Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek." On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever.'" This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (ESV)
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Beautiful and Mystical and Kind
Thursday of Pentecost 20
15 October 2015
I saw a movie about the end of World War II in which a Nazi officer, who is trying to keep Jews from being arrested and killed, has a death penalty pronounced against him by the Nazi authorities. He deserts his post and waits until the Canadian units arrive and liberate the Dutch region in which he is hiding. He then turns himself into the Canadian commander of the military sector. Unfortunately, the military law in force in the liberated zones required that previously determined judgments could be carried out at the discretion of the Allied commander. The man comes before the Canadian commander quite certain of his vindication. Unfortunately, a Nazi general anxious to cover up the slaughter of Dutch Jews advocates not for the liberation of his inferior officer, but argues rather for his summary execution. He is taken out and shot. The Canadian found it easier to concur with the Nazi general, rather than advocate for the innocent man.
We seldom intercede for one another, but often advocate against others. We ask not for mercy for them, but talk about their sins and weaknesses. Secretly we think that God should give them their comeuppance, or we may actually say to another that they should get exactly what they deserve! God does not act this way. Our heavenly Father has sent His Son into the world to take our comeuppance in His suffering and death. Then our Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of our Father to advocate for us there. He intercedes in the presence of the heavenly throne, pleading that our Father would not treat us as we deserve, but that He would treat us as He Himself deserves, who has obeyed His Father perfectly. He displays before our Father the wounds that are our salvation: "Look Father, upon My hands and hands and feet and side! These wounds unto death are the life of the people You sent me to save. You must vindicate them, for so You have promised in Your Word. Before Your judgment throne the only verdict that is possible is 'not guilty.'" The Father receives this intercession because it entirely concurs with His gracious will. He never pleads for our Father to give us what we deserve.
This is a huge difference between us wicked humans and our gracious God. We, who have every reason, because of our sins, to be afraid of judgment falling upon human flesh, judge others and call upon God to concur with our judgment. This is a terrible judgment by us given what Jesus says: "For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Lk 6:38). O Lord, have mercy! We are so prone to finger pointing. It is actually much easier to overlook the sins of others and speak words of holy absolution, because the work is all done by the Savior. We are just applying the prefect fruit of His wonderful work for us. We are speaking a peace which comes from God; giving away someone else's riches. Intercession leads to intercession. We are like the wicked servant in the parable of the gracious master, demanding our pound of flesh, without recognizing our own indebtedness and God's own 'beautiful and mystical and kind' intercession and remission toward us.
"Christ ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25
). O, how beautiful and mystical and kind! For to intercede does not imply to seek vengeance, as is most men's way (for in that there would be something degrading), but He pleads for us by reason of His role as mediator, just as the Spirit also is said to make intercession for us (Rm 8:26
). 'For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus' (1Ti 2:5
). For He still pleads even now as man for my salvation; for He continues to wear the body which He assumed, although He is no longer known after the flesh (2Co 5:16
), that is the passions of the flesh, the same as ours, but without sin. Thus too, we have an advocate (1Jn 2:1
), Jesus Christ. He does not prostrate Himself for us before the Father, falling down before Him as though a slave. Away with a suspicion so truly slavish and unworthy of the Spirit! For neither is it seemly for the Father to require this, nor for the Son to submit to it as a slave. It is not right to think this way about God. But by what He suffered as man, He as the Word and the Counselor persuades the Father to be patient. I think this is the meaning of His advocacy.
Gregory Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, 14
O Lord Jesus, You have interceded for us before our Father, displaying rich wounds from which flow the fluid of our life in His presence. Send us the Holy Spirit to make us steadfast in the confidence that there is now no condemnation for those who are in You, through You, precious mediator, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For the men's retreat of Memorial Lutheran Church and the ladies' retreat of the New Orleans Lutherans meeting this weekend, that they might travel safely and find great joy in studying the Word of God
For Scott and Maryann Murray, who are celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary today, that the Lord Jesus would grant them many more years of marital joy
For Lutheran pastors and people in Nigeria, especially those who are experiencing violent persecution at the hands of Muslims, that they might bear their suffering as a confession of the sufferings of Christ
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015