Sunday, March 7, 2021

Hebrews 5.5-10: Melchizedek

You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:5-10) So here's Melchizedek:

Peter Paul Rubens. The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, c. 1626. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art. 

Do you see Jesus somewhere in that? 

The story - and "story" is a bit of a stretch - of Melchizedek is told in Genesis 14. In essentially three verses: And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything. That's it for Melchizedek in Genesis.

Melchizedek is named in Psalm 110:4 and then again eight times in the letter to the Hebrews. It is in Hebrews that Jesus is named a priest "after the order of Melchizedek."   

In the painting above, Abraham (still Abram at that point) is on the left, still in armor from his encounter with the King of Sodom. Melchizedek, King of Salem ("king of justice" or "king of righteousness"), is handing bread to Abraham. These are two of the aspects where Christian theologians perceive Melchizedek as a precursor of Christ. Jesus, too, is the king of righteousness and brings bread to God's people. 

It's an interesting take on the Genesis story. I wonder how many of the original hearers of Hebrews would have recognized the name of Melchizedek when they heard it. Would we know the name if we didn't have the Hebrews passage? Does the relationship between Melchizedek and Jesus hold water for you?

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