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WEDNESDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME

Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17


This “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him”; and to him Abraham apportioned “one-tenth of everything.” His name, in the first place, means “king of righteousness”; next he is also king of Salem, that is, “king of peace.” Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him,

“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 110:1-4


The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The Lord sends out from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes. Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day you lead your forces on the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning, like dew, your youth will come to you. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Mark 3:1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

(NRSVCE)

Meditation

Today Paul writes to the Hebrews referencing the ancient priest Melchizedek as a forerunner and prophetic figure of the Messiah. Melchizedek, as Paul explains, was a priest and king during the time of Abraham. Abraham meets Melchizedek after he has returned from battle against a coalition of kings who had made war against the rulers of the land where Abraham was staying, and among their prisoners of war had carried away Abraham’s kinsman, Lot. When Abraham returns, having defeated the kings and rescued Lot, he restores the other prisoners and spoils of war, and Melchizedek meets him, offers him bread and wine, and blesses him. Melchizedek is therefore a Christ figure as the one who blesses the father of faith and his lineage and the returned hostages, and the one who offers bread and wine.

But Paul focuses on another aspect of Melchizedek’s identity to explain why he is a prefigure of the Christ. Melchizedek is a priest and king, in a time before the priestly and kingly lineages were established in Israel; indeed, before Israel, the grandson of Abraham, existed. In Israel, priests were Levites, descendants of Levi son of Israel, and more specifically sons of Aaron. Later in history still, kings were established from the line of David. Priests and kings were therefore generally mutually exclusive. Melchizedek is of neither of these lines (some traditions identify him as Shem, the firstborn son of Noah); he existed before these lines came to be, and is both priest and king in one person, of a divinely appointed sort. Moreover, as laid out in the book of Numbers, priests’ terms were fixed, amounting to no more than two decades. But Melchizedek, existing before this requirement came to be, is a priest forever.


Moving forward through history to the time of Christ, in the temple on the Sabbath, He demonstrates for all who have eyes to see that He is the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, of whom the psalmist king David foretold. This is not the first gospel passage in which Jesus or his followers have been accused of breaking the Sabbath; on another occasion, Jesus’s disciples were plucking grain on the Sabbath, and were accused of working and therefore Sabbath-breaking. On that occasion, Jesus expounded how the king David took the loaves of proposition to feed himself and those with him and did not sin, although it was only lawful for the priests to eat. He also explained how the priests work on the Sabbath by performing their temple duties, yet sin not. Jesus therefore lays out that work necessary for the care of those in need and for the service of God are permitted on the Sabbath, at least to priests and kings. By asking the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” He therefore prompts them to consider these examples of doing good on the Sabbath, and who is permitted to do them. It should therefore have been plain to their intellects that the man before them, who could heal on the Sabbath, was of the order of Melchizedek and the foretold Messiah, but for the hardness of their hearts.

Where do we see ourselves in the scripture today, beholding this priest and king prefigured by Melchizedek? Like the man with the withered hand, do we have an area of brokenness, something we need God to heal, but maybe we doubt He will heal us, or doubt His timing? Like the Pharisees, are we putting God into any boxes, to maintain our own sense of control, or to put barriers between ourselves and God or ourselves and our fellow men and women? Where in our lives do we need to give Jesus the authority of priest and king over us? Today let’s pray for the grace of a greater knowledge of who Jesus is, and to let Him have His way with us ever more. For His way is understanding, healing, and love.

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