One of the Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday is Hebrews 5:1-10. We get a brief glimpse and mention of a priest named Melchizedek. Don’t be discouraged if you have no clue who this reference is to. He has little reference throughout the Bible, yet appears to be someone that we should somewhat look up to. The author of Hebrews places Jesus in the same realm, with God telling Christ, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” (vs 6)
Melchizedek is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4). He comes even before the Levitical priesthood and could thus be seen as one of the first priests, as Abraham paid tithes to him. The author of Hebrews goes into further discussion on Melchizedek in chapter 7.
For Christ to be a part of this priesthood, it shows his importance outside of the hereditary line of the Levitical priests and therefore the author of Hebrews may be trying to garner a little more support for Christ. The image of Jesus being a “priest” is nearly foreign to the New Testament, yet this image is an important one among the Hebrew people and places an authority within Christ that some may not have recognized otherwise.
Does it matter to us today whether Christ is part of this “priesthood”? I am not sure if that is necessary in light of the rest of the Gospel that we have to follow. It does though allow us to make some connections to the Hebrew ancestry.