5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; 6 as he says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--"Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are so many names and titles for Jesus. We call him Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Rabbi, Teacher, Carpenter, Lord, Master, Immanuel, Messiah.
One of the titles for Jesus that we heard in our second reading today is one we don’t use or think about as often. Jesus is our High Priest. Since we aren’t Roman Catholic or Episcopalian, we don’t even use the word priest very often.
So, what do we mean when we call Jesus our High Priest?
And the other pressing question on everyone’s mind today - Who in the world is Melchizedek and what does he have to do with any of this? The first readers of the book of Hebrews probably knew who he was, but most of us never heard of him, so we need a little background today.
Well, we first read about Melchizedek in the Old Testament story of Abraham. Melchizedek is the king of Jerusalem and his name means “my king is righteous.” Melchizedek isn’t just a king, though. He has another title. He is also called Priest of the Most High God. So he is both the king and the high priest.
We read in Genesis 14 that he brings out bread and wine and he prays as he blesses Abraham.
Bread, wine, prayer, blessing, priest - now that’s starting to sound familiar.
It is right after this blessing that God makes the covenant with Abraham and promises that Abraham’s descendants will be like the stars in the sky. And Abraham believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
When he blessed Abraham, Melchizedek became the beginning of the royal and priestly lines in the empire of Israel.
We hear about Melchizedek again in Psalm 110, where David says, “The LORD says to my Lord, sit at my right hand…” and “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
The writer of Hebrews is quoting that passage in our reading today. He is telling us that Jesus isn’t just our king, he is our high priest as well. A king and high priest, not through human inheritance, but ordained by God. Jesus is High Priest forever and he is the only High Priest we will ever need.
What do we mean when we say Jesus is our High Priest?
In antiquity, the office of High Priest was held in great regard because they believed that the priest was the one who stood between God and God’s people. The word priest in Latin is pontifex, which means “bridge builder.” The high priest makes the bridge between God and the people.
I saw a cartoon the other day with three people carrying a large piece of lumber over their heads. There was a gap in the narrow path beneath them, just the right size for one of them to fall in. As they each went over the gap, they all held onto the lumber and the other two carried the one who was in danger. They each had a turn being carried. They each had turns being part of the bridge that carried a friend in prayer.
Isn’t that who Jesus is? He is the bridge between God and God’s people. No one comes to God except through him and the lumber he carried.
Jesus, our High Priest, is the mediator between God and God’s people. That’s why we always pray in his name. When he was on earth he prayed for us. He continues to pray for us as High Priest in heaven.
Jesus encourages us to keep the lines of communication with God open all the time. To pray without ceasing.
That’s what Jesus does. He starts talking to God right in the middle of his conversation with Philip and Andrew in our gospel reading today. Jesus has a constant, on-going conversation with his Father, and this is one of those times we get to listen in.
This conversation is an important one. We hear and we are reminded of just how much God loves us. We hear again the lengths that Jesus went to - for us - that he died and rose and opened the doors of heaven for us.
This week's prayer from Jesus is called extemporaneous prayer. That’s a big word, but it just means “off the top of your head.” Extemporaneous speech is done without preparation. You just say what you are thinking and feeling right now.
Extemporaneous prayer is a constant conversation with God, going on inside of you. It may or may not be spoken aloud. You already know how to do this. You've done this.
Something good happens unexpectedly, and you spontaneously say, “Thank you, God!” Or, you need something, and your thoughts immediately go to, “Please, Lord.”
I encourage you to expand this type of prayer. Remember that Jesus, our High Priest, is always with you, so you can pray like he did, all the time, in his name.
He hears you when you pray, whether you pray aloud or in silence. Talk to him as he walks with you. Share your concerns. Share your sorrows. Share your joys.
Talk to him as you read the paper in the morning. Ask his blessings on the people you read about. Pray for the people you see on the news. Pray for the safety of the other drivers on the road as you go on your way. Pray for the children as they walk to school and play in your neighborhood.
Every time you think of someone you care about, thank God for them and ask Jesus, our High Priest, to bless them. Every time you think about someone you don't like, ask Jesus to bless them. Remember God loves the people we don’t like, too.
Prayer isn't a monologue. Part of every conversation includes being quiet. Take the time to quiet your thoughts and listen to what God may be saying to you. Sometimes it might sound like thunder and you won’t understand, but other times it will be clear, like the voice of the angels, the very messengers of God.
Jesus is a different kind of High Priest from the ones in Bible times. There were many, many of them and they offered daily sacrifices according to the Law. Jesus, himself was the sacrifice, once and for all. Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant, the one that is written on our hearts.
Jesus, our High Priest, isn’t just the bridge maker between us and God. He is a bridge maker between us and other people. Our faith is nurtured and supported in community. It is through praying with and for other people that we are strengthened in our own relationship with God.
Jesus prayed for us then and there, when he was with us on earth, and he continues to pray for us here and now. He has promised to be with us whenever we call on his name. He is our High Priest forever. Today, he brings out the bread and wine and prays for us and blesses us.