Jon: We’ve been exploring the theme of the royal priest in the Bible.
Tim: We started by looking at Adam and Eve, who were called to represent God and rule over creation as his image.1
Jon: Ruling and representing God—this is the ideal role of a royal priest. But tragically, they’re deceived by a creature. They abandon their calling, and so humans are exiled from Eden and fill the world with violence.2
Tim: But all is not lost. God promises that one of their descendants will come to intervene on their behalf and restore the blessings of Eden.3
Jon: A new priest to restore the failed priests.
Tim: He’s going to strike that deceiver while being struck by it—he’s like a royal priest who becomes a sacrifice.
Jon: Now through Israel’s story, God raises up many people who could have been this royal priest, like Abraham, Moses, and David.
Tim: And they all fail, but their stories point forward, anticipating the ultimate royal priest.
Jon: And this brings us to Jesus.
Jesus the Ultimate Royal Priest [01:01-02:58]
Tim: Now, in the time of Jesus, the people of Israel were ruled by the Roman empire, but they were governed by their own priests, including the high priest who worked in the Jerusalem temple.
Jon: The high priest was the only one who could enter the most holy space, and it was separated by a thick curtain embroidered with images of cherubim.4
Tim: And the high priest at this time was a man named Caiaphas. He’s the one who currently represents the people before God. But then Jesus came onto the scene.
Jon: And when we’re introduced to Jesus, he’s outside of Jerusalem at the Jordan River getting baptized. The skies open up and God says, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am very pleased.”5
Tim: Now, these words blend together three statements from the Hebrew Scriptures that are all about the coming royal priest, who will be the king that God promised to raise up from the line of David6, and also the beloved son, like Isaac was to Abraham7. And he’s the suffering royal servant of Isaiah, who dies for the sins of his people.8
Jon: This baptism is like his ordination as a royal priest.
Tim: Right, and so it’s no surprise that afterward, Jesus starts going around acting like a priest.
Jon: Oh right, like forgiving people of their sins, or restoring people who were impure so they could enter the temple.9
Tim: These are the things that the priests who work in the Jerusalem temple were supposed to be doing.
Jon: But Jesus is doing it outside their authority, and so they start to see him as a threat.
Tim: And so this leads to a story where Jesus goes up with some friends to a high mountain. And there, he’s transformed. He starts shining and all of his clothes become pure white.10
Jon: This is like the vision Moses had of the ideal high priest.11
Tim: Yeah, exactly. Jesus is here being revealed as the ultimate royal priest.
Jon: And it’s here that Jesus decides that he’s going to Jerusalem, even though he knows that he’ll get killed.
Jesus Confronts the Current Priesthood [02:59-04:07]
Tim: And so later, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he challenges the authority of the current priesthood who are running things in the temple.12
Jon: Like when he storms in and disrupts the sale of animal sacrifices.13
Tim: Yeah. This is his way of showing he’s the priest in charge.
Jon: And then later, he’s asked, “Who do you think you are?”
Tim: And so Jesus responds by quoting from Psalm 110 in Israel’s Scriptures. This is the psalm where King David speaks of someone that he calls his Lord, someone greater than him who will rule as a royal priest. Jesus is claiming that he is that priest.
Jon: This makes the priests in Jerusalem angry, so they have Jesus arrested. And they put him on trial before Caiaphas the high priest, who asks Jesus, “Are you the anointed one?”
Tim: And what he means is: “Are you the royal priest? Because right now, that’s my job!” And Jesus responds, once more, by quoting Psalm 110, saying, “I am, and you are going to see me ruling at God’s right hand.”
Jon: But actually, we’re about to see Jesus get killed. How is that ruling as a high priest?
The Royal Priest’s Sacrifice and Commission [04:08-05:12]
Tim: Well, remember from Israel’s Scriptures the pattern of the royal priest who surrenders himself as a sacrifice.14 Jesus is saying that offering his life for others is the way that he’s going to ascend his royal throne.
Jon: When Jesus died, that curtain in the temple tore in two.15
Tim: And God’s own life presence, the blessings of Eden that were once guarded and separate, now they can flow out of the temple to fill all of creation.
Jon: And when Jesus comes alive from the dead, he appears to his followers and commissions them to go out to the nations.16
Tim: So that they can share the good news that Jesus is the ruling king and priest who’s going to restore the blessings of Eden. This is why the apostle Paul called Jesus the new Adam.17 He is inviting us back into Eden to become like him.
Jon: So that we can take up our lost calling of being God’s royal priests.
Tim: Yes. And that new royal priesthood that’s made up of the followers of Jesus, that’s what we’re going to explore next.
1. Genesis 1:26-28
2. e.g. Genesis 3
3. Genesis 3:15
4. e.g. Leviticus 16
5. Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22
6. Psalm 2:7
7. Genesis 22:2
8. Isaiah 42:1
9. e.g. Mark 2:1-10; Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:18-26
10. Mark 9:1-8; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36
11. Exodus 28:1-43
12. Mark 14:53-65; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-13, 19-23