Midday Prayer 25 May 2016
Meditation on Hebrews 7:23-28
According to our text, a priest is someone ‘who makes intercession for…’. When seeing Jesus, the preacher of the letter to the Hebrew is seeing before him such a person, whose life exists in ‘making intercession for…’. He, Jesus, pleads with the Father for all those children that have violated His creation, asking that He nevertheless will not give up on them. He, Jesus, intervenes in human conflicts, he meets people, heals them, and encourages them, so that they bear the burdens of one another. He associates with publicans and sinners, to be separated from sinners after his resurrection and his ascension (vs. 26), when he will have fully identified himself with his office to make intercession for… In a moving way, our Dutch confession, in its 26th article, has sketched the whole of the life of Jesus, his mortal life on earth as well as his eternal life afterwards, as one continuing life as a priest, who is only existing in ‘making intercession for…’
But, I said: a priest is a person who is fulfilling this task. Jesus is not the only one to do so. In the Thora, the Holy Scripture of Israel, we read about priests who are doing their service in the tabernacle, as one extensive exercise what it means for a human being, to live in ‘making intercession for…’ When you read the third of the Books of Moses, Leviticus, you read (especially in Chapter 21) about such figures who are filled with promise and expectation, persons who show what human beings could be in future, hardly dealing with illness and death anymore, as an image of the eschatological mankind. It is as on the day of Atonement according to the ritual of later Judaism, where you, for one day a year in this life, already are beyond the border of death, before God. All this incites our desire for the true High Priest, who not only as an image, but really exists beyond the border. But, to be sure, for the sons of Aaron, this is not yet a reality. In their daily service, they ‘offer up sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the people’s’ (vs. 27).
And the same can be said for Christians, also when they try to life a priestly life, ‘making intercession for…’ We all are captured by Bonhoeffers translation of the offer of the life of Christ as ‘being there for others’. But that is the life of Christ. Is it really the life of a Christian, always, everywhere, in a continuing endurance? Are we really free from sacrificing for our own sins and for our people’s sins, before we are able to be there for others? Are we always performing and acting as an ‘alter Christus’, as Luther suggested? We know, that it would be insincere to claim that for ourselves. And the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, with his platonic distinction between eternal truth and mortal limitedness, affirms the impossibility of that assertion.
No, we are persons ‘who have weakness’ (vs. 28), and we are existing in the sphere of the priesthood of the house of Aaron: full of promise, but weak, and therefore without fulfilment. But at the same time we are related to that other priest, that unexpected and fully surprising ‘priest after the order of Melchizedek’ from the story of Abraham and from the 110th Psalm. And he is priest ‘for ever’, appointed by the eternal counsel of the Lord (vs. 28), holy, harmless, undefiled (vs. 26), unchangeable (vs. 24), that means: fully and eternal at the disposal of others, to make intercession for… It is not necessary to suggest that our priesthood should be as eternal as this one after the order of Melchizedek. It is enough to hear, to know, to realize that we may reflect his priesthood, to make intercession now and then, for this person or for another one, especially for one of the least of his brethren and sisters. Amen.