Jesus, Melchizedek, and the New Covenant

Sunday June 19, 2022 Corpus Christi (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Everything Old is New Again

Psalm 110:1-4Genesis 14:18-201 Corinthians 11:23-26Luke 9:11-17

A little background before we get to our reading in Genesis today. There was a war between five kings of the south against four kings of the east for control over trade routes. The eastern kings defeated the southern kingdoms, sacked their cities, and carried off the conquered citizens as slaves. It really didn’t concern our hero Abram (Abraham) too much until he got the word that his nephew, Lot was among the captured. Kin is kin. “Saddle up, boys. We’re riding hard to save the day!”  Desperately outnumbered, Abram miraculously routs the eastern kings and recaptures the hostages and the loot.

Enter Melchizedek, the mysterious, a bodily appearance of the preincarnate Jesus. He appears out of nowhere on the pages of Genesis 14:18-20. He had no father, mother, or genealogy (Hebrews 7:3). His name means “king of righteousness” also he is the king of Salem, which means “king of peace”. He feeds Abram and the crowd that’s with him with bread and wine. Is this all starting to sound familiar? Abram knows that a greater king than he has yet encountered is here. He gives Melchizedek a tithe (a tenth of the spoils) which recognizes that God was the reason for his stunning victory. Melchizedek blesses Abram and that’s the last we hear from him…until Psalm 110.

One day, Jesus goes to Psalm 110:1 and asks the Pharisees a question, “Whose Son is the Christ?”

“Well, he is David’s kid.” they answer.

Jesus says to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him Lord? For he says: (44) The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’” (45) So, if David calls Him Lord, how can He be David’s son?”

The implication is that David would never call his great, great, great…grandson, Jesus, Lord, unless something was up. This shows that the Messiah is more than merely David’s descendant. Today, we know that He is God’s Son: The Word made flesh.  Move down to Psalm 110:4:

“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.’”

Whoa! Where is this coming from? During King David’s time and for hundreds of years before and after, the Aaronic priesthood and the tribe of Levi offered animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. Now, from out of nowhere, Melchizedek is reintroduced and in conjunction with Messiah Jesus. Something greater than the Aaronic priesthood is here. But what sacrifice does a Melchizedekian priest offer?

 “…and He said to His disciples, ‘Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each’” (Luke 9:14). Jesus feeds a hungry crowd of five thousand in the miracle of the fishes and loaves, our reading in Luke 9:11-17.  To top it off, they collect twelve baskets of leftovers. Let’s see twelve apostles…I wonder if anybody got a basket for Jesus, but I digress. Even though this miracle is recorded in all the gospels, the real action is in John Chapter 6: The Bread of Life Discourse. The people think Jesus may be that Prophet which Moses foretold would come. They also made a quick connection with yesterday’s dinner and manna from heaven. Jesus lost them while trying to relate the physical to the spiritual. He tells them that He is the living bread that came down from heaven. They’re not buying that. They grew up with Him. They know His family. Besides, all of this talk about eating his flesh and drinking his blood to live forever…that’s plain crazy! They leave. Jesus is not surprised. After all, you need some God input to understand John Chapter 6 and, in all fairness, many are still struggling with it today.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 is a familiar account of the bread and wine at the Last Supper known to every church goer. In fact, it is the climax of the celebration of the New Covenant. It takes us to the moment when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, as high priest in the order of Melchizedek. He offered his own battered body and spilled blood in the real Holy of Holies in heaven to obtain a once and for all forgiveness of sin. Having fulfilled His mission, the veil in the Jerusalem Temple was torn in two and the Aaronic priesthood ended. When by faith, we receive His body and blood we proclaim His death (and ours) on the cross. We identify with His (and our) resurrection on Easter Sunday. We rejoice as His bride in this new Melchizedekian Covenant and we live in unity with each other as His Body the Church. 

So, what can we say about Jesus our King, and High Priest on the Feast of Corpus Christi? We see Him bodily as a Christophany in Melchizedek. He is portrayed in the Old Testament sacrifices of the Aaronic priesthood, which He fulfills when He comes as the Incarnate Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We know Him as the God-man who as one of us, died on Calvary’s cross. We know Him in the bread and wine when we worship. We can “see” the body of Christ in all of these aspects, but the Lord has kicked it up a notch. The best way, the most beautiful way of seeing Jesus is when someone sees Jesus in us. We are His hands, His feet, and His face. We are His reflection. We are the body of Christ! Let’s let our light shine!

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