Mid-Week Advent Service - December 13, 2017
Pastor Don Ninmer – Psalm 110:4
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” – Psalm 110:4
I must confess that I am not too fond of high priests. I am glad that we do not have any in our church. I am not too fond of high priests because there are some of them in the Bible who were not very nice people. In fact, they were mean and nasty people. We hear about two of them in the Lenten season. There was a man named Annas, who was a former high priest, but it seems that he was thrown out of office. We see how when Jesus was arrested, he conducted a preliminary hearing: Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound Him and brought Him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. (John 18:12-13)
In addition to Annas, we hear about his son-in-law, a man named Caiaphas. It seems like Caiaphas married into the right family. He was mean and nasty like the rest of them. When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck Him in the face. Is this the way you answer the High priest? He demanded. If I said something wrong, Jesus replied, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me? Then Annas sent Him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. It was there that Peter denied the Lord. Caiaphas then passed the buck: Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor.
We get upset because the high priests were to be the religious leaders of the Israelite people. As such, their most important responsibility might well have been on the Day of Atonement. We remember that the temple designed by the Lord had a place called the holy of holies. No one would dare to enter that holy place. If they did they would surely have died.
On one day in the year, the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter that holy of holies. He would first sacrifice a bull for his own sins. Then he would sacrifice a goat for the sins of the people. Hebrews speaks about that: But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people.
Perhaps you are wondering by now, what does all this have to do with Advent or Christmas? It seems to pertain more to the Lenten Season. We are now in the Advent season. But then our text shows us how this is important also in the Advent Season. The writer quotes the heavenly Father as speaking these words to Jesus: The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
The name Melchizedek is mentioned in Psalm 110. Psalm 110 is a Messianic psalm. That means that in the Old Testament it speaks clearly about Jesus and describes some of the things that Jesus would do when He came to this earth. It is Messianic, speaking about the coming Messiah.
Here it pictures the heavenly Father speaking to Jesus. He says things like this: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. And then He says: The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
That name “Melchizedek” appears frequently in the book of Hebrews. In chapter 6 the writer says this of Jesus: He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. In chapter 5 he quotes Psalm 110: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. What the high priest did for his people, Jesus has also done for us. We remember that the high priest went into the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement, a place, where no one else could go. The high priest did what no one else could do – he offered those sacrifices for his sins and then for the sins of the people.
Jesus went where no one else could go – to the cross. He did what no one else could do – he offered the supreme sacrifice, His own body on the cross to take away the sins of the people. The big difference is that He did not have to offer sacrifices for His sins first. The writer to the Hebrews is very clear on this when he says: Such a high priest meets our needs – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
We remember that the coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of all of those Old Testament prophesies that spoke about the coming Savior. There in the manger lay the one of whom David spoke in Psalm 110. There lay the one who would defeat all the enemies of our soul, sin, death and the power of the devil. There lay the one who would rise triumphant on Easter morning. There we find the baby who would be worthy to hear the Father say: Sit at my right hand.
But in order to do that, He had to offer a sacrifice. It could not be a sacrifice of a bull or a goat. It had to be the supreme sacrifice. He had to offer Himself as the Lamb of God on the cross. That is the only thing that could take away the sins of the world – the body and blood of Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father.
As we hear about Jesus offering His body and His blood on the cross. We remember that that body and blood lay in the manger of Bethlehem. He came to die because all of the bulls and goats in the world could not take away our sins. That required the blood of the Son of God. That is the message of Christmas – Jesus, the Son of God; Jesus the great high priest was born to die.
But we today we can say with confidence that His sacrifice did take away the sins of the world. Those who believe in Him do have forgiveness. How can we be so sure? David tells us in Psalm 110: The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind.