But the Melchizedek story provides a perfect analogy: Jesus, a priest like Melchizedek, not by genealogical descent but by the sheer force of resurrection life—he lives!—“priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.” The former way of doing things, a system of commandments that never worked out the way it was supposed to, was set aside; the law brought nothing to maturity. Another way—Jesus!—a way that does work, that brings us right into the presence of God, is put in its place. (Hebrews 7:15-19 MSG)
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:15-19 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews continues making a case for the superior nature of Jesus. In this chapter the focus is on the priesthood. The word priest is built on the word bridge. A priest functions as a bridge between people and God. What struck me in this chapter is how different priestly bridges function.
The Old Testament priest stood between the people of Israel and God. Only the high priest was ever allowed to go into the presence of God and then only once a year. The priest and the sacrifices were a constant reminder of the separation that existed between the people and God. The priest was a bridge and he served as a connection between the people and God, but he was not a bridge the people could cross into the presence of God. Think of one of those rope bridges across a deep river gorge somewhere in Southeast Asia. Now think of the priest as the one holding the ropes together in the middle over the gorge. It isn’t a very hopeful picture for you or the priest.
Jesus is different. He doesn’t just provide us with a way to connect with God. He takes us into the very presence of God. We have many bridges near where we live and the most famous is the Golden Gate bridge. However, the one I want to use as an example is the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. When we’re coming home from Southern California we must cross this bridge. You must pay the toll before crossing the bridge. Our desire is to get home and we must cross the San Francisco bay to get there. We could go way around, but then we’d have to cross other bridges. Imagine driving up to the toll booth with no money and no FastPass. How will you get across? Then imagine that Jesus comes and pays the toll, but he’s not done. He picks up your car and carries it across to the other side.
Jesus purpose as priest is to bring us into the presence of God. He is our intercessor and speaks on our behalf, but these verses tell us that his goal is to bring us near to God. In other places in the New Testament we are told that anyone who follows Jesus is a priest. We are to function as bridges, but not like the Old Testament priests. Our function is to introduce people to Jesus who can bring people directly into the presence of God. We must never get between people and Jesus.