Christ is Better than Aaron
Text: Hebrews 7:1-8:5
Melchizedek was greater than Aaron
Melchizedek was brought up in the quote from Psalms 110:4 in Hebrews 5:6. The writer emphasized that Jesus was a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, but his audience wasn’t prepared to understand this (Hebrews 5:9-11). After scolding them for their lack of growth, the writer returns to the topic of Jesus being a high priest after the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews 6:20.
The king of Salem and priest of the Most High God met Abraham when Abraham was returning from rescuing Lot. It was Melchizedek who blessed Abraham and it was to Melchizedek that Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils he took in battle. The writer of Hebrews points out that generally, the greater person blesses the lesser person (Hebrews 7:7). And since Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth, it means that Abraham recognized Melchizedek as a priest of God.
The story of Melchizedek has several similarities to Christ. Melchizedek was the king of Salem. Salem means “peace,” and we recognize that Jesus came to bring peace to the world (Isaiah 9:6-7; John 14:27; 16:33; Ephesians 2:13-17; Colossians 1:20). The name “Melchizedek” means “king of righteousness,” which is an appropriate title for Jesus as well (Jeremiah 23:6; II Corinthians 5:21). We have no record of his ancestors or his descendants. Jesus, too, had no descendants (Isaiah 53:8). While we know who Jesus’ earthly parents were, we also know that Jesus pre-existed his birth. As God, Jesus is eternal, without beginning or end. Melchizedek was not eternal, but his story exists without beginning or end. Like Melchizedek, Jesus serves as both king and high priest of God, which is why Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek and not Aaron.
Under the Law of Moses, the priests descended from Aaron, who in turn descended from Levi, who was a descendant of Abraham. The priests collect at God’s direction a tenth from their brethren (Numbers 18:24). A descendant is lesser than the parent, so the priests are lesser than Abraham their father. Since their father, Abraham, gave a tenth to Melchizedek, this means they too are lesser than Melchizedek. Indirectly, this answers the question the Jews asked of Jesus (John 8:53).
The priesthood had to change
If people could be made perfect through the Levitical priesthood, there would have been no need for God to have mentioned a different order of priesthood (Galatians 2:21). The Messiah would have been prophesied to be of the order of Aaron.
But since God prophesied a change in the priesthood, such a fundamental change necessitates a change in the law that created the priesthood.
Jesus was from the tribe of Judah as the Law prophesied (Genesis 49:10; Matthew 22:42). Moses relayed from God no permission for priests from any tribe other than Levi (II Chronicles 26:18). The lack of permission becomes a prohibition since the law could not be added to or subtracted from (Deuteronomy 4:2). Therefore, Jesus’ priesthood could not be based upon the law of Moses. His priesthood is based on his eternal life, which is hinted at Psalms 110:4 when it said, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (John 5:21,24-26).
Since the priesthood of Aaron could not make people perfect, and the priesthood’s existence depended on the law of Moses, that means the law of Moses was unable to make people perfect (Malachi 2:4-8; Acts 13:39). Thus, it needed to be set aside due to its weakness and uselessness to further God’s goal of saving mankind. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t useful in its time, but that it had run its course (Galatians 3:19,23). God prepared a better law to take its place. This new law brings in a better hope and allows us to draw nearer to God (Galatians 4:3-5;; Romans 5:1-2).
Christ’s priesthood is based on an oath
Backing up to the beginning of Psalms 110:4, the writer of Hebrews points out that God promised the change in priesthood through an oath. The priests under the Law of Moses entered their duties without God vowing to give them the office; thus, Jesus’ entrance into his priesthood is a superior position.
In the same way, the new covenant that comes into being with his priesthood is also a superior covenant. Jesus is the surety, bondsman, or guarantor of this superior covenant (Galatians 3:13). Jesus is the one responsible for the fulfillment of the new covenant.
Christ is able to serve eternally
The Law of Moses required many priests because men are mortal. Once they die, they can no longer serve as priests (Exodus 28:43). Jesus, however, lives eternally and so holds the position of a priest forever, as promised by God in Psalms 110:4 (I Samuel 2:35). Thus, Christ is able to bring salvation as promised in the covenant forever (Romans 5:9-11) and to make intercession for the saved forever (Isaiah 53:12; I Timothy 2:5; I John 2:1; Jude 24). The priesthood cannot pass from Jesus to another since he never dies (I Peter 3:18).
Christ is without sin
The high priest of the new covenant is far greater than any priest of the old covenant. Jesus is holy (Luke 1:35), innocent (John 14:30), and undefiled (Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 2:22). Being in heaven (Ephesians 4:10), there is no risk of an influence of sinners to corrupt him.
Unlike the priests of the Old Testament, there is no need for daily sacrifices for the sins of the priest and the people (Leviticus 9:7). Jesus is without sin and his one sacrifice covers all sins.
No longer is there a need for weak men to serve as priests. God established with His oath His own Son as the perfect high priest for all eternity.
Christ serves in heaven
We have a high priest who is at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9). Unlike the high priests under the Law of Moses who were only allowed to enter the Holies of Holy once a year, our high priest is continually with the Father. The temple in which Christ serves is heaven itself, not a man-made tent or building that Aaron and his descendants served within.
Jesus would not be a priest if he had remained on earth. There were men serving as priest under the Old Law who offered sacrifices and gifts to God. But their service was a shadow of the reality of heaven. Jesus serves in heaven, which no man could do (Ephesians 5:2).
The reason Moses was insistent that the tabernacle and the service to God be done exactly as the prescribed (Exodus 25:9; 26:30; Acts 7:44) is because they were designed to represent spiritual things (Colossians 2:16-17).