COLUMN: Jesus the High Priest

Published 10:05 pm Sunday, March 24, 2024

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One person has said, “If you think you’re feeling enlightened, go spend a week with your own family.” To be honest, most of us assume we know what’s going on in each other’s worlds. We probably don’t, but we think we do. 

Although most of us have said something about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, we really can’t. Can we? So, it’s hard to know what life looks like through the eyes of the person sitting right next to us sometimes. 

Gardner Taylor was the dean of African-American preachers. When asked to describe a preaching event, he said, “It is the sweet torture of Sunday morning.”

Perhaps you’ve noticed something about those who take the text seriously and those who take seriously the assignment of conveying a word on behalf of God. That is, when they get up to preach if you’re looking closely enough, you may notice a slight limp. 

The preaching of the word is a heavy load. The sweet torture of Sunday morning. When most preachers were younger, we would speak on texts familiar to ourselves. We had this instinct in our familiarity that we needed an instant payoff with the text. 

Over the years, some of us have learned that our biblical canon is far too small. Our familiar, comfortable texts make up too small a portion. Our listeners deserve a fuller experience of the Bible.

Of course, Baptists, in particular, have historically believed that all of the scriptural texts are inspired and of profound spiritual value. We believe they are all equally scriptural. 

If the preacher has integrity, then the challenge is to preach the whole text. That is, to visit throughout the whole Bible over time, wherever that may take us, so that we hear from the totality of God’s word, not just my or your favorite parts. 

Hebrews is one of those books that we tend to limit. One that we skip sometimes. But today, we are in Hebrews 5: 5-10. In many ways, it’s a strange text. 

The story tells us that Jesus didn’t want to be glorified. But God said of Jesus, “You are my son. My beloved. My begotten. And you are a priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

In Genesis 14, Melchizedek was Abraham’s favorite priest. The easiest thing in the world would be for me to get lost in the weeds of trying to tell you more about him. That is, what little we can know about Melchizedek from the Bible. You can look into that on your own.

“Priest.” That’s a vivid word. In Hebrews, we are shown an image of Jesus as high priest in the order of Melchizedek. 

This actually shouldn’t be foreign language to us. We Baptists tend to say that we are to each other priests. It’s actually built in as one of our innermost doctrinal tenets, the priesthood of all believers.

We have a chance still today to speak into some interesting times. To bring each other good tidings. To speak hope into a challenged word for each other. To remind each other of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. 

The priest in us gets to talk about a people formed around a shared relationship with Christ. Buried with Christ in baptism. Raised into newness of life. 

These are difficult days we live in. Complicated in so many ways. Potentially divisive in so many ways. So many labels. So many opinions. So many biases toward seeing the same world. 

We are Democrat and Republican. We are Black and White. We are Male and Female. We are Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, NC State and yes, Georgia Tech. Our culture pressures us just to choose one against the other. 

But the dualistic choices of those labels are not fair. Because you and I, we are so much more than only one or the other. So, the natural thing seems to apply labels and divide up. To put some distance in among all of the differences. Of course, that’s actually not good. Because when we do that, we cease to be priests one to another.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.” That’s the powerful saying one observer has offered. Priests to each other. We share one spiritual need in common. This presence of God who has chosen to live among us.

No, we don’t pay a lot of attention to Hebrews. But maybe we should.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.