Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 76: Jesus, our Sabbath Rest; Jesus, our High Priest

So, in his (or her) encouraging way, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews continues to encourage and to chide and to remind the congregation of the superiority of Jesus, of the benefits of knowing Jesus and following Jesus.

First he reminds them of the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, and the promise of sabbath rest.  But there's more to the story than meets the eye.  Sabbath rest is about a literal rest from labors once a week, it's about entering God's rest, it's about trusting the faithfulness of God, whether in the wilderness or the promised land.  So ultimately Jesus is God's Sabbath rest -- the One who trusted God perfectly also offers us a Sabbath when we trust him.

Then, he points out Jesus as a high priest:  and not just any high priest, but a high priest "after the order of Melchizedek."  What does that mean?  Melchizedek is a sort of shadowy figure from the book of Genesis, who appears mysteriously to bless Abraham, and then disappears again.  He is not part of the formal line of priests.  He is prior to the levitical priesthood.  In fact, he does not even appear to be an Israelite.  But he is unique, like Jesus.

Jesus is a priest, our high priest, which might seem a strange thing to our ears.  What do we need a priest for?  A priest is a mediator, an intercessor, someone who pleads for someone else, and most of us don't think this way.  What do we need a mediator for?  What do we need an intercessor for?  What could we be guilty of?  We're pretty good, aren't we?  Maybe we make mistakes sometimes, but nothing we have to worry about.

But the author of Hebrews and his/her congregation do believe they need a mediator.  They know that they fall, and they want to be reconciled to God.  Jesus is a good reconciler because as a human being, he sympathizes with our stumbling ways, but he always has the ear of God.

But what about us?  Is it good news to us that Jesus is rest, or that Jesus is a high priest?  How would you describe the good news of Jesus?

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