Hebrews chapters 6 and 7 are not easy to understand, at least for me. I know there is depth in these verses that I am just not equipped to plunge. No doubt there is great symbolism in the discussion of the priesthood that the original recipients of this letter understood. They were Hebrews, after all. Their priest had been a very present and important figure in their upbringing. But I’m afraid much of it is lost on me.
What is clear, even to me, is that there is something about Jesus that is like (“in the order of”) Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abraham in Genesis 14. Obviously it is significant that his name and title mean “king of righteousness” and “king of peace” and that he brought out bread and wine for this ceremonial blessing. Yet theologically, I do not know if Melchizedek was actually Jesus or just a foreshadowing of Jesus.
But either way, Jesus is our forever priest. Unlike the priests of the Old Testament, Jesus “is able to save [us] completely…because he always lives to intercede for” us. “Such a high priest meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (7:25-28 emphasis mine)
Aren’t you glad that the sacrifice is complete? That it really was once for all? The Hebrews of the Old Testament never had that assurance, and modern Jews do not have it today. That’s why the Day of Atonement is so important. But if you stop to think about it, no religious tradition offers the peace of Jesus. Ask a Buddhist if the work is complete. Ask a Mormon. Ask a Muslim. Ask anyone. All religions have an aspect of striving. The goal might be enlightenment, emptying yourself of desire, living increasingly in accord with religious law, or something else, but only Jesus claimed “it is finished.”
There is literally nothing we can do. We are wholly incapable, but it is also wholly unnecessary. Jesus did it all.
If we believe that, if we really live that out, our lives should look much different from the rest of the world. For starters we should exude peace and gratitude. Are you? Are you just pouring out peace and gratitude everywhere you go? I’m afraid I’m not either. But perhaps the problem isn’t what we think. Maybe it’s not a lack of solitude or blessing or prayer, but a lack of belief. The candid plea of the father in Mark 9 comes to mind yet again, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
This week may our lives be convincing evidence of what we claim to believe. In short, may our hearts be grateful and our peace contagious.