A Better Priest (May 19)

Hebrews 4:14-5:10

Comment


Who is this Melchizedek spoken of in Hebrews 4 and 5?

The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary discusses Melchizedek:

“Melchizedek (mel-kiz’uh-dek; Heb., ‘king of righteousness’), the king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of ‘God Most High’ who blessed Abraham as the latter returned from battle (Gen. 14:17-20). According to this account, Melchizedek and the king of Sodom met Abraham at the Valley of Shaveh (also called the King’s Valley). Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and blessed Abraham, who then gave him one-tenth of everything he gained in battle. This incident is recalled in Ps. 110:4, where God addresses the Hebrew king as a ‘priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ In later literature, Melchizedek is regarded as an ideal priest-king and, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a heavenly judge. The fascination with Melchizedek during the Second Temple period focused on the fact that he is identified in the Bible as a priest centuries before the hereditary order of the levitical priesthood was established; thus, in the NT, the author of Hebrews declares that Jesus is a nonhereditary priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’ (5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:17). Indeed, since Melchizedek came first chronologically, he should be deemed greater than the later levitical priests and, by this reasoning, such preeminence may also be bestowed upon Jesus. . . . The fact that neither the genealogy nor death of Melchizedek is reported in the Bible is taken in Hebrews as a sign that the superior priesthood (represented now by Jesus) is an eternal one that has neither beginning nor end (7:3).”

Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised and Updated (Harper & Row, 2011), pp. 622-623.

Reading the Scripture

Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    If you are like me, you might find Hebrews difficult to follow at times. Maybe The Message version will help (maybe not):

Hebrews 4: 14-16 Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

5 1-3 Every high priest selected to represent men and women before God and offer sacrifices for their sins should be able to deal gently with their failings, since he knows what it’s like from his own experience. But that also means that he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the peoples’.

4-6 No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.”

7-10 While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o    Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the library and the church office.)

•    Video:
o    WatchWord Bible, New Testament on DVD is available in the library. (These videos display and read the text in Contemporary English Version with background pictures, video and sound. Not exactly dramatized or all that exciting, but could be another way to read the text.)

Teaching Suggestions

•    For more on the Macon Rescue Mission founded by A. E. McGee referred to in the Formations Study Guide (p. 18), visit this website: http://www.maconrescuemission.com/about-us/our-history/

•    The Learner’s Study Guide states, “In times of struggle and crisis, the message we each want to hear— and experience in tangible ways— is that someone cares and will help us” (p. 18). In what ways does Lexington Avenue Baptist Church show, to those “In times of struggle and crisis,” that “someone cares and will help?”
o    Consider these examples as illustrations in addition to those offered by your class members:
•    Soup’s On Us (Coming up on June 1)
•    Nada Mission (Coming up May 31-June 2)
•    Morocco Refugee Ministry (Coming up in the Fall)

•    Display an illustration of the Temple during the time of Christ:
o    Poster sized color labeled illustration of the Temple. In the library.
o    Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus (Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), pp. 12-15. Several illustrations with explanation. In the library
o    The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 6 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 356-357. Available in my office.
o    The New Testament World in Pictures, William H. Stephens (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987), pp. 86-87. In the library.
•    The Formations Teaching Guide (p. 16) has an activity, “This is What a Priest Looks Like.” Pictures of various types of priests have been posted on the webpage.

•    Fulfilling the Priestly role: We support, and are participants with, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) of churches. Part of the stated mission of CBF is “Being the Presence of Christ.” Share a video showing how CBF is “Being the Presence of Christ” in Bali, one of many places CBF field personnel serve. The video is posted on the webpage.

•    Priesthood of All Believers: The Formations Study Guide (p. 19) states that “all believers have a priestly role.” The “Priesthood of All Believers” is a Baptist/Protestant distinctive. What does it mean to say that every Christian is a priest or pastor? When a Christian is hurting or has a spiritual need whose responsibility is it to care for them, if all Christians are priests?

•    Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus was able to “deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness.” Who do we know that needs encouragement? Look at the Prayer Board and add other prayer concerns. Think about times when you have experienced similar struggles to those on the prayer list. Use that empathy as you pray for those on the prayer list. Consider sending cards with personal notes to persons on your class prayer list.

•    Hymnals are available if you need them for the Formations Teaching Guide activity, “Remembering God’s Mercy,” (p. 17). Call the church office or see Keith if you would like to use hymnals.

Resources

I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.

•    Illustrations of the Temple during the time of Jesus:
o    Poster sized color labeled illustration of the Temple. In the library.
o    Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus (Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), pp. 12-15. Several illustrations with explanation. In the library
o    The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 6 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 356-357. Available in my office.
o    The New Testament World in Pictures, William H. Stephens (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987), pp. 86-87. In the library.

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)