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Friends in Christ Weekly Message
July 12, 2000
The Law appoints priests who have weaknesses. But God's promise, which came later than the Law, appoints his Son. And he is the perfect high priest forever. (Hebrews 7:28, CEV*)
In Israel, priests all came from the tribe of Levi. It was a hereditary position, and the priests did indeed have weaknesses and they died.
In the seventh chapter of Hebrews, the author points to Jesus as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. The Bible doesn't say a lot about Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18-20), but he was not a Levite. He didn't really "deserve" to be a priest according to the Hebraic tradition, but Abraham recognized him as a priest and paid tithe to him. Much later, David writes a psalm in which he refers to Melchizedek as a priest forever, something not achieved by any of the Levite priests. David's reference (Psalm 110:4) appears to look forward to Jesus.
Like Melchizedek, Jesus was not a Levite and so was not entitled to be a priest under the Hebraic law. But in fact he is our high priest yet today. In Friends in Christ, we look to Jesus as our priest, not to anyone with "credentials" like seminary training or ordination by humans. The role of those of us who facilitate the work is to point people to Christ, the true teacher.
The order of Melchizedek story has even broader implications, as I see it. The New Covenant not only breaks down the old priestly system, but breaks down all the hierarchies and systems of privileges which humans try to establish.
This explains to me what is happening in the Hindu world to Christians. The Hindu religion, from a theological standpoint, is very broad and accepting. Yet some of the most vicious attacks on Christians come from Hindu militants. The Hindu culture has a rigid caste system, which is hereditary like the Hebraic priestly system. The Gospel tells the untouchables and the others who are towards the bottom of that system that they are just as worthy and valued by God as the Brahmins at the top. Christianity may not present a real religious threat, but it presents a very real threat to the caste system. It empowers those whom the system says are worth little or nothing. Systems tend to respond oppressively to such threats.
Jesus made very clear that he came, among other things, to bring good news to the poor as was prophesied. The Gospel is still Good News today, breaking the bonds of oppression. Praise God!
* Contemporary English Version ©1995 American Bible Society.
©2000 Friends in Christ, Inc.
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