests were not the best, complete, and perfect priests. There was a better Priest to come: Jesus Christ our High Priest, who now is seated with God the Father in all glory. Our High Priest was not only the offeror of the sacrifice, but He was the sacrifice Himself. The sacrifices of lambs and goats under the Law were first, but they were not the best, complete, or perfect. The constant offering of sacrifices would never end until Jesus Himself was the offering for our sin. The second sacrifice was better. Jesus Christ was the best, complete, and perfect offering.
In our day and time, we are consumed with being first or having something first. “If you’re not first, you’re last” so we are told by Reese Bobby. Not being first, means you are a loser, a runner-up, and never able to fully enjoy the victory. But the Bible turns worldly-wisdom and desires on its head. The better option came later, not first. The better Priest, King, and Sacrifice would come many years later after the first of those kinds. And our hearts desire for what is best, we long to have our appetites and longings satisfied and constantly seek out first options that are usually disappointments. Consider Jesus Christ, the better, more complete, perfect and best. Only in Jesus will our longings, desires, and satisfaction be ultimately fulfilled.
1This illustration is inspired from “Please, Help Yourself to Seconds” by D. Jeffrey Bingham, Dallas Theological Seminary Chapel. https://voice.dts.edu/chapel/please-help-yourself-to-seconds-d-jeffrey-bingham/