“Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.
For He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.’ For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:11-19).
It happens fairly often in the sporting world. A team, sometimes unexpectedly, has rare success establishing a lengthy winning streak. As the unbeaten streak grows, sportswriters take notice and begin to compare the team to other successful teams in the sport. Then articles are written and sportswriters debate which is the greatest of all. In the end, though, it really doesn’t matter which team is the greatest of all—because it’s just a game.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the Holy Spirit shows time and again that Jesus is the greatest of all.
Greater than the Angels
He is greater than the angels (see Hebrews 1:5-14) for He is the Son of God made flesh. While we picture Him now as the One who humbled Himself and was made “a little lower than the angels” in order to taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9), the day will come when He is revealed as the exalted Christ, returning as the glorious King of kings and Lord of lords.
Greater than Moses
He is greater than Moses, who was faithful as a servant; but Christ is the mighty Creator become Redeemer (see Hebrews 3:1-6).
Greater than Any Other High Priest
He is greater than any other high priest, because He understands our weaknesses, having walked among us, having been tempted as we are, yet without sin. He is our greatest ally in times of temptation (see Hebrews 4:14-16). He is the greatest High Priest of all. In fact, He is unlike any other high priest—there is no “apples to apples” comparison!
Greater than Old Testament
Priests and Sacrifices
When God Himself instituted the office of the high priest, He elected to choose men from among the tribe of Levi. Those men were themselves sinners, needing to offer up sacrifices first for themselves to atone for their sins. Those men offered up the blood of animals repeatedly, day after day, as prescribed by the Law of God given through Moses—which God accepted because He had promised to provide the once-for-all sacrifice. Those men eventually died and were replaced by other men. Finally even the service of their sacrifices ended, and the priesthood and Temple were torn down—no longer needed!—once God provided the ultimate sacrifice in the person of His Son. In many ways, those priests were pictures of our great High Priest, except that His service and priesthood will never end.
A Priest Forever
While the Levites no longer offer sacrifice on Mount Moriah and the priesthood is no more, Christ our High Priest remains. He was chosen by God to be a priest forever—not from the tribe of Levi, but from the tribe of Judah. He did not establish His own priesthood and glory, rather God Himself established it, as foretold in Psalm 110:4, and quoted again here in Hebrews 7:17. He who offered up Himself once for all sins even now intercedes at the throne of God.
He is the greatest of all, by the declaration of God’s own Word. He comes to us not as One appointed by the Law to carry out its precepts, but as the Mediator of the New Covenant and the One who assures sinners of God’s justice and mercy. He is the One through Whom we draw near to God without fear—He is the greatest of all.
Andrew Schaller is pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Marquette, Michigan.