We have reached the fifth week of Lent. This year, it is continuing to be a challenging time for me – a time of staying in my wilderness.

Sometimes, it is very appropriate to be still, to remain. The experience of wilderness can be confronting, lonely; but it can also be a time of re-connecting with God.

In our Gospel passage from John 12, today, we find Jesus at a turning point in his ministry. As the Greeks, or the Gentiles seek to speak with him, he realises that his ministry must be much broader than it has been. He must be the Christ of the Gentiles, as well as of the House of Israel.

Our New Testament reading from that somewhat enigmatic letter – To the Hebrews – may even seem to compound the problem. Here, Jesus the Christ is referred to as a priest according to the Order of Melchizedek.

 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. 

Melchizedek is an Old Testament character, who appears in Genesis 14, and blesses Abram. (Abraham).

(And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.)

It is significant that he is described as a priest, because the Hebrew Priesthood is called the “Levitical” priesthood – a hereditary title for those descended from Levi. Levi was the        Great-grandson of Abraham. He was one of the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob), and the Father of one of the twelve tribes of    Israel.  Levites were priests by heredity. Their task was to offer sacrifice to God.

Melchizedek, however, appears much earlier in the narrative. He is described as priest of God Most High, and was also a king. This type of priesthood seems much different. He brought out bread and wine to bless Abraham.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews takes this to mean that he is a ‘type’ of Christ; and that Christ, indeed, is a priest after the same order – i.e. both King and Priest – not required to make endless sacrifice, but to be designated a priest by God Most High.

In both the reading from Hebrews, and the Gospel, Jesus is to be seen as The Christ – the cosmic Word of God – the “logos”.

Those immersed in Greek philosophical thought in the first century C.E. understood the title, Logos, to refer to the eternal logic, or intelligence of the universe. The fact that Greek-speaking Gentiles approached Jesus is a sign that the time has come for Jesus to accept that mantle. The Word made flesh.

Sometimes it is enough to sit with such complex concepts, and think about them. For first century Christians, it was important to understand in what ways Jesus The Christ fulfilled the traditional expectations of the Messiah. For us, today, it may not be quite as vital.

However we view it, we are offered these passages to reflect on – to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. I hope you, like me, are enjoying our Lenten reflections booklet. There is so much to help us in our wilderness.

God bless you all

Fifth week of Lent