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Who was Melchizedek? What’s the big deal?

January 25, 2013

You can listen to this at http://www.deaconphilip.podbean.com

It’s the final talk from my latest series of weekday homilies, this one was for Monday 22 January 2013. It continuing the readings from the Letter to the Hebrews (5: 1-10).

 

 

There are profound truths in today’s readings that are central to an understanding of our service this morning. Genesis (14:17-24) records historic events that took place some 2,000 before the birth of Jesus, and there is a reference to a guy with one of those crazy Old Testament names – Melchizedek. This name is found in other places in the bible too.

• In Psalm 110, written by King David a thousand years before Christ, there is a prophesy that the Messiah will be forever ‘a priest of the order of Melchizedek’.

• And in Matthew (22:41-45) Jesus Himself talked about psalm 110 with the pharisees, when He asks for their opinion about the Messiah.

• And then, less than 40 years after the Resurrection, this same phrase, ‘a priest after the order of Melchizedek’ was being quoted in today’s reading, the Letter to the Hebrews (5:6-10).

Why all this interest in Melchizedek?

Well, he is understood to be one of the characters in the Old Testament who points towards the New Testament, towards the coming Messiah. And from the earliest Christians through to today Melchizedek and his mysterious appearance with Abraham have helped the faithful to recognise that Jesus is the genuine Messiah. How?

Well….

• The name Melchizedek means ‘King of righteousness’.

• He is the King of Salem, a city later to be known as Jerusalem, the place where God’s Temple is to be found.

• Very unusually for a king, Melchizedek has no family tree, and we know nothing of his descendants. He just appears at a moment in time. He is timeless.

• And Melchizedek is not only a king but a priest, an intermediary between God and mankind. • As king and priest, Melchizedek received offerings from Abram, who is our ‘Father in Faith’.

• And we are told that Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and blesses God and Abram.

Bread and wine.

This is a clue. 2,000 years before Jesus, hidden in the Book of Genesis, a clue of what is to come. Once people knew Jesus and saw what He did in His ministry, it at last made sense. It is in the Letter to the Hebrews (7:1-19) where all these things are carefully explained. Not only is Melchizedek a sign of the Christ, but he also explains how Jesus is a priest, even though he is not from the traditional Levite line of hereditary Jewish priests. And what all this adds up to is this: when the true Messiah comes, the Jews can expect there to be a very radical change to the priesthood. The Messiah will be a priest forever, and the priesthood will not be hereditary. And that means that the Laws of Judaism, with the arrival of the new priesthood of Christ, would change. As Jesus explained, you can’t patch old and new things together – what you need is “new skins for new wine”. And indeed this is what happened. Within 30 years of the resurrection, the Temple had been destroyed; the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant – the covenant between Moses and God, came to an end. The old sacrifices had gone forever, having been replaced by the NEW covenant, the New Testament. And the arrival of the Church saw a new priesthood, a timeless priesthood. And the new priests were celebrating a new, timeless sacrament, called the Eucharist. The very familiar story of the Wedding Feast at Cana conceals all sorts of insights about our Lord. one quick points. Second: Turning water into wine is something we take for granted. We put grapes with sugar and yeast, let them ferment, and we get wine. In our familiarity, we forget that the grapes are a gift to us from God that we take and change into something different. Now the miracle at Cana is not that wine was made, but that it was produced instantaneously, timelessly. Jesus, being God, is master of time. He can miraculously make the whole process happen instantaneously. And he invites us humans to take part in the miracle. He told the servants precisely what to do, then Jesus transformed water into wine. There’s a theme emerging here: • Jesus is God. • God is timeless. • God can perform miracles. • And when God performed a miracle, it happened at the coming together of a family at a wedding feast. And the final theme, hugely important, and of personal significance to all of us: • He uses human servants to help Him.

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