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Between 1961 and 2017, the National Football League offered a youth football skills competition known as “Punt, Pass, and Kick.” Children were invited to compete within their age groups, winners being determined based on the cumulative distance and accuracy of their punts, passes, and kicks. That those three events are mostly unrelated meant that only highly gifted athletes could hope to win. It’s not uncommon for athletes to be able to kick accurately, or to boot long punts, or to throw for great distance—but those three traits being found in the same individual is quite rare. But there’s another “P, P, & K,” the criteria of which are even harder to meet—in fact, there’s only one who can do it all. I’m speaking of the threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King.

Throughout the Old Testament there were individuals who had been chosen by God for service in these various roles. You might think of Moses or Isaiah or any of the other prophets who not only relayed revelations from God about the future, but also unveiled God’s present will and grace in words people could understand. Then there were the priests who acted as intermediaries between sinful man and a holy God: confessing sins, offering sacrifices, and returning with forgiveness. Others, like Saul and David, were anointed as kings. Their focus was to be not only on the secular needs of the people, but also on providing for their spiritual needs as well.

But if you read about those kings and their reigns, the overarching tale is a sad one. Notwithstanding the great promises connected to the throne of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), the kings who sat upon that throne were all too often characterized by sin and faithfulness. Yet God would remain faithful to His promises. He would revive David’s line, set a Son of David upon His throne to rule forever, and of His kingdom there would be no end. He would be the One of whom all these Old Testament offices presented only a partial picture. Taken together, they in their separate roles foreshadowed Christ, Who was the unprecedented exception Who would fulfill the roles of Prophet, Priest, and King perfectly, simultaneously, and infinitely.

So still today, Christ continues His work as Prophet even among us, revealing to us what God is like—He’s neither distant nor uninvolved; nor do we have to guess at what He thinks. Rather, Christ prophesies to us through the Word that God comes near to us in blessing, that He is active in bringing salvation to us, and that His thoughts toward us are filled with grace.

He continues His work as Priest among us, reconciling us to God. Through the sacrifice of His own life on the cross, Jesus has reestablished peace between man and God so that the Father eagerly hears our prayers, forgives our sins, and delivers us from the vile plots of the devil. What’s more, Jesus Himself is “at the right hand of God, [making] intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34)

And finally, Christ continues His work as King for us. Having conquered our spiritual enemies, He reigns with all power and authority over all things for the good of His church. Yet His rule is not like that of the kings of this world who exercise authority only with threats and power. As King, Jesus exercises His grace—forgiving the lost, receiving the prodigal, pardoning sinners like us. He rules in order to save.

Prophet, Priest, and King. Only One could do it all. And Jesus holds this threefold office having one unified purpose: your salvation.

They in their separate roles foreshadowed Christ, Who was the unprecedented exception Who would fulfill the roles of Prophet, Priest, and King perfectly, simultaneously, and infinitely.

Samuel Rodebaugh is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church of Manchester, Missouri.