Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Baptism of Jesus as a Sign of His Priestly Office

I want to compare two events, one in the Old Testament, the other in the New Testament.

The first is the process of consecration of the Levitical priests. "You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water" (Exodus 29:4). "Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water" (Exodus 40:12). "All those who were listed of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of Israel listed, by their clans and their fathers’ houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come to do the service of ministry and the service of bearing burdens in the tent of meeting, those listed were 8,580" (Numbers 4:46-48, but compare also verses Num. 4:3, 23, and 29). The two things that I want to emphasize in these passages in that their ministries began at age thirty, and were marked by washings in water (see Hebrews 9:10).

The other is the account of the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11, compare John 1:31-34): "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.'" We know that this happened when He was thirty years old from Luke 3:23: "Jesus, when He began his ministry, was about thirty years of age."

Thus we see how Jesus fulfilled the provisions for the Levitical priesthood, though He Himself was not a Levite (Hebrews 7:13). Rather, His priesthood is described as "in the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:6, 5:10, 6:20, and especially 7:17). 

As Christians, we receive many benefits from His priestly office, something which the Westminster divines found essential to their system of doctrine. In answer 44, the Westminster Larger Catechism tells us, "Christ executes the office of a priest, in His once offering Himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of His people; and in making continual intercession for them." And in describing that intercession, answer 55 tells us, "Christ makes intercession, by His appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of His obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring His will to have it applied to all believers; Answering all accusations against them, and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services." We rarely hear this doctrine preached today, but how comforting it should be to us, His people.

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