The Cost of Discipleship

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he (Jesus) said to them,
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus Christ, as recorded in Mark 8:34-38 (ESV) 

Our High Priest

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.

(Hebrews 8:1, ESV)

Jesus’ role as both king and priest is seen in this verse, as he is presented as a high priest who has been seated at God’s right hand.  The priesthood of Jesus is a major theme in Hebrews 7, and in chapter 8 that theme is continued, although the allusion to Psalm 110:1 in this verse also reminds the reader of the kingship of Jesus.  As such, Jesus is shown to be the king and priest to whom Psalm 110 looked forward.

Hebrews 8:1 sets up the discussion of the tasks Jesus performs as high priest.  This priest sits at God’s right hand and serves in the true tabernacle.  As Hebrews 1:3 developed, Jesus was enthroned after finishing his duties as priest.  The fact that Jesus sat down is significant because in the ancient world sitting was frequently understood as a mark of honor or authority.  It is also significant that Jesus is continually in the presence of God, which facilitates his role as the perfect high priest.

Jesus and Angels

And to which of the angels has he (God) ever said,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

(Hebrews 1:13, ESV)

The author of Hebrews continues his argument throughout chapter one and quotes from Psalm 110:1 in Hebrews 1:13.  The enthronement of the Son in 1:3 is used to set up the discussion about Jesus’ position in relation to the angels.  The supremacy of Jesus over angels is addressed in verse 13, which is in the form of a question.  The author points out that God has never set an angel at his right hand.  That position at his right hand is reserved for his Son.  Jesus’ enthronement elevates him to a position above that of the angels.  The heavenly rule of Jesus is also a significant part of Hebrews 1, particularly in verses 8-9.

Jesus the King and Priest

He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,
and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

(Hebrews 1:3, ESV)

The opening passage of Hebrews transitions from the statement about the ways in which God has spoken into a statement about Jesus as both King and Priest.  In Hebrews 1:3 the author is developing the sequence of events in the redemptive work of Christ.  Jesus sat down at the right hand of God after he sacrificed his own life.  That sacrifice was unique in that priests do not generally sacrifice themselves, but Jesus was able to function as both the priest and the sacrifice.

Jesus’ perfection enabled his priestly work to also be perfect.  Upon the completion of the sacrifice, Jesus ascended to heaven and claimed his rightful place at God’s right hand.  Some interpreters have suggested a symbolic interpretation of “sat down” and “right hand” in order to signify that Jesus received a privileged position and is deserving of honor.  Jesus’ authority to rule over his worldwide kingdom is derived from that privileged position at the right hand of God.

Jesus the Prophet

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,
through whom also he created the world.

(Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV)

The epistle to the Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the New Testament.  Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as being superior to any angel, priest, or institution of the old covenant.  The superiority of Jesus is presented as the reason why the readers of the book should persevere in the faith and not abandon the great salvation that is available to them.  Hebrews uses both warning passages (which exhort Christians to remain faithful) and expository passages (which exalt Jesus).  Christ is exalted as angels, priests, Moses, the tabernacle and the sacrificial system are examined and shown to be inferior to Christ.  Through that process the readers are reminded that it is futile to give up their faith in Christ.  In the book of Hebrews the Old Testament is expounded through a knowledge of the revelation of Jesus Christ, and Jesus becomes the basis on which faithfulness is encouraged.

Hebrews particularly emphasizes that Jesus is a King and a Priest.  While not receiving as much attention as those two offices, Jesus is also presented as a Prophet.  The verses quoted above are the opening verses of Hebrews.  The book begins with a mention of the prophets whom God has used to speak to his people, and the author points out that God has now spoken through his Son.  As the prophets of old were used by God to speak to his people, so now Jesus declares God’s truth.  I hope to soon write more about Jesus as King and Priest as presented in the book of Hebrews.  In thinking of Jesus as King and Priest his actions receive primary attention, yet it must not be forgotten that as God’s Prophet his words are of equal significance to his actions.