Posts Tagged ‘Melchizedek’

This is another place where modern Human trips up. An indestructible life smacks of Superman and other “super heroes.” Miracles in general are not the food of modernity. We are all about logic and facts and evidence. But, I can only ask those who cannot fathom the miraculous, what if?

Hebrews 7:14-16
For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.

What if there was that indestructible one who wielded enough power to sustain life (and that crosses all dimensions of living), forever?

In these mid-range chapters that I am studying in Hebrews, the writer (and personally, I don’t hear the voice of St. Paul at all), the whole point is to examine the believability of Law changing because the priesthood was changed forever with the coming Messiah. That Jesus, as Messiah, was of another tribe (Judah) and like Melchizedek (who is mentioned several times in Hebrews 7), the ancestry does not line up with the law of the time. Melchizedek had an unknown genealogy while Jesus was affiliated by his birth mother to the wrong one and the next leap is Jesus’s true genealogy as divine.

It’s funny really, the ancient peoples struggled with Jesus’s genealogy while modern people struggle with the supernatural. The people of Israel had a history of miracles; this they could accept, but his lineage was a huge problem if he was to be their true priest-king with the authority to change their laws, the foundation of their faith. While today, that’s a more insignificant problem, it’s all the other stuff: virgin birth, bringing dead people to life, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and of course, resurrection.

But, I say again, what if that kind of power did exist? What would we do in the face of an indestructible life, that is, directed, perpetual energy?

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A good portion of Hebrews 7 is devoted to the mysterious Melchizedek, the priest-king to whom Abraham tithed “10% of everything.” One of the great wonders to the believers of that time was his lack of genealogy. Who was this guy? Many theories, but no one really knows. Nevertheless, he had the authority to bless, even the patriarch, Abraham.

Hebrews 7:2b-3
“. . . First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.”

Questions that can send silent shudders up a librarian’s spine are from the amateur genealogists seeking out their family line. They are an enthusiastic bunch and quick to tell of their latest discoveries. The librarian nods her head and smiles while the genealogist explains the depth of his or her line. There is great pride in sleuthing out names and dates and long lost relatives that go back to the American Revolution or even earlier.

But in Jewish history, the genealogical line was even more important. People were rooted in their community or accepted into a new community by the veracity of their genealogical line. In modern times, this is sometimes mirrored in small communities where being “from” there requires the person to be “born there.” And certainly, in the Mormon church, genealogy is critical to leadership. Most of the best genealogical records of modern times have been stored and digitized by that group.

But here is Melchizedek, apparently quite powerful and respected which is reflected in the 10% of all “booty” that Abraham and his men give to him after defeating the kings of Sodom. We know so little of his story that he has become the subject of much speculation, particularly among various teachers and rabbi’s. Some claim he was divine which explains his lack of lineage while others say he was simply an anointed king of the era.

I am captivated by this story because of its mystery. The Bible has many such characters who appear briefly and then are heard of no more. There is usually significance in their appearances, but I’m not sure what it is.

Today, I am simply struck by the idea that there is always someone higher than us. No matter how much fame or fortune or power we attain, there is always someone who has more. God places each of us in that continuum, in some cases, it is we ourselves who are the “higher one,” perhaps by income or status or position at work. We are inside the sandwich of authority.

Melchizedek blessed Abraham first and then the gift was given willingly. Isn’t it important for me to bless those around me who are in a different part of the sandwich. It’s so important to speak blessings to everyone in our circle of influence, but even moreso to those who have less than we do. A blessing calls on God to fill in where human cannot.

The trick is not to envy or become jealous of the blessings, for some will be called to the higher table at the banquet.

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Artwork by Gretchen Smith

Most of us know the short verse, “Jesus wept” [John 11:35]. We might even get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the picture of a sympathetic Christ, weeping for his friend. But how often does anyone quote this verse in Hebrews, where Jesus cries out loud and sheds tears before God?

Hebrews 5:7
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

After a quick look at some of the commentaries, it’s interesting to me that most writers place all this “weeping and wailing” right before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, as though this is the one time Jesus encountered his destiny and travailed before the Father. But I propose that the prayers and supplications of Jesus were ongoing. Think about it: how many times did Jesus miraculously escape the authorities? How many times did he suspect danger in his life, anticipate a shortened ministry, protect himself and his work by discouraging loose talk or gossip among his followers?

Jesus knew his life was forfeit but I can imagine him praying regularly, “Not yet . . . not yet. Give me a little more time.”

Jesus needed help and protection from God continually, not just in the garden, but throughout his ministry life. And in the same way that he emptied his heart and soul before God at Gethsemane, I believe he did this regularly and undoubtedly during many of those solitary prayers he sought out on the mountainsides, away from the disciples.

Lastly, I am intrigued by the idea of a noisy Christ. I mean, I don’t know about you, but a mental picture of Jesus roaring or wailing before God is difficult to wrap my mind around. And yet, why not? Isn’t it culturally appropriate? Would Jesus be “above” such behavior, such expression of need, desire, or supplication? Not at all.

I have experienced deep crying out to God and weeping but only at those times of deepest despair, betrayal, or fear. When I cried out to God at such times, I confess, it wasn’t that I put all my trust in God, I was merely bereft of hope, overwhelmed, and felt as if there was nowhere else to turn, I was “poor in spirit.” It was my last chance.

I wonder, were there circumstances and situations that Jesus did not expect to happen? Was he ever surprised (or surprised all the time)? Did he expect/hope his follower-disciples would “get it” sooner than they did (or did they get it while he was still alive at all?); was he troubled by the masses of people who easily followed him day after day for “bread and fish” but could not grasp the food of the Spirit; was he frustrated by his own inability to break through thousand-year-old traditions and beliefs? Did he cry out to God the day he called himself the “bread of life” and taught them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood–so many deserted him that day. I can imagine him saying, “Father, how do I reach them?”

And yet, each day, he submitted again and again and again to the role he was given to endure (in the order of Melchizedek); he pressed on. He woke up, he prayed, he taught, he ate, he miracled. And finally, he reached that God-ordained last day, that last supper, and that last prayer. My spirit tells me now: his garden prayers were not the first time he bled in sweat nor flooded the ground with his tears. His life in the Father was full of prayers and supplications every day.

Holy tears for me. Thanks be to God.

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When the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem (70 AD), as much as I understand such things, the high priesthood dissolved for the Jews. And yet, the Christians, both East and West, have carried forward a similar hierarchy through the institution of Popes, Bishops, and Patriarchs, but none after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:1, 5a, 6
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men [and women] in things relating to God, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. . . . So too Christ (the Messiah) did not exalt Himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed . . . As He says also in another place, You are a Priest [appointed] forever after the order (with the rank) of Melchizedek.

I confess, I’m not the best one to write or discuss authority structures in the Church. I’m a bit of libertarian in those circles and not well versed in its history. But I do understand that one of the key roles of the Messiah is his Melchizedekian inheritance: he is both High Priest and King. He is both judge and mercy-giver. He can make the laws and forgive us for breaking those laws. He is Human and Spirit, King and Priest; Christ is paradoxical.

Melchizedek, priest and King of Salem (Jerusalem), lived in the time of Abram, 2000 BCE. And this role has been assigned to the Christ to come.

But what do we know of Kings in our age? Who do we have to model this role? What do we learn from the kings and queens of Great Britain (and their protectorates) or the Kings of Belgium, Sweden, or Norway, or the absolute monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Oman, or Qatar? [Incidentally, the Pope is also considered the absolute monarch of Vatican City.]

There are a zillion protocols for approaching a Royal, such as bowing, curtseying, proper address, proper distance, and so forth. Do I imagine King Jesus in this way? I usually ignore this perspective, don’t you?

And on the High Priest side, my only exposure to priests has been local Catholics and Episcopalians who are generally laid back around town and wouldn’t expect me to bend and kiss a ring or insist on addressing them as Father or Brother. That’s not to say the same for the “higher” priests. The protocols for the Pope, bishops, and patriarchs are equally submissive and quite extensive. Do I imagine Priest Jesus in this way? Not really.

None of these human examples of high priests or kings give much meaning to my Messiah-King. But isn’t some of that my own fault?

Are we all too casual in this day and age? Have we gotten too comfortable with our mauve carpeting and coffee club church services? Have we spent too much time humanizing Jesus/God (e.g. paintings of the laughing Jesus) or emphasizing his gentleness (drawing of Jesus with the lamb) or putting emphasis on our “family status,” making Him just one of the guys?

This is one reason why I am trying to spend more time on and in my relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is not king or priest, but a spirit union with me. This One is sister, brother, counselor, lover. Yes, I understand we learn about Jesus in those same ways, but honestly, I think we’d better understand His role as Melchizedek too. And in that semblance, I doubt I’ll be jumping up into his lap like Santa Claus.

Something to think about today.

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