jesus-prophet-priest-king

Who is Jesus and How Should We Respond to Him?

On your birthday I’m sure you open a few presents. I know I do! If you think about it, the gifts you open on your birthday say a lot about who you are. So much so that if we were to take a field trip to your house and look at the gifts you received, we’d be able to tell what you are interested in, what your hobbies are, and even what type of work you do.

So for instance, my Dad usually receives either some jeans, a tool of some sort, a gift card for Home Depot, a new baseball hat, bat, cleats, or a glove on his birthday. He receives one of those things because my Dad likes to play softball and he remodels houses. So you can see that the gifts we receive say a lot about who we are.

That’s not just true today. It was also true in Jesus’ day. Which means that the gifts He received after His birth tell us a lot about who He is. But they don’t just tell us who Jesus is, they also tell us how we should respond to Jesus. So who is Jesus and how should we respond to Him?

Who is Jesus and How Should We Respond to Him?

So far, in our series, we’ve learned that Jesus is a Prophet and a Priest, but there is one more role we need to explore. The Magi’s gifts reveal that role to us.

Who Do the Magi Reveal Jesus to Be?

We pick up the Magi or Wisemen, whatever you want to call them, in Matthew chapter 2. Matthew begins in verse 1 by telling us that,

“…After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”” (Mt 2:1–2)

The Magi were most likely Gentiles of high position. As their name indicates, they were specialists in astronomy — stargazers.

As they gazed into the dark night sky, they saw a star they had never seen before. Somehow they knew that this star was the one that would lead them to the king of the Jews. God may have revealed that to them through special revelation. Or somehow they had contact with the Scriptures and were able to discern this fact. Some commentators think Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 could be that Scripture. That is a possibility especially when you consider what it says.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” (Nu 24:17)

But all of that is just conjecture. Ultimately we don’t know how they knew, but they did.

Seeing that star in the night sky, they saddled up and began to follow it. It led them to Jerusalem, where they started asking around about the King of the Jews. Their questions unsettled those living in Jerusalem at this time.

Herod was the king, and let’s just say he was more than a little crazy and paranoid. History tells us that he had one of his wives and two of his sons killed because he thought they were plotting to steal his throne from him. So when these foreigners rolled into town and starting asking where the King of the Jews was, everyone was troubled, including Herod.

Wondering who this king is, Herod called the Chief priests and Scribes together. Essentially he assembled a scriptural dream team to figure out where the Christ would be born. This dream team ends up pointing him to Micah 5:2, which Matthew quotes for us in verse 6. The text says,

““ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”” (Mt 2:6)

Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, which is not too far from Jerusalem. Herod now knows where Jesus should be, but he doesn’t know how old He should be. So he calls the Wise Men or Magi to the kingdom, and he asks them what time the star had appeared. The Magi didn’t know that Herod was up to no good, so they told him. With that last piece of information, Herod now knows how old Jesus is and where He should be.

Now, if you are familiar with the story, you know that’s not true. Herod didn’t want to worship Jesus. He wanted to kill him in order to protect his throne, but the wise men didn’t know so they agreed to bring Jesus back. We aren’t going to get into it in this post, but know that God does reveal Herod’s plan to the Wisemen, so they don’t try to bring Jesus back. I encourage you to read the rest of the story to see how that plays out. But for now, let’s pick back up in verse 9,

“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. (Mt 2:9–11a)

Finally, after such a long journey the Magi had found Jesus. And finding him, they did what we should all do — they fell down and worshipped Him.

After falling down on their knees to worship Jesus, we are told in the second half of verse 11 that:

“…opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Mt 2:11b)

The Durham’s, who are Jen and I’s friends from seminary, bought a new house this last year and they had us over a few months back to show us their new home.

Since it was our first time there, we brought them a house warming gift. I wish I could tell you we brought them gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but I can’t. It’s not that I wouldn’t if I could, it’s just that those are expensive gifts. Gifts that are reserved for a King. While I think highly of the Durham’s, they aren’t royalty.

But Jesus is — He is a King; the King. We not only know that from the narrative, but we also know that from the gifts the Magi brought.

All this tells us, then, that Jesus not only serves as a Prophet and Priest but He also serves as a King.

A Foreign Rule

Now, probably for most of us, the idea of living under the rule of a king is foreign. We live in the United States. We don’t have a king. We have a President that is voted into office every 4 years. So I think it is safe to say that if we want to know what it’s like to live under a king, we would have to take a trip. If we were to do that, if we were to travel to a place ruled by a king, we’d find that a king is someone who has absolute rule. What they say goes. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s. There are no votes. The king makes all the decisions. He sets all the rules. Those in the kingdom are expected to follow them.

The same is true of Jesus. As a King, He has the right to reign and rule over His kingdom just like any other king. I think this is where we get hung up. You see, most of us are happy for Jesus to serve as a Prophet who pronounces the good news of salvation, and even as a Priest who mediates on our behalf, but we aren’t willing to call Jesus King. We aren’t willing to do that because we want to be in control. We want to call the shots. We want to be the king.

So instead of submitting to Jesus as King, allowing Him to reign and rule over our life, we reject Jesus as King while trying to keep Him as Savior. We do that because we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to be saved from eternal punishment, but still get to call the shots. While that might sound like a good idea, it’s not. We will explore why that is in my next post.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize Jesus as King?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as King

jesus-prophet-priest-king

Why Do We Need a True and Better Priest?

In my last post, I discussed why Jesus is the true and better Priest. While I believe it’s fairly obvious that He is better than all the priests who came before, someone may wonder why that should matter to them? In other words, why do we need a true and better priest?

We need a true and better Priest because we are sinners who can’t offer a perfect sacrifice.

We aren’t perfect and we can never be perfect. Picture me holding a collectors edition glass baseball bat. The person who made it did an excellent job. It is perfect. There are no chips, no flaws. It’s an absolutely perfect bat. Now, imagine a friend comes over to my house and we decide to go hit baseballs in the field by my house. Of course, this would never happen, but instead of bringing out a regular baseball bat, I bring the glass bat instead. I line up, they pitch me a ball, I connect, and the bat just shatters.

I’m sure I would be all cut up, but after I got back from the hospital, do you think I could ever put that bat back together again so that it was perfect and flawless like it was before I used it for batting practice? No, there is no way. Even if by some miracle I could find all the pieces, there is no way I could ever put it back together again so that it was perfect and flawless.

In the same way, we can never put ourselves back together again so that we are perfect. There is nothing we can do to erase the flaws and sin in our lives. The impossibility of making ourselves perfect is even more apparent when you realize that we weren’t born perfect. From our birth, we are deeply flawed individuals; sinners whose lives begin like that shattered bat. So we need a true and better Priest who offers the perfect sacrifice for us because we aren’t perfect. Instead, we are sinners who sit under God’s wrath; wrath that will be poured out on us when we die.

There is hope

If we admit that we are deeply flawed individuals who have sinned against God. If we admit that we deserve God’s wrath. If we turn from our self-centered, self-righteous, I can do whatever I want and live however I want, thinking and living, and turn to God to live according to how He would have us to live. And if we believe that Jesus is the true and better High Priest, who has given Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf, we can be saved from God’s wrath and experience eternal blessing, joy, and life with God in His kingdom forever and ever.

There is hope in Jesus. He is our Savior, our Mediator, our High Priest who offered Himself in our place, completely satisfying the wrath of God against us. And He alone can eternally repair our relationship with the Father.

If you turn to Jesus, admitting and professing those things, you can truly experience the greatest gift all — salvation.

So, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to admit that Jesus is the true and better Priest who offered a once and for all sacrifice for your sins so that you might experience His salvation.

If you have turned to Jesus, see Him for what He is — the greatest gift that we could ever unwrap. Instead of attempting to find your joy in the things this world has to offer, realize that true joy and true satisfaction can only be found in the True and Better Priest — Jesus Christ.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see your need for Jesus?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as Priest

jesus-prophet-priest-king

Why is Jesus the True and Better Priest?

There have been and are still today those who function in the capacity of Priest. But for all those who have had and still claim to hold that role, Jesus is better. He is the true and better priest. But why? Why is Jesus the true and better priest?

 Why is Jesus the True and Better Priest?

(1) Jesus is Perfect

In my last post, when we talked about the High Priests and the Day of Atonement, we learned that they not only had to offer a sacrifice for the people but they also had to offer a sacrifice for themselves. In fact, before they even entered the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, they had to go through a time of purification. But this was not true of Jesus. Look at what Hebrews 4:14-15 says about Him,

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:14–15)

So not only is Jesus our High Priest who is able to sympathize with us, but we also learn that He is without sin. In other words, He is perfect, which is exactly what the writer of Hebrews goes on to say in chapter 7 verses 26 and 27.

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” (Heb 7:26–27)

So Jesus is the true and better High Priest because He is perfect and doesn’t need a sacrifice offered on His behalf.

But Jesus’ perfection is not the only thing that makes Him the true and better High priest. In Hebrews 6:20, we learn second that Jesus is the true and better High Priest because:

(2) Jesus is an Eternal High Priest

He doesn’t die. Instead, He lives on as our Mediator forever. No earthly high priest is able to live forever. They eventually died and could no longer mediate for the people, but not Jesus. Jesus lives on forever as our Mediator. He doesn’t ever need to be replaced.He is an eternal High Priest.

(3) Jesus Has Unhindered Access to the Father

In Hebrews 8:1 we read:

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” (Heb 8:1)

Whereas the High Priest in the Old Testament could only enter the presence of the Lord once a year for a limited time, Jesus is forever seated at the Father’s side, which gives Him unhindered access to mediate on our behalf.

While those are all convincing reasons for why Jesus is the true and better High Priest, we aren’t done yet. Next, we learn that Jesus is the true and better High Priest because:

(4) He Made a Once and for All Sacrifice for Our Sins

I am sure that your family, like mine, put up a Christmas tree this last year. If you put up a real Christmas tree, the tree you put up wasn’t the same one from last year. Despite our best efforts to keep them alive during the Christmas season, they eventually die and have to be thrown out. So every year, if we want a real Christmas tree, we have to buy and bring home a new one. But that tree, no matter how perfect we think it is, will die and have to be replaced next year as well.

You see, real Christmas trees only last so long. That’s exactly why my family puts up a fake Christmas tree. While it doesn’t look or smell as good as a real tree, and it’s something we have to store, haul out, and untangle every year, it is one less thing we have to spend money on at Christmas. You see, unlike their real counterparts, fake trees don’t die, they don’t have to be replaced every year. If you take good care of them, they’ll last forever. The tree we are using now is a hand-me-down. We got it from Jen’s parents. It has been abused a bit over the years, but it still works, for the most part.

Not to be sacrilegious or anything, but like a fake Christmas tree, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus’ sacrifice lasts forever. In Hebrews 9:24-26 he says,

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb 9:24–26)

You see, Jesus offers a once and for all sacrifice that lasts forever. It doesn’t have to be repeated year in and year out like the sacrifice of the Old Testament High Priests’.

The sacrifice Jesus offered wasn’t some special bull or goat that only He could find. No, Jesus lastly is the true and better High Priest because:

(5) Jesus Offers Himself as a Sacrifice on Our Behalf

Jesus goes to the cross and it’s His blood that’s spilled instead of the blood of a bull or goat. Jesus was able to offer Himself as a sacrifice because He is perfect. He never sinned. He never rebelled against God. He was never God’s enemy who deserved God’s wrath. His relationship with the Father was never compromised or severed. He never needed a sacrifice offered on His behalf like the High Priests of old. So He was able to become the sacrifice for our sins.

It’s for all the above reasons, then, that Jesus is considered the true and better Priest.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe Jesus is the only Priest, the only Mediator, we need?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as Priest