Second Reading: Hebrews 5:7-9

According to the Rank of Melchizedek

Popular Translation

7-8 When Jesus was an human being like you and me, he prayed to God as he died with his screams and tears. Jesus was heard because he honored his Father so much. As God's Son, he learned true obedience from what he suffered on the cross.

God has the power to raise people from the dead. 9 So, he raised Jesus up and made him completely whole again. In this way, Jesus is the reason believers have eternal life!

Literal Translation

6 Just as (God) also said in another (Psalm), "YOU (are) a PRIEST into the (final) age, according to the rank of Melchizedek," 7 who in the days of HIS flesh, having offered both requests and prayers to the (One) having the power to save HIM from death with loud shouts and tears, and having been heard (by God) for (HIS) reverence, 8 and indeed being (his) SON, HE learned obedience from what he suffered, 9 and having been finished (with perfection), HE became to all obeying HIM the cause of eternal salvation, 10 having been addressed by God 'HIGH PRIEST according to the rank of Melchizedek.'

5:6 "You (are) a priest into the (final) age, according to the rank of Melchizedek." From Psalm 110:4. The "final age" referred to the coming Kingdom (hence eternity).

Although this reading was Hebrews 5:7-9, it was part of a long sentence that covered 5:6-10. So, the entire sentence has been translated in the literal form. The references about Melchizedek form bookends to the activity of the Christ, according to the author of Hebrews.

Who was Melchizedek? In Genesis 14:18-20, we read,

And Mel-chizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed (Abram) and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" (RSV)

Two items stand out. Melchizedek was the king of Salem ("peace" or Shalom) and was a priest of God Most High, who the Jews identified as YHWH. Since Melchizedek was a king-priest of God Almighty with no origin or destiny (he suddenly appeared then disappeared), traditions used him as a symbol for an eternal priesthood. From the time of the Davidic dynasties onward, many believers saw Melchizedek was an archetype for the institution of Aaron's priesthood. When the priesthood became corrupt in the eyes of many, they equated Melchizedek with the coming Messiah, the king-priest who would liberate the nation and re-institute pure worship in the Temple.

Then, the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. And the dreams of many for the Messiah died in the toppled ruins of Jerusalem.

The author of Hebrews, however, spiritualized the image of the king-priest "according to the rank of Melchizedek." The Christ liberated (with eternal salvation) and offered true worship in heaven before God directly. Notice the steps of the author's logic. With his own death ("loud shouts and tears"), the Christ offered worship ("requests and prayers") to the "One having the power to save him from death" (in this sense, from the permanence of death; hence the resurrection of the Christ). His death was a sign of his Son-ship, for it showed his perfect obedience to the Father. God completely perfected his Christ in his resurrection. So, though his death (his priesthood and sacrifice) and his resurrection (his anointing as King), he became the cause of eternal salvation. In this way, the Christ fulfilled the Melchizedek image.

So, the author of Hebrews presented us with a thumb nail image of the Messiah. The risen Lord is our King as our Servant. The risen Lord is also our means to worship the Father. He is our Victim and High Priest. His reign and worship is eternal.

Reflect on the image of Christ as king-priest. How does your prayer and worship reflect Christ's? How have you realized his reign in your life?